Between the Rows: The Real Deal

Published online: Apr 05, 2022 Articles, Between the Rows Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the April 2022 issue of Potato Grower.

Do you ever see pictures of celebrities on the red carpet of some awards show or movie premiere or concert and simply marvel at how ridiculous they look? It gets even more perplexing when, over the course of the next few days, the internet is flooded with ridiculous “Best Dressed” articles and kudos to personal stylists.

I know they say fashion is a matter of personal expression, an extension of the truest self, but let’s not kid ourselves: A four-year-old’s raid of the dress-up drawer typically produces more tasteful results. No real person would ever put on … whatever that is. Maybe I’m judging too harshly for a guy who can often be spotted in the front yard in gym shorts and cowboy boots, but to me, the whole production usually comes off as an elaborate, desperate plea for attention.

There are, however, a few famous folk who have always struck me as being genuinely, well, genuine. For the sake of this exercise, let’s focus on three of the classics: George Strait, Elton John and Dolly Parton.

If those three were to stand side-by-side in a police lineup, you would say they have almost nothing in common. But give it a minute, and you might realize that there’s no charade, no insincerity, no compulsion to impress or shock anyone in the world with their respective personal appearances. You get the feeling that, even if no one were ever looking, King George would be kicked back on the wraparound porch wearing worn-out Wranglers and a Stetson; Sir Elton would walk around the house in a blindingly bedazzled smoking jacket; and the Smoky Mountain Songbird would be propped up on stilettos, festooned with rhinestones, and topped off with one heck of a wig.

Other singers may don cowboy hats, or walk on stage in diamond-encrusted tuxedos, or slather on the makeup and exaggerate the twang in their voices. But, despite what very well could be vocal and lyrical genius, the fashion aspect rarely feels anywhere close to authentic. It’s usually just a cheap imitation of George and Elton and Dolly. Talent and glitz might make you famous; authenticity can make you a legend.

Speaking of authenticity, my sister-in-law recently shared a hilarious anecdote in the family group text. As she came out of her local Costco the other day, she noticed that some poor soul had dropped a clamshell of raspberries. (And no mere 6-ounce package; this was a full-on, Costco-sized, pound and a half of berry goodness.) The container had popped open, spilling its sweet and juicy contents onto the parking lot asphalt. The unfortunate customer had, we can assume, let out a deep sigh of resigned frustration, loaded up the rest of his or her groceries, and driven away, leaving the maligned berries to be consumed by the local bird population.

Well, the local bird population … and my utterly authentic sister-in-law. Despite their regrettable placement on the blacktop, many of those were still perfectly good raspberries, and she wasn’t about to let them go to waste. So, much like George Costanza would justifiably do with a half-eaten éclair, she reached down and scooped up the top layer of berries (careful not to collect any that were touching the ground), and ate them on her drive home, brazenly unashamed because they were absolutely delicious.

The thing I really appreciated about this story was not that my sister-in-law actually did such a thing, but that she was unafraid to tell the rest of us that she had. Nobody in the world ever had to know what she had done. But rather than be embarrassed by it and keep the humor to herself, she shared the experience. It was a revelation of authenticity all too rare in today’s world.

We’re all posers at some point. We’ve all pretended to be interested and invested during a meeting where the subject matter is waaaaaaay over our heads. We’ve all smiled our way through awkward parties filled with guests we can’t stand. We’ve all put on a brave face when our world seems to be crumbling around us. We’ve all tried to appear more worldly or more down-to-earth as we navigate different groups of people. We’ve all tried to prove just how farmer-y, just how country, we are. We’ve all tried to prove just how farmer-y, just how country, we aren’t. And, if we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, we probably were never that convincing in those moments of poser-ism to anyone who was actually paying any attention.

If you were to ask me, I’d say we would probably all be well-served to cast off the costume and drop the façade a little more often. You can spot a poser a mile away, and so can everyone else. So try not to be one.