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Ruminations on Martha

schadenfreude \SHAHD-n-froy-duh\, noun:
A malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others.
Dear Kay,
I still can’t quite believe that Martha, Our Lady of Arucana, is headed to the Big House–the ultimate renovation project, the place where the milky green of her cake stands is the color of the hallways.
I live in a part of the world where a thousand people would line up patiently for an hour to hear her talk–waiting because she wanted the chairs in the auditorium rearranged in a more perfect way. She was in town for the Antiques and Garden Show a few years ago, and it was a big deal for no reason except that it was Martha in the flesh.
I credit Martha with my rediscovery of knitting. It was in that very line, snaking its way through the Nashville Convention Center, that my friend Frannie handed me a small ball of what I now realize was Koigu. “Want to try?” she asked, having tried for a few rows to figure out how to knit. It was Frannie’s daughter who had prompted her to learn–the second grader whose teacher, the amazing Mrs. Smith, routinely taught entire classrooms of children to knit. When I took hold of those needles, who knew where it would lead me?
I feel sorry for Martha. She has everything in the world except her freedom. However easy it is to chortle in that mean way about her greed and arrogance, just think about how it felt for her to go home last night. I was trying to imagine how she could possibly continue to publish her magazine in the face of these convictions, and I thought for a second: wow. What if she let some inkling of her humanity through? What if she simply let it all out and got all Oprah about everything? What if she let her magazine reflect something other than glossy perfection?
It just wouldn’t happen, that’s the problem. If she had let the sloppy edges of life show a little sooner, she might well have fared better in her trial.



  1. Ann, do you ever go to Clarksville? I’ve heard that a yarn shop has moved in there since I moved out. I’m gonna be there in a week, was just wondering!

  2. Ann–I’ve gotten some condolence calls today about Martha. I’m trying to figure out what that says about ME. Do people think (perhaps correctly?) that I cannot function if there is an interruption in my Martha Stewart Living subscription? I recently renewed my subscription, just as an act of faith and compassion, although it has always seemed clear to me that She Did It. Unlike many shrill t.v. commentators, I don’t have a hard time understanding how she could have been tempted to cheat to avoid what would have been, to her, a very minor loss. It’s human nature to want to stay ahead of the game, and it may well have been a simple, panicky misjudgment in reaction to the phone call she got from her broker. But I don’t understand why, when she got caught, she not only lied and concealed, but did so with such indignation and fanfare. She didn’t just say, No comment. She didn’t just say, I will not be convicted. She said ‘I’m innocent!!! I did absolutely nothing wrong!!!’, and she made up a big fat lie.
    There are few crimes greater than failing to re-pot your houseplants; lying to the Government is one of them. But I take no joy in her downfall. I mean, this is the woman who brought 100% cotton sheets to KMart! She made homey little crafts part of people’s lives again, and she raised the perceived value of being the person in charge of a family’s homemaking. I hope her career doesn’t end with this awful mistake.
    Sermon concluded. So, tell us, are you going to get down to that new yarn store in Clarksville, or what? xoxoXO Kay

  3. It’s the lying part that I call greedy and arrogant. I agree with you about the panicky bad judgment; that’s understandable. But once busted, go on and admit you’re busted.
    PS It’s so nice and cozy here in my glass house.

  4. Janine–I’ll investigate the Clarksville yarn situation asap. Not sure how I could have missed this breaking news.

  5. hey, maybe I can deliver some afghan-a-long squares while I’m down.

  6. Just to be naughty, a link to one of my preferred sharp-tongued satirists:

  7. I always resented Martha for making me feel that I was inadequate in YET ANOTHER way! I am too damn messy and disorganized. So now I have all these mixed feelings. Yes, I do believe she was taken down hard because she was a woman who didn’t hide her light under a bushel and who didn’t need to be all nice. I admire these things. But on the other hand, extolling the virtues of the gentle and wifely arts of homemaking in such a perfectionistic and judgmental way . . . I didn’t need somebody else telling me I was doing it all wrong. I knew that already.
    Did anyone see Miss Manners last weekend about the virtues of making a complete and abject apology? I agree with her wholeheartedly. There’s no need to be particularly sincere way down inside yourself as long as you follow the script, which says, “I really ^#*(ed up. I am truly TRULY sorry.” Why couldn’t Martha do that?

  8. Yes, this is exactly the right insight on Martha. She’s just so…inhuman! Maybe we could like her more if she would just let the rough edges out a little more. Get a sense of humor. Or something. I would love to see her “get all Oprah.” 🙂


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