Martha Stewart’s new television season has begun on the Hallmark Channel — and I survived the day without tuning in — and that’s a very good thing. I offer up this confession because Martha and I, well, we used to have a thing. Or at the very least, I did.
I remember it like it was yesterday — the day I met Martha Stewart. I never actually met her, physically, but it was my first introduction to Martha style. It was nearly 20 years ago, and I was sitting in my friend’s salon, leafing through magazines. That’s when I came across an issue of Martha Stewart Living.
I took one hit, and I was hooked. I liked the writing. I loved the style. The fonts. The photos. The locales. The recipes. The gardens and flowers — there was so much in that magazine, and with each turn of the page, I felt my world opening up. I saw things I never thought I would see. Articles about terracotta pottery. Photos of bulbs. Handmade wreaths!
Then the fiending started. I found her show (the early version). In my area, it aired on Sunday mornings, and I incorporated it into my Sunday routine. Breakfast. Newspaper. Martha. Crossword puzzle. There was nothing that she couldn’t do. And it was all perfect. She could pot an entire container garden and barely get a smudge on her garden gloves. I, on the other hand, would look like I had been run over by a mulching lawn mower.
And I wondered: How could I be more Martha? I subscribed to the magazine. I bought the books. I embarked on a Martha Stewart odyssey. I baked. I cooked. I planted. I crafted. That first Christmas with Martha was a homemade hot mess. I bought her cookbooks. I tried out her recipes. I baked her cookies. I even hand-painted my own holiday wrapping paper, tied them with raffia and twine, and inserted freshly clipped sprigs of holly into the bow.
Then, I crossed a line. I stalked her.
Stalk is kind of a harsh word. It was more like a treasure hunt, and Martha left herself wide open. She published a photo in her magazine of her home on Lily Pond Lane in East Hampton. Joe and I had a free Saturday, and we needed a destination. So we jumped into the car and headed east, armed with my copy of Martha Stewart Living and a Hagstrom map. In my all-too-vivid imagination, we would find the house and catch Martha weaving a rattan chair on her front porch. We would strike up a conversation, and she would be so impressed with our detective skills that she would invite us onto her porch for some freshly squeezed lemonade and homemade Madeleines. (I know she makes them because I first heard about them on her show. I even went out and purchased a Madeleine pan.)
We found her house, and it was alive with activity — a whole crew of gardeners doing all of the work. They were pruning, mulching, weeeding, planting, and no sign of Martha. I knew she had to have a staff because running an omnimedia company takes up a lot of time — but surely she could take a day off to stop and smell her sweetly scented English roses. My little adventure was rapidly turning into a sort-of intervention.
My “relationship” with Martha has cooled, much to Joe’s delight. While I can certainly enjoy watching her on television, or thumbing through her magazine, I no longer need to have a regular fix. The truth is, I’m not Martha. I could never be Martha. Achieving perfection — even with the help of a staff — is way, way too much work. Just watch The Fabulous Beekman Boys for a glimpse into their reality as they embark on a Martha-like odyssey.
I will always credit Martha with helping me to discover dahlias and daylilies and Sydney Eddison and so much more. But when I garden, I’m going to get dirty. I kind of like seeing how filthy I am at the end of the day. It’s a testament to what I accomplished, and in that there is satisfaction and progress.
Besides, have you heard of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa? She also lives on the East End of Long Island, and when I become her friend, she’s going to prepare this amazing picnic lunch for me and Joe and her and Jeffery. At least that’s how it plays in my world.