Prince? Charming. Barilla? Not So Much.
Prince, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal, how have you been?
Now, don’t go getting all frowny at me. Sure, it’s been a while, but that’s just because I have been busy. Well, that and I eat less pasta than I used to . I mean, let’s face facts: You ain’t exactly the kind of food that keeps a guy in the trim.
Still, I enjoy a good spaghetti gobble as much as the next fella, from time to time. And if I have been buying another brand of pasta for the past couple of years, well, it hasn’t been anything personal -- it’s just been a matter of habit. How I fell into the habit of buying Barilla brand spaghetti I am not sure, except that Barilla makes thick spaghetti, which I like. Holds the sauce better, you see. Also, I think there have been times when my neighborhood grocer has not had you around much. If I was negligent, I apologize -- especially now that the brand I had been seeing, er, eating has shown his true colors.
I mean, look, I have been bouncing between you and Barilla for years, and never really thinking too much about it. But all that has changed now.
The CEO of Barilla pasta, Guido Barilla, has issued an invitation for gays to eat someone else’s brand.
Explaining that the brand "won’t include gays in our ads, because we like the traditional family," Barilla went on to add, "If gays don’t like it, they can always eat another brand of pasta."
No sooner said than done.
Barilla added: "Everyone is free to do what they want, provided it doesn’t bother anyone else."
Right, yes, exactly. Which is why, I guess, anti-gay bigots have tried for years -- with diminishing success -- to deny and even deprive us non-traditional family types of our rights to marry, to adopt, to work, and in extreme cases our rights to life and liberty. And I am not just talking about this year’s version of Russia.
What was this guy thinking, Prince? I mean, you and I know what a well-run business looks like. You extend the hand of entrepreneurial friendship to all prospective customers. Insulting people’s families is generally bad for the books, the brand, and the bond of implicit trust that exists between a willing buyer and a willing seller. What’s good for business, on the other hand, is to treat people with respect -- not brush off entire demographics with an invitation to buy somebody else’s wares.
How much is Barilla’s stock gonna tank in the wake of this guy’s boneheaded, anti-gay riff?
Too late, the businessman came out in Signore Barilla, who reversed course the following day: "... I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they have hurt the sensibilities of some people. In the interview I simply wanted to highlight the central role of the woman in the family."
Especially lesbian families! Right? Er... right...?
Or, maybe not. Mr. "Traditional Family" was doubtless thinking of the binary model that most families follow -- a model that works for them (if you overlook that skyrocketing divorce rate) because it’s natural for heterosexual folks. That’s not "tradition," it’s just biology, and biology cuts both ways. My family is "traditional," too, in that it involves love and commitment.
But like so many defenders of that hallowed and mythologized social unit, Mr. Barilla has a view of family so narrow that he reflexively edits such things out. "Love" and "commitment" disappear from the boilerplate clanging on about the "traditional" family, a stripe of argument that seemingly forgets age-old "traditions" like arranged marriages, and the wife being considered the property of her father until she becomes the property of her husband. Or was Mr. Barilla suggesting that he’s actually gone out of his way to celebrate such things?
In any case, Guido Barilla is, according to news reports, against other values that our families hold dear, like the right to adopt. (And let’s remember, Prince, gays and lesbians don’t only adopt the children of straight people who for whatever reason couldn’t bring up their own children; we also seek to adopt the biological children of our own same-sex spouses. It, ya know, makes the whole parent-teacher thing so much easier, not to mention the occasional trip to the emergency room when junior has got in the way of a speeding baseball at Little League practice.)
Oh, am I going into a tired spiel here, Prince? You’re looking a little bored. No, please don’t worry. I don’t blame you at all. I get tired of having to point these same things out time after time after time, too, you know. It’s amazing how impervious to simple fact the anti-gay crowd can be, and how tenaciously they cling to narratives that are incomplete, distorted, or are out and out fabrications.
So let’s just get back to you and me, old buddy, old pal. You’ve not been present in my cupboard for a while, but since Mr. Barilla has seen fit to recuse himself from my shopping list, why, I think it’s high time we renewed our acquaintance. We have so much to catch up on -- I even have worked out a new sauce recipe I am eager to introduce you to.
Others may choose different brands as the exodus from Barilla picks up. (Not to worry, I am sure all the supporters of Chick-Fil-A will fill the gap, stocking up on Barilla next time they go shopping. All that anti-gay chicken must get tedious after a while -- why, they must be desperate for a new homophobic food choice!) But for me, Prince, you’re the obvious contender: The loyal pal in a pinch to whom I should have been paying court all along. The culinary divorce between me and Barilla is now a done deal -- his loss -- but I have the feeling that, for you and me, life is about to become tastier than ever.