You gotta love Target. I mean, embrace it, drink it in, bury your face in its bulls-eye bosoms and motorboat to your heart's content.
I often refer to Target as a shopping casino. There are no windows, no clocks...you can cruise the aisles for hours and time somehow stops. You leave the store in a daze. Thirsty, hungry, looking at your phone and thinking, "Holy crap. How long was I in there?"
When you get home, you unload your precious parcels. The endless bags! Coffee and Flaming Hot Cheetos and toilet paper and dog treats and tampons and printer ink and socks. We put our goodies away, now-empty bags go into the dog poop bag collection and life goes on.
Shopping at Target has never caused me to face a moral dilemma. Until last week. Last week, I shopped at Target and I wrestled with my conscience. In front of a clearance end-cap.
You see, I need new pans. The ones I use daily are relics, vestiges from a life I used to live. A splurge from 2001, if I remember correctly. My then-husband would get once-a-year bonus checks from the company he worked for, and we lived large for a few months afterwards. That year, we bought pans. A set of Calphalon non-stick pans, with tempered glass lids, hard anodized heavy gauge aluminum exteriors...these were the CADILLACS of pans, folks. I swear the mac and cheese tasted better when made in these luxurious saucepans.
So I've had these pans for a dozen or so years. They've seen a lot of life. A lot of curry chicken and ramen and pot roast and boiled eggs and more pasta than a set of pans should ever have to see. They're old, and in terrible shape. The non-stick surfaces are peeling off, leaving little black chunks of teflon floating in our meals. Kids: "What's this black stuff in our mac and cheese, mom?" Me: "I don't know. Maybe pepper. Are you going to finish that?"
New pans have been on my Wish List for quite some time. But, as you know, I'm not one who can run down to Williams Sonoma and pick up a new set of designer pans. At the end of the day, I can think of at least a hundred other things we need with greater urgency. Food and electricity come to mind.
The new pans, I always figured, would have to wait.
UNTIL I WENT TO TARGET LAST WEEK.
I was cruising down the back aisle of the housewares section, checking out dish towels and spatulas, when I saw them. PANS. A big huge box of beautiful pans and lids. 15 PIECES IN ALL. Lovely white ceramic non-stick interiors, charming cherry-red exteriors. TEMPERED GLASS LIDS, Y'ALL. And get this: IT WAS ON THE CLEARANCE SHELF. I'm drawn to the Target clearance end-caps like a sad little moth to a flame.
I had just been paid, and thanks to a slew of subbing hours in late July/early August, I was feeling flush. Feeling like the kind of woman who can indeed buy herself some new pans if the price is right. I approached the end cap with a curious hope, wondering just how far down these beauties had been marked. I negotiated with myself, saying "Okay Jenny...calm down. If they're less than $50, we'll think about it. I said THINK about it, alright?" Sometimes I'm so strict with me.
I saw the price tag. $30!!! Marked down from $119.00!!!! I think I heard a choir of angels singing...or that might have been my stomach growling. I'd been in the bowels of Target for so long.
And then I turned the box around and saw this:
Just kidding. I actually saw this:
Yes. The pans that I had already mentally purchased were PAULA DEEN PANS. I'm not going to go into detail about the "troubles" Ms. Deen has had of late. Let's just recap it by saying that she may be a wee bit o' racist. Like, "Hey y'all! Let's have black servers at the weddin'! And let's dress 'em up like old timey plantation servants!" And I think she also dropped the N word a few times.
But let's not turn this into a cultural debate, okay? I'm not trying to be all aware and sensitive here. We don't need a discussion about whether or not Ms. Deen is a victim of an era and her geographical upbringing or whether or not she's basically an ignorant bigot. I don't even want to get started on the Pandora's box we open when we dig deep into the past and pull out bad decisions and ill-fated choices for all to see.
I just needed new pans.
I thought about it. I clogged up that aisle with my cart and my conscience and my thoughts. I worried what my fellow Target shoppers would think of me, if they saw that crazy-eyed face on the box of pans in my cart. Would they think I supported Paula Deen and all that she represents? Or would they simply think, "Wow. Three boxes of tampons? Really?" (hey...it was buy three/get a $5 Target gift card, people). I thought about the ramifications of my purchase. How much of the $30 I'd be spending would go to Paula Deen? Would this be like donating to her cause?
And then I got really deep. Who's to say that we don't give our hard-earned money to people and causes that we don't agree with ALL THE TIME? Do you research every single product you buy? How am I to know that the CEO of every company I've supported with my dollars is on the exact same page as me, character-wise? That the spokesperson who advertises the products I buy has the same morals and beliefs as me?
Bottom line is, I don't know these things. But this I do know:
I needed new pans.
And so I bought them. We no longer have black bits of teflon floating in our food, but I'll admit...there are bits of something floating in my conscience.