Every month I look forward to getting my Martha Stewart Living magazine. It’s beautifully photographed and just by opening it, I believe I am affirming myself as an organized, crafty, together person.
But once I’m done, I find out it’s actually made me feel worse.
Truth is, I have never once made a recipe from the magazine. I’ve never once attempted a craft I’ve seen there. And although I do enjoy gardening, I do not have the green thumb that the people featured in Martha Stewart Living do.
I have Martha Stewart Syndrome.
Also known as the “Plague of Pinterest,” this condition draws you in, luring you with beautiful pictures and easy-to-do activities. It promises to make you a better housekeeper, a better wife, a better mother. It holds you up to a standard of excellence that you come to believe we should all be judged against.
One of my favorite things to read in the magazine is the opening column called “Martha’s Month.” It details what she’ll be doing on each day, prosaic activities like “gutter cleaning,” “replenish baking supplies,” “schedule doctors’ visits for 2016,” to take some examples from this month. Readers also get a glimpse into her life, as she lists friends’ birthdays, events she’s attending, and dinners she’s having at her country estate in Bedford, New York. Oh, and she includes her exercise schedule, with two to three days a week of yoga, pilates, cardio and core, or weight training.
Maybe this is what I need. “Gentle reminders,” as the column’s headline reads, for all the things I need to accomplish in a month. Maybe if I could write it all down, see it in black and white, it would seem manageable, doable, organized.
I contrast this with the chaos of my life as the mom of a toddler. Is it possible to do it all like Martha? Or is that just wish fulfillment? Does Martha actually do all of the activities listed here, or are they just for the benefit of her readers, to keep up her image? When she says, “clean out closets,” does that mean her assistant is doing it? I’m sure she definitely has a housekeeper to “clean out refrigerator and freezer thoroughly.” She probably does go “cross-country skiing in Vermont,” though.
Especially at this time of year, it’s almost impossible to keep up. Christmastime is both the best and most stressful time of year. Things that are supposed to be fun, like shopping, giving gifts, baking, even putting up the tree, seem like chores. It’s a mad rush to get it all done by December 24.
Unless you’re Martha, right?
When I was a magazine editor we had a meeting to discuss what effect our magazine was having on readers. How did it make people feel after reading it — better about themselves or worse? And did that make people more or less likely to buy it?
For Martha, it seems that her readers are gluttons for punishment.
I will keep reading, though. I will keep aspiring to all of the life “hacks” that others post about on Facebook and Pinterest. “Want to have your house smelling wonderful?” one friend recently posted. “The next time your kid eats a clementine, take the peel and put it in some water on the stove. Add a cinnamon stick and some nutmeg, and it will smell great!”
Sounds simple. And I will probably never, ever do this.
All of this stuff sounds so easy. That’s the key to the marketing of Martha and everything else — it seems easy, like anyone could do it. It’s within reach. But taken together, how does anyone have the time to do all of these so-called “simple” activities?
It’s keeping up with the joneses, ’50s housewife-style. And I admit I’ve bought into the posturing. Haven’t I posted pictures on Facebook of my homemade strawberry jam? Haven’t I shown my son helping to decorate our tree? Haven’t I talked about delicious meals
my husband has we’ve cooked?
Facebook, like Pinterest, lies.
It seems like Martha is perfect. Even the “oh see how normal I am” attitude evident in the everyday activities she lists in her monthly calendar are calculated to make you believe that not only is she good at everything, her humility makes her human, too.
I don’t know Martha, so maybe she is perfect, or as close as a person could be. Maybe she’s one of those highly productive people who doesn’t waste time and only needs four hours of sleep.
Or maybe she’s just a fantasy.
Do you feel like you need to aspire to an unrealistic expectation, too? Do the holidays have you feeling like you can never accomplish enough?