Jen has, for a long while now, been mildly disturbed by my fascination with Martha Stewart. Admittedly, it’s a bit extensive: I’ve got multi-year subscriptions to her Living and Everyday Food magazines, quietly read The Daily Wag (her french bulldogs’ blog) daily, and once tried to steal my friend Michael’s ex-girlfriend’s dog (named… drum roll… Martha Stewart). Oh, and then there’s the recent foray into Ball canning jars and seasonal pickling, the frowny face I make when looking at sad flowers in an unbalanced vase, my fondness and collection of coasters. God, I love coasters. I love Martha, man. She scares me and I love it (Funnily enough, the same can also be said of my eternal ladycrush, Jen).
Naturally, when excerpts from Whateverland: Learning to Live Here–a humorous memoir co-written by Martha’s daughter Alexis–began making waves all over the webz yesterday, I had to take a look. The selection of Alexis’s comments about mama Martha were referred to as “embarrassing” and “scathing” by assorted media outlets. But perhaps you, like me, found them bizarrely comforting and familiar. Like me, you may have wondered what all the fuss was about. Like me, you may have thought, “DEAR GOD. NO WONDER I LOVE THIS BEAST! MARTHA STEWART IS TOTALLY A HARDASS ASIAN MAMA!”
The stiff bob. The forced smile. Sure, she drinks gin with every meal and okay, she doesn’t wrap up leftovers in a used plastic grocery bag, but I’m telling you. She’s just like Mom! Here’s proof, based on Alexis’s pull quotes:
‘Martha does everything better! You can’t win!’
I mean, ’nuff said. Should I even continue? Should I EVEN CONTINUE?
‘My mother has a sign on all of her doors to take your shoes off… For god’s sake! My mother’s dogs p*** and s*** on her rugs and she’s telling people to take their shoes off?’
What? Going to a family function at Mom’s house requires unbuckling your favorite Marni booties, shrinking four inches, and stomping around in slovenly socks? Welcome to my entire life.
‘If I didn’t do something perfectly, I had to do it again… I grew up with a glue gun pointed at my head.’
Glue guns… chopsticks… tiny little Asian fists… they’re all the same thing when Mama or Grandmama’s about to kill you with it. “Roll egg roll like this, you incompetent child! NO! LIKE THIS! STUPID CHILD! WHY DO YOU EXIST?”
‘She used to make me wrap my own presents. She would hand me things right before Christmas and say, “Now wrap these but don’t look inside.”‘
Is the present you can’t see a re-gift or an extra-large sweater from Marshalls? Well then, mommy is a HAM.
[On Halloween] ‘There were no costumes. There was no anything. We turned off all the lights and pretended we weren’t home,’ she recalls.
Funny; my parents saw no reason to turn out the lights when pretending.
‘Mother always peed with the door open… I remember saying, “You know, now I have friends over! You can’t do that anymore! It’s gotta stop! My friends’ parents don’t do it! Give me a break here! I don’t feel like being embarrassed! It’s exhausting! I’m a kid! Stop!”‘
Like any good Hardass Asian Mother, Martha doesn’t give two shits about what your friends think or how embarrassed you are. Next.
‘There was never anything to eat at my house. Other people had food. I had no food … There were ingredients but no prepared food of any kind.’
Here’s the funny thing. Martha Stewart’s home had no prepared foods in the pantry because she was force-feeding her kid the idea that if one is hungry, they should think resourcefully and whip up their own leek and potato galette (or what have you). No Mister Chef Boyardee is gonna do it for them. For more typical Hardass Asian Moms, there’s a bit less intent involved. “Weren’t you supposed to go grocery shopping after you let yourself into the house, finished your pre-Algebra homework, and practiced piano? Then hop to it.”
‘My mother would go to tag sales constantly. She owns hundreds of tablecloths… She won’t let go of anything. She takes things from New York City, then puts them in her house in Westchester. Then she takes them back from Westchester to the city again, then she puts [them] in the Hamptons. And then she hires another truck that takes it to Maine… In some weird way she thinks she’s saving money because she’s not wasting anything.’
HAMs WASTE NOTHING. And they love ‘emselves a bargain.
‘My mother will occasionally complain that I don’t invite her over for dinner… But can you blame me? Because, sometimes this is what will happen: whatever I serve, she’ll sip it, taste it, make a face, and push it away.’
I keep wondering if Martha also says, “Ai-ya! This soup is too salty. Needs sugar. I have tasted much better.”
‘Maybe my mother had bra issues… [She] told me that her mother wouldn’t let her buy a bra when she needed one… so some of her friends gave her some bras. When my grandmother found the bras in the closet, she screamed at my mother and slapped her for having them.’
What a closer! Nothing says Hardass Asian Love like a slap across the face for going through puberty.
The only sign that Martha isn’t a HAM? The day after all of the “embarrassing” and “scathing” quotes made the rounds, Martha called them (and the book from which they came) “hilarious.” Any real Asian mama worth their money would’ve killed somebody for dishonoring them, preferably someone that originated in their womb. Guess nobody’s perfect.
[Amazon: Whateverland--Learning to Live here]
[Daily Mail: 'I grew up with a glue gun pointed at my head': New book by Martha Stewart's daughter reveals a childhood that was anything but domestic bliss]
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