Don't patronise me, Darling

Big, boofy, Harley-riding, Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch.

Big, boofy, Harley-riding, Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch.

One of the best things about making a show like Kitchen Cabinet is hearing the reactions people have to the politicians who appear. Through social media they pour in. When we filmed with Tony Abbott, the surprise talking point was that his fridge only had a two-star efficiency rating (something that I – a trained observer – had failed to pick up despite having spent hours in that kitchen). When Barnaby Joyce cooked me beef in red wine sauce, I was drowned in correspondence from outraged vegans, especially after Joyce - in a move I found charming but the vegans most certainly did not – simply swapped plates after he finished and ate my dinner too.

My single favourite piece of feedback came through Twitter the morning after we broadcast our first episode of the show – a two-hander featuring the cabaret double of Christopher Pyne and Amanda Vanstone. A viewer called @CaveLesbian wrote: "I'm sorry. I cannot forgive you for making me like Christopher Pyne."

On Tuesday, we broadcast an episode with Warren Entsch – the big, boofy, Harley-riding Queensland Liberal MP whose CV is as long and idiosyncratic as a list of Lambie amendments. He's a former crocodile hunter, former railway station toilet cleaner, nightclub manager, bull rustler. He hasn't had a moustache for years, and yet the whiff of moustachedness comes off him as unmistakably as pipe tobacco.

He called me "Love" throughout the show. And "Darlin'". And, at one point, "Girl". Quite a few viewers wrote in about it.


And I did not mind a single bit.

Why is that? I mean, there is a guy I buy bread from sometimes who calls me "Darling" and "Gorgeous" and "Beautiful" (it's not just me; he does it to every female customer, as far as I can ascertain). It annoys me so much that I buy bread from him only when I absolutely have to, my face a rictus of suffering. I'm not annoyed because it's patronising – I'm annoyed because it's presumptuous, and a completely asymmetrical response to my investment in our relationship, which is strictly limited to $6 in exchange for a fancy loaf of bread.

When I think about it, I realise there is a complex points system at work here.

Context is the first variable. Entsch handing me a prawn cocktail and instructing me to "get into it, Love" is an expression of generosity. It does not imply that I would be unable to get into the prawn cocktail without his assistance. Someone who calls me "Love" when they explain a knotty concept, however, like what's wrong with my alternator or my dongle, introduces a subtle note of condescension.

Personal rap sheet is another variable; a person who is known for their outdated views who then compounds things by calling you "Sweetheart" is asking for some sort of literal or figurative knuckle sandwich. A bloke like Entsch, whose unique selling point politically is his capacity to surprise in all sorts of social policy areas, gets away with it.

Age is another big one. Theirs and mine.

Being called "Love" by an older person who obviously uses the expression as naturally as breathing is rarely offensive. Especially to someone like me, who is herself rapidly becoming an older person who calls people "Love". 

When reviewing our final episode of Kitchen Cabinet, which goes to air on Tuesday, I noticed myself calling Clive Palmer "Love", but in a completely condescending way – as in "Come on, Love. You can't possibly expect me to believe that."

When I take a second to think about it, I realise I call people "Love" all the time.

This may be a consequence of ageing, with its natural progression from using an expression because it's funny and ironic to the next inexorable and bleak generational stage, which is not to care any more if it's either funny or ironic. (This also applies to tracksuit pants, dancing badly, and enjoying the music of Elton John.)

Or maybe it's because I just love a term of endearment.

When I lived in Glasgow, years ago, I loved being called "hen", a term of endearment used by women and men, but mainly women. And I'm told that in parts of South West England, complete strangers will address you as "My lover", which certainly leaves my bread guy looking pretty tame.

I'm not sure if I'm going to start experimenting with that one. But the older I get, the less inclined I am to be absolute. I don't mind it when I hear it, and I don't mind using it. I hope that's OK with you, Hot Stuff.

Annabel Crabb is the presenter of Kitchen Cabinet.

Twitter: @annabelcrabb