Five Reasons I Have a Love-Hate Relationship with Martha Stewart

As the aliens eyed the seating arrangements with suspicion...all hope of the embassy dinner's success evaporated.  

 I don't think there is an adult middle-class American woman alive who doesn't have an opinion about Martha Stewart.
Some would say you either love her or you hate her, pointing to the dichotomy of her massive empire, and the sheer volume of assistance available online to plan Christmas the way she would, or discern whether she is stalking you.  The truth, however, is usually more else do people like me know enough about her to make her the topic of scathing internet lists?  My affection is ambivalent at best--when she's in my life, I can't stand her, and when she's not, I miss her.  Most relationships like this call for couple's therapy. 

5. The holiday editions.
Not the turkey of my youth. 

 These are the entire reason to get her magazine.  The whole point.  The regular, every-day articles are nice enough...picking lawn furniture, organizing fabric by color, weave and yardage,  growing your own bio-dynamic organic strawberries...but the the special holiday issues are the essence of Martha Stewart Living.  Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all glisten and sparkle, full of magic and fantasy.  Those moments I glimpsed as a child in the occasional perfect sugar egg or neighbor who gave out home-made doughnuts and cider--moments that I was positive other families were having all the time, effortlessly, while mine scrambled to make sure the turkey wasn't still frozen solid in the middle-- are crystallized in photo-form by the silent, sleepless ranks of Martha's henchmen.

Of course, the holiday editions aren't included in the regular subscription fee.  I stifled my Pavlovian reflex when my husband casually mentioned that he saw the special Halloween issue on shelves earlier this week.  After all, there's plenty of time before Halloween.  Two entire months!  I'll need a little time if she has something really special I'd like to try, but I don't need two entire months.

...But what if she has another beautiful and complex cake like the gothic mansion two years ago?  That would have taken a week to make, and I didn't do it because I waited too long!  I loved that cake sooooo muuuuch.  No, no use being lazy like that this year; I'd better get my act in gear and plan out the weeks preceding Halloween post haste.  It's my job, after all, to insure that my children have a great Halloween.  Where did my husband say he saw it, again? 

4 She feeds my history geek.

Ghostbusting since the 1830's.

Where else are you going to find an article about vaseline glass(is there such a thing as a safe dose of uranium?).  Or collecting and caring for antique copper?  Or tour period homes?  There are probably other, more specialized magazines, but they aren't readily accessible(or affordable) to the average housewife slogging through the checkout line.  Not that I would ever be able to actually afford her antique finds, mind you.  While many of the list prices for items in her articles can be a thousand dollars or more, mine tend to be odds and ends I kind of liked and picked up for 50 cents at the local thrift store.

But at least I now know that it's probably a bad idea to use strange, old, green glassware for serving food and drinks. 

3.  I can open up the magazine and vicariously experience 30 minutes in which I have unlimited time and funds, and no small children.
Not Shown:  cat, toddlers, house-guests, cleaning crew, staff.....
Martha sells an idea.  The idea that those beautiful house and home moments can be yours.  Moments that have proven the worth of every mother and wife in every holiday ad for the past 150 years.  It's housewife porn, more compelling then any Playgirl or romance novel.

My little space might have stuff my kids spread all over the floor, finger marks in the cake frosting, and crayon masterpieces on the walls.  Despite my best efforts, there's going to be a cheerio or two discovered in a strange location.  My linens are not ironed. We ate box macaroni and cheese for lunch...again. 

Then, I put my kids to bed.  I shovel up the stuff that goes in their room that didn't make it in before bed, and drop it off by their door, and pretend I don't see the laundry waiting to be folded.  I light a candle, run a bubble bath, and escape into the world of Living, where my perfectly clean and decorated someday home greets me with open arms...and dinner is already on the table.

2.   You can always trust the pictures to be excellent.

 ..the actual directions, not so much.

Exhibit A

I know I'm not the first person to have a Martha craft blow up in my face.  There's probably an entire website somewhere devoted to the humorous results.  For me, the most resounding failure so far has been the above sundress.  I saw it, and could immediately picture it on my little girl, her hair whipping in the breeze as she giggled and ran along the beach, looking at seashells and squealing as the waves washed in.

I planned.  I watched the episode on TV, and read the instructions online.  I watched other, similar videos.  I triple checked all my numbers.  The time came to sew the elastic, creating the smocking....

It wouldn't gather.  I unstitched the whole darn thing three times and tried again.  Nothing. 

The cute fabric in browns and peaches, with a Japanese fan pattern and blue and turquoise accents is still sitting in my fabric box, waiting to see the sun again.

And yes, I blame Martha.  

1.    Whatever Martha is a gateway drug.

For my generation, this is how it all begins.  I discovered Whatever Martha on accident.  It came on right after Iron Chef one night, and I was hooked.  I thought Jennifer was cute and was amused by the ways Alexis uncannily mirrors her mother, even in the depths of mocking her, or whining about her baked-good deprived childhood.  The stereotypical couch psychologist would have a field day.  The crafts, too, captured my interest.  Every train wreck, every "what was she thinking wearing THAT?", every "Wow, that was rude".

At this point, it can go one of two ways, you either realize that Martha pays her daughter to make fun of her on radio and television, and that Jennifer is none other then the daughter of the chairman of the Martha Stewart Empire, and back away slowly from the sheer, mind-boggling dysfunctionality of the entire concept, or, you find yourself arguing out loud with your TV, because that cigar box project is actually kinda cute.


Post a Comment