A little while ago my toaster oven stopped working. Now, I know what you are thinking, and you’re mostly correct: I cannot really cook, and it is foolish to for anybody to let me near a kitchen. Compared to me Mitchell is the head chef at a three-star Michelin restaurant. (You’re right. I shouldn’t exaggerate. A one-star Michelin restaurant for certain, though.) Nonetheless, I am a Poor, and when you are a Poor you learn how to put together meals sooner or later, or you go very very hungry. So I was baking potatoes and my toaster oven was working, and then I was baking potatoes and it wasn’t.
Now, I know what you are thinking, and you are right about that too. I don’t own a toaster oven. The oven in question is an appliance in the house where I am renting a room, and thus it does not belong to me. That made its unfortunate demise all the more distressing.
Now, I know what you are thinking, and this time you are wrong. I never received a toaster oven, either for being recruited or for recruiting others. Truth be told, I am not even clear on the rules around this, so I knew it was time for some Internet Research.
Internet Research concludes that the toaster oven meme is Ellen’s fault. (Are we still allowed to talk about Ellen? I thought she was cancelled?) The website lezwatchtv.com womansplains that the toaster oven was a recruiting prize for Ellen’s friend Susan, during the famous coming out episode of the sitcom. This website includes a standalone (!) MP4 of the episode. Melissa Etheridge makes Ellen sign a bunch of papers to register as a gay, and then Susan receives a toaster oven. This explanation answers many mysteries, but prompts more:
- Are toaster ovens just for lesbians?
- Where does one download or otherwise obtain this paperwork?
- How does one arrange for Melissa Etheridge to file the aforementioned paperwork for you?
There are, however, other explanations for this practice. For one thing, people mix up toasters with toaster ovens. For another, some people interpret the meme as allegorical; once you have been toasted you can never be plain bread again. It might also have something to do with the prizes banks occasionally award for opening an account.
It may be the case that toaster ovens are SUPPOSED to be just for lesbians, but as always, gay males have engaged in cultural appropriation. By 2010 Bob from I Should Be Laughing was awarding a toaster oven to Ricky Martin. This is bizarre in a number of different ways. First of all, why does Bob have a warehouse full of toaster ovens? Secondly, in the Ellen episode the toaster oven went to Susan, who was doing the recruiting. Now it appears we are awarding toaster ovens to the recruited? That seems like a lot of toaster ovens. No wonder the thrift stores are full of them.
I have to wonder whether modern recruitment gifts have evolved since 1997. There are a lot more kitchen gadgets available now. Perhaps modern recruiters receive air fryers? Instant pots? Some part of me hopes that the rewards are tangible and not just Amazon gift cards. On the other hand the question may be moot; thanks to Lesbian Erasure I am guessing the recruitment rates for lesbians are worse than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (We can all hope that they are more successful than the Shakers.)
In my case things worked out okay. I was planning to venture to the thrift store to buy a replacement, but then one of my housemates (who is mechanically/electrically inclined) got fed up and just fixed the thing. So I can once again burn potatoes, to the chagrin of all those I live with.