Why I Can Never Be Martha Stewart–But Am Compelled to Try

Martha would not like the lack of window treatments. Her popcorn strands would stick like glue.

Martha would not like the lack of window treatments. Her popcorn strands would stick like glue.

It’s Christmastime and I have to decorate the house. I always look to Martha Stewart at times like these for the guidance I need to get through the day.  I decided to add some holiday material to my Learnist board about Martha Stewart.  It will get me in the mood because I am out of home-made eggnog. I didn’t get to the farm to pick up eggs.

If you read the board, you might think I’m using satire as a means of disguising petty human envy, which is one of the seven deadly sins. I know this, because I recently cooked Martha’s theme dinner on that very subject–each sin was represented over the course of the meal. The lust was Oysters Marthafeller, gluttony was the fact that it was seven courses, greed was the size of the servings, pride the perfect garnish on each little dish, envy was the photos posted on Facebook that might as well have said, “I made this and you didn’t get any,” and sloth and wrath were evidenced in the day-after carnage.

I’m just kidding. Martha doesn’t have a feature menu on the seven deadly sins because sins get scared away by the animal topiary on her front lawn.  Maybe she’ll mock-up that menu next Halloween. I’ll be waiting to cook it.

I am compelled to consult Martha for Christmas–she’s on a level far above us all. I have it on good authority that the Lord himself consults Martha for Christmas. After all, who but Martha would even think to miniaturize the Charlie Brown pine tree for the tablescape? She’ll plan him one humdinger of a birthday party.

Only Martha would have so many ideas for decorating a dreidel or making thoughtful holiday gifts for gentlemen.  Indeed, she is the only one who can bring the atheist into the holiday spirit by replacing traditional Christmas stockings hung by the chimney with care with woolen socks embossed with silhouettes of woodland animals captured by Martha herself with her Nikon, carefully traced into templates by hand onto crisp black vellum then sewn on the top of each one with love. As if that wasn’t enough, she painstakingly identified each animal by genus and species in Latin in the hand-embroidered captions below. It makes any secular science-loving soul cry out for wassail.

No, I’m not using satire to mask jealousy. It’s masking awe.

I’ve been watching Martha since my 20’s, when we were all released into the world to make something of ourselves with fifty cents in our pockets, a mountain of college loans, and the desire to look classy in the only apartment we could afford. Which at that time had roaches. You will never see a roach featured in a pull-out of Martha Stewart Living, although she does feel there are many insects beneficial to the garden which you will see in discussion from time to time.

Watching Martha Stewart Living always made me feel classy–the way she organized and catalogued her antique table linens–heck, I had antique table linens fresh from the Salvation Army–I could be just like Martha.  If I starched them and arranged them by season, I could have that joie de vivre too. Or however you spell it–it’s French–way too many vowels.  Martha’d nail that without the slightest consultation with a dictionary or a hot guy named Jean Philippe. It’s part of her esprit de corps.

Martha’s mason jars inspired my own spice cabinet which is filled with languages other than French that nobody else can say or spell. I have spices indexed in four languages and properly labeled to boot. Thanks to Martha, I show them with pride.

It hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows, though. Martha’s attention to detail inspired dishes that almost left me a spinster. My then boyfriend now husband to cried out that he wanted food, not art, commanding that court bouillon never be served at our table again. I was so indignant that anyone would rebuff such inspiration that for a solid month everything I served was first translated into French. Everything. Right down to the last ramen noodle and glass of water.  And it was all garnished. For the first few days, I even produced calligraphic tented menu as if I were, indeed in a French bistro or Martha’s home in Westport–because even though the last time I drove by her house on Turkey Hill en route to a task for work I couldn’t see over the fifty foot tall manicured hedge, I suspect there’d be no difference.

So, as I sit here eating my double cream brie with truffles swapping out my local farm fresh apple cider for tea, because as Martha notes, the pairing doesn’t quite fit–the pungent brie overpowers the delicate freshness of the cider, making it taste like orange juice after a hefty dose of crest–I pause to reflect.

The truth is, that Martha Stewart is awesomeness isn’t because she can defeat burglars with a starched folded napkin or that she makes the Queen of England look like she needs a style consult. It’s much more.  Martha brings us back to a simpler time when doing beautiful things for the family and friends was respected.

When women went out into the world of work, we were told we could “have it all.”  That’s never been true. Sometimes it feels like we, as women, need to apologize for our duties at home, as if we must choose between professional lives and our husbands, families and children, or be relegated to the back of the career bus when we put them first.

Nobody can have it all–not even Martha. She has a staff, and I do not. What Martha truly brings to the table is not folded place cards balanced in the hands of individually crafted gingerbread men, it’s a unique combination of power, authority, and the feminine united in one.

Martha tells us that domesticity and power can be one in the same.  She shows us that just because we have three types of flour in our cupboard doesn’t mean we can’t hang with the men in the business world. Martha’s CV ranges from a childhood modeling career to a very successful career in financials, where she ruled over Wall Street all while baking cakes on the side. She reminds us that we never have to apologize for these things, and she makes them strong.

Being a female who was raised to believe that society had achieved gender equality, then getting thrown out into the world of work to realize that it had not–that was a shock to me.  This is why I respect Martha. She is a pioneer in the role of the powerful female entrepreneur. She built and branded an empire. She can command a room of stock brokers or a garden of heirloom herbs–it’s all the same.  She made it acceptable for women to be strong and to claim their positions as caretakers and makers of the home.

That is why I like Martha.

And now that she’s at The Home Depot, I can actually afford her.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Can Never Be Martha Stewart–But Am Compelled to Try

  1. Ironically, my husband looked up “planet mobiles” to make with our 7-year old son that would be fairly simple–Martha Stewart to the rescue! We now have five planets per her instructions. I admire her for the reasons you mentioned, and as a stay-at-home mom, a homemaker, I aspire to have more of her designing eye and confidence in entertaining and skill in organizing! I really liked what you said about respecting the art of doing beautiful things for family and friends.

    • Martha only had 5 planets?? That is so below her usual standard. I wonder what the reason was–they voted away Pluto, but the rest are legit. There must have been a reason. Perhaps they didn’t match the others in the grand scheme of things–that would not do.

      As a stay at home mom, do you find that you get that respect you deserve more now? It’s such a big head start to give time to a family–I never overlook the fact that we, though we both work, have not needed daycare. Our schedules are off so that I could teach and my husband went to the business after-sometimes I’d pick Declan up there, other times meet them at home for the lateral pass.

      Martha reminds me to slow down, think of the details, and consider what’s important.

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