Last night we had a dinner which I based on a recipe on the Martha Stewart website, though I had to do some fiddling with it to make it into a reasonable recipe. Which has made me do some thinking about good ol' Martha. I will 'fess up and admit that off and on throughout my adult life I have subscribed to Martha Stewart Living magazine. There are some things I like about the whole Martha-thing. I have found some of her more reasonable ideas useful, the photographs are lovely to look at, and I have always been amused by the whole over-the-topness of it all. But over all, I find her a bit hard to stomach and I am not sure but that she has done more to injure the pursuit of homemaking than to aid it.
The MS empire has made homemaking into a hobby... and an expensive one at that. Homemaking is shown to be something that unemployed wives do to fill their endless hours on frivolousness. There is no depth to it; they only point seems to be to impress others. It is all about the person behind it. Real homemaking is about others... focusing on what will make the home function and be a place of nurture. While one focuses on what the neighbors will think, the other focuses on what is best for the family and guests. Even though all white furniture may be touted as the newest "look", is it really appropriate for a family with small children? It becomes an unrealistic image and one that will ultimately cause contention rather than peace. (A side note... if you happen to inherit a white couch, you can cry uncle and just cover it up with a throw.)
I believe that this competitive homemaking has also caused a decline in hospitality. We now have this image in our heads as to what makes a decent home. (And in fairness MSLiving is not the only culprit... many of the shelter magazines contribute to this.) The homes we see featured are pristine. We forget that when magazine comes in to feature a home that they bring their designers with them and will set the house. This is not how the majority of the home owners live. It is an unrealistic picture. Yet, we see it so much that we start to believe it. We start to believe that this is how everyone but us lives. And how could we possibly invite someone to our home when it doesn't look pristine? I'll tell you right now, my home is not pristine. On good days it is relatively neat and more or less clean, but not all the time. There are days when life has spiraled out of control and taking care of the people in the house takes precedence over the house itself. But all this does not stop me from inviting people over. I believe that hospitality and good company trump setting anytime. This isn't to say I don't care about what my home looks like. I am just unwilling to sacrifice other things in order to try to achieve a perfect home.
The MS magazine peddles fantasy. The message is that we can live a life like MS's if only we will buy what she sells and do exactly what she does, but without the staff. We'll probably not see a magazine dedicated to real homemaking, though. Reasonableness, frugality, and simplicity do not attract advertisers and don't sell magazines.