Homo homini rodentius est

Losing my religion

Busted! Martha and Co. strolling away from the knishery on Thanksgiving afternoon. And, no, she doesn’t have the power to melt faces. I did that…

I like to flatter myself that I’m a savvy little rat — after all, I was a mere stripling when I gave God himself the heave ho — no small accomplishment in a house full of Irish Catholics. And, yet, I am occasionally surprisingly susceptible to matters of faith in more prosaic matters. Like most people, I tend to believe what I’m told — even by people I don’t personally know, at all. Especially when they live in my television.

Artist’s rendering.

I had my faith thrown in my face on Thanksgiving Day. I stayed in the city this year and my friend Frank and I made plans to see a movie and eat Chinese. Around four in the afternoon I made my way to the Sunshine cinema on the Lower East Side and, arriving ahead of my friend, decided to stop into Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery next door to the theater to get a cup of borscht. I walked into the small restaurant and was immediately met with the image of Martha Stewart sitting at a table with her daughter Alexis and some guy. It was surprising enough seeing her in such a place but seeing her there at dinner time on Thanksgiving Day was nothing less than stunning. It was like running into Santa Claus at the movies on Christmas Eve. My first impulse was to whip out my camera and document it but thought better of pissing her off (she has done time in the slammer, after all). So I quietly paid for my soup and posted myself outside the restaurant where I snapped the shot of her walking away that appears above.

Journalistic truthiness: Mythical Martha’s Thanksgiving.

My friend was more than stunned when he saw her — he was pissed. As he rightly pointed out, at that exact moment women all over the country were breaking their backs trying to live up to the image of homespun perfection that Stewart trades on — going so far as to publish a calendar in each issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine that purports to map out the daily activities of the domestic diva. I suggested that maybe she avoids cooking on Thanksgiving precisely because she does so much the rest of the year, but realized as I said it how hollow the apology sounded. The faith shattering truth was unavoidable: if she doesn’t cook on Thanksgiving, for God’s sake, then there’s no reason to believe any of it.

As tempting as it would be to castigate Stewart it really wouldn’t be fair — she’s just taking advantage of a need we have to project our desire for perfection onto idols. Her magazine is a dream book for women (and men) who desire a home life that is… impeccable. Whether attainable or not is another story. This was brought home poignantly when I paged through the copy of the magazine that I took the calendar image above from. Nestled among the photographs of delectable dishes and clever home designs was an ad for an anti-depressant drug. It was jarring to see — as jarring as seeing Martha chilling over a knish on the Lower East Side on Thanksgiving Day. But similarly enlightening, too.

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