Somebody keeps moving the line between sensitive tolerance and needless political correctness. I tripped over the damn line the other day at work. I was engaged, along with a couple of coworkers, in water cooler banter and we were talking about, among other things, the perfect peanut butter sandwich. I offered my father’s recipe:
Two heaping tablespoons of smooth peanut butter, about half that much honey, and then mix vigorously. Or, as I put it, “beat it like a red-headed stepchild.”
There were chuckles, but one of the women in the group offered the opinion that my characterization probably wouldn’t be funny to the red-headed stepchild. There was a moment of embarrassed silence, so I offered an alternative.
“How about, ‘beat it like a rented mule?’”
“Isn’t that cruel to the mule?”
“It is, but that rhymes.”
“Sounds like a good band name, though,” someone else opined. “Cruel to the Mule.”
I wasn’t going to let my father’s peanut butter sandwich recipe get hijacked by junior high band name games.
“Okay, how about, ‘Beat it like Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston?’”
“Who’s Sonny Liston?” the IT guy asked. Damn kids, anyway.
Miss PC shook her head. “Racist."
"Racist!? No, darlin', racist is 'Beat it like Ike beat Tina.' And that's worth twofers, 'cause you got racist and mysoginist."
She smiled indulgently. "It's racist because championship heavyweight boxing evokes a scene of black men engaged in blood sport for the entertainment of wealthy white men and women."
“Oh, fer ... okay, how about 'Like a gypsy beats a tambourine?'”
“Do you know any gypsies? Do you know if they go around beating on tambourines?"
“Beat it like you’re mad at it!”
“Promotes violence as a solution to conflict.”
“Like the Ravens beat the Niners in the first half of the Super Bowl?”
“Whoa, waitaminnit, there, slick!” said the telephony contractor, a San Francisco transplant.
“Wait a minute yourself, pal,” I replied. “Aren’t you the guy who’s always cracking wise when you come out of the phone closet? ‘Hey, look, everybody, I’m out of the closet!’”
“Yeah, but when I say it, it’s funny. When you say it, it’s gay bashing.”
“You’re not even gay!”
“Hey, hey, easy, Trigger! Don’t go spreadin’ that shit around. I was in a bar Friday night, six broads asked me if I thought their titties was real or fake. Straight guys just don’t get that kind'a action.”
“That’s disgusting,” said the politically correct earth mother with obviously all-too-real titties. I had to agree. Brilliant and even awesomely inventive, in a TV sitcom kind of way, yes, but disgusting nonetheless.
“But what about my sandwich?” I asked. My dad used to say that kind of stuff, I explained, and it wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t some smartass simile to describe the mixing motion.
“Why does it have to be an allusion to violence” Earth Mother asked. “Why not just say to mix the honey and peanut butter vigorously to a creamy smoothness?”
I thought a minute. My first thought was, "What. The. Fuck?"
Then I thought of my old man, pipe tucked in his shirt pocket, vigorously mixing his peanut butter and honey to a creamy smoothness.
“I think when you see the a allusion to goodness and rich flavors, you’ll agree it’s the best way to describe the process,” she said, and then she walked away.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll do that,” I called after her.
The hell I will. Next time I make Pop's peanut butter sandwich, I'mma beat that shit like Johnson beat Goldwater.