There are few things as thrilling every month for me than to peek into my mailbox and see that deliciously glossy, chunkily cherubic magazine –some months with her face on it– staring back at me, lovingly.
In the months when she appears on the cover, I get a special thrill because it feels as though she is reaching out through the smooth, slick paper and addressing me. Her serene, calm eyes and upturned mouth seem resolute:
"I know you want to try all the projects in here. And I know that you will finish at least one of them. They are all Good Things."
Maybe she wouldn’t say that– she is far firmer in her manner of address; sometimes she can be downright terse but in a gentle way. I know this because I’ve closed my eyes after reading her advice column more than once and tried to imagine the echoes of her voice as she instructs the befuddled querent on the fine points of polishing lead crystal glasses etched with silver; or how to properly wash your windows; or how to care for an heirloom piece made out of wood.
I don’t just have a vulgar crush on Martha Stewart: I truly worship her.
Maybe "worship" is too radical a word, but there is much love in my heart for a person who, despite her wooden demeanor –which I secretly think is sexy, especially when she carefully and deliberately pronounces the aitch in the word "herbs"– has managed to become a mostly beloved household name and an institution. Martha is not one who will ever crumble down in tears of laughter or joy or anything remotely resembling emotion: she delivers all she needs to deliver with subtle smiles and head movements and rapid changes in her eyebrows– she is minimalism personified.
This is why a cover picture of hers is extra special. She is no Jokeresque Rachael Ray, and no overly-airbrushed Oprah — both mugging it up for their eponymous glossies. Martha is far more subtle, yet meaningful:
A small smile in a picture means that Martha approves. You will enjoy this magazine (or whatever her smile might be endorsing).
A larger, tooth-baring smile means that this is a playful issue or situation. You’re going to run off to the supermarket or the hardware store within minutes of reading whatever catches your eye first.
But oh, to behold the crinkly Martha smile is to know that you are holding cellulose-derived gold within your hands. The crinkly smile is reserved only for those issues that could potentially turn your life around or fill you with sheer joy at the prospect of creating whimsical decorations or cleaning your gutters.
Or just turn your head away in horror when you realize that you spent way too much on project supplies and have nary a headboard or a lampshade to account for your financial sacrifice.
Yes, some people seriously dislike her; especially some people who’ve worked for her seem to harbor a deep hatred of her.
Yes, she went to jail.
But seriously: if you were the kind of über organized mogul who knows how to clean fifty kinds of dirty (or knows how to get her assistants to find that out) and some information fell on your lap regarding a big mess, wouldn’t you want to do something about it?
I’m not saying it’s right. Really. I am not: I think that if she did the crime, she probably deserved her time. Although one could also point out that many white-collar criminals are quite successful at dodging jail time for much worse crimes.
I’m just saying that Martha went to jail for being Martha: perfect, crisp, automaton, femme-fatale/domestique Martha Stewart. She went to jail for being the kind of cool, calm, collected woman who is successful and not necessarily emotionally available– the traits that have built her empire.
Those are the traits that I admire most in her, patron saint of Good Things and Our Lady Who Takes Mercy Upon Those Who Are Desperately Trying To Turn The Frump Around (and trying to be a little more stylish and less schlumpy one day at a time). Because you don’t need empathy and a shoulder to cry on when your house is bland and you’ve run out of excuses as to why you hate cleaning: you need someone who calmly and tastefully leads the way, and shows you in both visual and written proof how it can be done. And that is the reason why every month I love to gaze upon that glossy cover –which may or may not bear her face as a weathervane of awesomeness.
Because that cover is like summoning the eastern wind and letting in a domestic Mary Poppins of sorts into your house, whose medicine is succinct, easy to follow, tastefully decorated and matched to the season.
Now tell me you don’t at least want to pick up an issue and learn how to make an embellished pie crust with tiny leaves for your Thanksgiving table.
No. Don’t tell me. Because if we go to the same party, chances are your pie will look better than mine.