The Glorious Death of Impossible Standards

A week or so ago, Taylor and I had some time to spare and so we popped into our local PetSmart.  Time has passed since Taylor’s hamster, Chester, passed away and she felt ready to consider a replacement.   But we couldn’t limit ourselves to this section of the store.  We spent time with the cats and the birds, and browsed a whole aisle of pet rodent accessories until we finally found ourselves in the pet clothing section.  I can see that there might be an actual need for smaller dogs to have sweaters in the winter, and although I don’t believe that they require rain gear, I can appreciate that some pet parents might disagree.  But my jaw dropped when we stumbled upon a doggie BATHROBE.  Who on earth would consider dressing their dog in a bathrobe?

Martha Stewart, that’s who.  There, amidst an entire collection of rather ridiculous Martha Stewart brand pet clothing, was a rack full of them.  Regular price of $19.99, now on sale for $4.99.

Martha has been haunting us high achievers since 1982.  Between the book that launched her career “Entertaining,” the Martha Stewart Living magazine that followed in 1990 and The Martha Stewart Show, she’s been setting the bar unreachably high for well over two decades.

When I left my job in 2010, I had high hopes that I could use some of my newfound time to narrow the gap between my own performance as a homemaker and the Martha Stewart ideal.  On my second day at home I reorganized all of the cupboards underneath our bathroom sinks.  By the end of the afternoon I had a trash bag full of expired beauty products, cheap shower gels in age-brittle bottles, and crumpled packaging from a surprisingly diverse variety of product categories.  All of Taylor’s bobby pins were stored in a pretty glass bottle, first aid supplies were neatly organized in a drawer of their own and every surface of the cupboards had been wiped clean.   My knees ached, but my heart soared every time I found an excuse to open those cupboards to (oh so efficiently) retrieve something, and had the opportunity to admire my handiwork.

I was never a Martha devote, but whenever I stumbled upon an episode of her show I would find myself strangely captivated by her soothing voice and metered speaking patterns.  An otherwise rational person, I began to wish that I too could find time for good things, like elaborately decorating Easter eggs or raising ducks in my backyard.

But even I was creeped out by an episode with a guest appearance by Dwayne Johnson, aka ‘The Rock’ of WWF fame.   The segment opens with The Rock showing Martha the types of foods he eats to maintain his athletic physique and at one point Martha coos, “You look like a healthy boy.”  Dressed in an odd looking tracksuit, Martha proceeds to show ‘The Rock’ how to make her favourite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Check out the attached clip and throw back a shot of peach schnapps every time Martha says ‘cream,’ ‘creamy,’ or ‘creamed.’ — I dare you.  On second thought, you’d better not.

“Are we missing some fluid in here?”  asks The Rock, as his muscles strain to cream together the ingredients she’s given him.  Oh no…. that’s the way Martha likes it.  No electric mixer for her.

But the tides have shifted under Martha’s feet.  In early January, the New York Post reported that The Hallmark Channel has decided to cancel The Martha Stewart Show.  It sounds like Home Depot is planning to drop Martha Stewart paint colours, and her doggie bathrobe is clearly not selling.  Things are looking grim.

Years ago, I saw Martha on the Oprah show, demonstrating how to fold a fitted sheet.  Oprah was amazed, presumably because folding sheets is an entirely foreign concept to her.  Martha’s amazing tip?  Grasp the fitted sheet from the corners, fold in the gathered edges until you have something that looks like a rectangle, and then start folding.   Watching it, I was struck with the realization that Martha must think we’re a bunch of morons.  Of course we know that’s the concept!  Most of us are not rumpling up our fitted sheets and stuffing them in our closets like we’ve lost all dexterity in our fingers.  We’re trying to get the perfect rectangle… it’s just that our phone is ringing, and kids are crying and something’s burning on the stove while we’re trying to get the laundry put away.

If only we all had the luxury of time to smooth and straighten those edges; fold and unfold until it’s perfect.  Perhaps the reason why ‘Brand Martha’ is disintegrating is because we have begun to realize that if we did have time to spend folding the perfect fitted sheet, most of us wouldn’t choose to spend our precious time this way.  We’d be outside enjoying the fresh air, reconnecting with friends or playing with our kids.  Life is messy, Martha.  And we like it that way.

Oh, and in case you had any doubt…. my bathroom cupboards are a shambles again.


6 thoughts on “The Glorious Death of Impossible Standards

  1. Hi Diane,
    Thanks for catching us up to date on what Martha has been up to. I’m not a big fan of her show or her “Entertainment” philosophy. The few times I tried some of her recipes from her books or show I found them too complicated and time consuming. I had more success with her “EveryDay Living Magazine”, a subscription gift from my mother-in-law. I appreciate what you are saying about her treating the viewer like a moron, but wonder where the interest in the “proper” way to do things like fold a fitted sheet comes from. I worry that we are turning to people like Martha for information and training that would be better gained in our parent’s home, through our own problem solving, and that elusive thing called “common sense”. We are our own worst enemy, judging each other and finding deficiencies, setting impossible standards. Life has always been about priorities, right? By the way, my solution to folding fitted sheets is to not fold them at all. I put them back on the bed after they come out of the dryer. Here’s to a simpler life!

  2. I keep thinking about the poor! dogs , yes I have done some ‘cute’ outfits for my
    dogs … but on walks they kind of seemed embrassed passing other bare dogs ,
    But I always got them in the thrift stores 12 mo baby size was great !
    Sorry , Martha… NO bathrobes … OCD .. is a picture of M Stewart.. strange woman .!

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