"Every child's holiday will be made infinitely more magical if your holiday décor features a homemade gingerbread replica of your home, and don't they deserve a magical Christmas, you lazy slacker?"
That was printed in the lifestyle magazine that showed up in my mailbox yesterday. Well, it basically said that. Pretty much. A magazine I felt guilty sitting down to read because there was probably some linen I should be ironing or yogurt I should be culturing or fresh evergreen wreath I should be fashioning out of clippings from the indoor ferns I didn't kill because of course I'm an excellent horticulturist and I even know what a horticulturist is. (You believe me, right?) But since this magazine held wisdom on perfecting my technique of all of the activities above and the holiday spirit was upon me, I settled into the guilt and flipped away at the glossy pages.
You know the magazine – it's the one that suggests stuffing your Thanksgiving turkey with figs and pancetta and roasted artichoke hearts with butternut squash (not slathering a half-frozen bird with Jell-o powder and orange juice like I do) while you wait for the sautéed escarole on the stove. I'm not sure what you're waiting for the escarole to do exactly because I don't even know what escarole is and I'm too busy trying to figure out where to find fennel and endive for the fennel-endive-pomegranate seed salad every decent human being can whip up for a light lunch when having surprise company.
You know the magazine. Martha Stewart Living.
Because of Martha, I know how to make handmade marshmallows in Christmas-y shapes and create my own hand-beaded bag, which I should be making unique for each outfit or at least for every day of the week. Page 3 tells me I need a $10,000 oven to ensure my cream puffs are baked with the most even heat distribution possible, which must be true even though I've never baked cream puffs in my life, but I still feel good about myself for a split second because at least I know what a cream puff is, which is more than I can say for the endive. I'm pretty sure the oven in the Dollhouse retails new for about twelve bucks.
With every page, I wonder things I hadn't even thought of until this very minute. Things like whether my hair is thick enough or my kitchen mixer can make pasta. I start realizing things I need that I never needed before. A hybrid. A wine cellar. A sheep whose wool I can make into fashionable winter clothing for my family. I see things I probably should make because I'm sure every other person in the universe is making them and the instructions are right here! In my hand! Page 26 alone gives me all I need to know about making both a catmint pillow bed and bracelets/tassels made with the hair cultivated from five Friesian horses…and I'm not even making that up.
Page 69, spice-infused milk and sugar-dusted macaroon trees. Page 71, scented tree ornaments. Page 37, a $520 makeup bag. Page 45, perfectly complected laughing children in matching outfits. Page 53, hand-punched paper doilies. Page 55, patterned men's socks, folded, lined up in a drawer and organized by shade. Page 61, handmade bell jar terrariums with miniature skiers and tiny penguins on snowy glitter mountains. Page 62, toast in the shape of the
Page 82, chamomile-yogurt panna cotta. Page 112, a hand-carved menorah. Page
124, a miniature winter forest in a $172 bucket. Page 145, a "simple
desert" – lemon mascarpone crepe cake made with 62,789 layers of crepes
and lemon curd made with eggs from your own personal chicken who is also a designer
Plus 186 other pages I didn't mention.
None of this resembles my life. Martha's calendar (which she graciously shares with us on page 2) features twice-weekly appointments with her personal trainer and other ridiculously unrealistic pursuits like "harvest citrus from greenhouse," and "write thank-you notes."
But somewhere during my mental vacation to Bedford Farm, I become overwhelmed and tired. Those hand-beaded purses are kind of ugly. Escarole sounds a lot like cooked snails. I have zero desire to dust or even possess a collection of tiny skiers in glittery jars.
This all is the brain-child of a woman who might as well live on another planet, a woman with a team—nay, an enterprise, dedicated to this kind of fluffery. I don't have a maid or a stylist, and my entourage is populated with small people who still pee themselves. She wears tailored pantsuits; I pick kid boogers off the knees of my mom jeans. She hand-glitters her letterpress holiday cards; I haven't sent a Christmas card since 1998. She loves propagating rare plants from cuttings (her words); I kill silk flowers. She has an entire day marked off her calendar for Frederic Fekkai's birthday; I get my hair cut once a year...at Walmart.
Like so many others, this magazine is designed to make me want this life, to be convinced that I need this life, and even more, that I should spend time and energy and loads of money in the pursuit of it. But the whole thing really makes me want to climb back into bed, on my drug-store sheet set in my thrift-store pajamas, and give up the glittery ghost. I don't want to live at
Bedford Farm and I don't want
to be Martha. I don't want chickens with headshots or a beagle in Tartan
pajamas. I don't want to teach Snoop Dog how to cook or practice perfecting the recipe for chocolate kugelhopf (or give myself a headache trying to pronounce it). I don't
want to tolerate the message that I am not enough and don't do enough, and I
sure as hell don't want to pay for the privilege.
So here it is. So long, Martha. Your pantsuits are lovely. Your home is impeccable (both the gingerbread and brick-and-mortar versions). Your holiday table is splendid. Your cider-braised slab bacon looks delicious. But we have to break up.
Because here's the thing. My bacon is just fine like it is. I would rather strangle myself with tinsel than create a to-scale gingerbread replica of my home. Sheep stink and so do chickens. You should consider changing the name to Martha Stewart Can't Even Live Like This magazine, because at least it would be truthful.
Consider my subscription cancelled, my ticket for the guilt-trip torn to bits.
How's that for Living?