Month: January 2012

Paula Deen, Aunt Bee and Motherhood

Paula Deen, Aunt Bee and Motherhood

Paula Deen fell under scrutiny recently when it was revealed that she is diabetic. Her worst critics are her peers, the fifty something women who cluck at her bad behavior and respond in a superior fashion with comments like, “I’m not surprised” and “the audacity! The woman even makes money off the drugs that treat the illness she helped to create”.

I feel for Paula Deen’s health concerns. Our society is facing a health crisis of sorts, due in part to the choices we make when it comes to diet and exercise. But there are issues more fundamental than this and much larger than Paula Deen.

I have not watched her show or read her book, but based on her public persona she exudes warmth, comfort, and sustenance. She is a woman who embraces the fullness of life and makes life’s little pleasures even more expansive. She owns and treasures the richness of her heritage and is not afraid to draw attention to what she sees as its abundance.

Paula Deen, and perhaps more importantly, her popularity, reveals our culture’s deep desire for warmth, for nurture, for nourishment. She is a modern-day Aunt Bee. Would we have thrown Aunt Bee to the wolves for loving her family with chocolate cake and sumptuous meals in a previous generation?

Paula Deen and Aunt Bee embody “mother love”. Their ample bodies, large breasts and warm smiles draw us in, promise comfort, nurture and love. They promise food for the body, mind and soul. When our generation took on careers and began to see ourselves as producers rather than caregivers and nurturers we began to disown our very nature as women. We denied ourselves the pleasure, sustenance and fullness that being at one with our nature permits.

We are a generation of women who have denied ourselves nourishment on so many levels. The emaciated models in health and beauty magazines, the obsession with success and perfection at any cost has caused up to see food and our bodies as the enemies. We see enjoyment and indulgence as stealers of time, energy, and production. Our generation has allowed our culture to deny us our very basic human need for physical, spiritual and emotional nourishment.

Food is not a necessary evil. It is our life blood. It is sustenance. It is pleasure. In a very real and visceral way, it represents so much more than mere calories. A good meal is like good sex. Satisfying. Fulfilling. Sustaining. It is not inherently sinful and should not be disdained anymore than Paula Deen or Aunt Bee.

The real issue is a deeply psycho/spiritual one. We are hungry. Deeply, soulfully hungry, but we do not feed our souls, we feed our bodies. Rather than taking the time to rest, relax or play, embracing our very nature as providers of sustenance of all kinds, we feed our bodies. We are stuffed and yet we starving to death.

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own choices. It serves no purpose to blame another for our own ills or those of our culture, which we help to create and keep in place. Perhaps it’s time for another correction in our understanding and subsequent acceptance of ourselves as women.  Perhaps its time to embrace all that we are and all that we have to offer the world.