Thursday, September 23, 2010

marthette? moi?

Almost every day, Google Reader brings me a couple of postings from Schott's Vocab: A Miscellany of Modern Words and Phrases, from the New York Times' vast selection of blogs. Sometimes it's a definition of, and commentary on, an arcane or highly technical word, sometimes it's a quick but challenging puzzle or game, and sometimes it's a neologism that Ben Schott has created or picked up in the blogosphere.

A few weeks ago, the new word was marthettes, coined and defined by Sadie Stein as "Intimidatingly 'perfect' female bloggers who are to this generation as Martha Stewart was to the last." BTW Sadie blogs on Jezebel (Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women), which, to me at least, seems rife with intimidating material.

My immediate response to the idea of marthettes was a sort of paranoia. Was somebody going to accuse ME of being a marthette? I'm obviously a 'female blogger,' and I confess that I can be intimidating (sometimes intentionally), but what about the other attributes?

While I have to admit that I see some aspects of my blogger identity in the marthettes' subjects, themes, and even attitudes, I am NOT part of the generation that was intimidated by Martha Stewart. If this means that I'm from the "generation before last," so be it.

I have certainly never claimed to be 'perfect' or do any particular thing 'perfectly.' My foibles have been laid bare in many blog posts -- most notably about struggles with weeds and pests. Martha and the marthettes (sounds like a Doo-Wop group, doesn't it?) may go through these struggles, but I don't think they ever tell you about them. It's like the perfect omelette or photo just rolled onto the set without the aid of a food stylist or graphic editor.

When I first became aware of Martha Stewart, she was a guest on CNN's Larry King Live, which Steve and I watched regularly during our first few years as empty nesters. Up to then, we had been unaware of Martha and her large media following, who were now -- through Larry's fawning interview technique -- being treated to instructions on how to dip dried magnolia leaves into liquid gold so's to feature them properly in a fall centerpiece. Shortly after this, we saw Martha on PBS doing something that involved a turkey and a two-quart Pyrex measuring cup of melted butter. I was shocked, not intimidated, by the sheer ridiculousness of these flagrant displays of conspicuous consumption.

Later my friend Janet received a copy of Martha Stewart Weddings from the mother of her son's fiancée. Janet was not intimidated -- just mildly irked at the implications of the gift. Following an extremely silly incident, Kay and I became known to each other as Martha [Stewart] and Betty [Crocker], and had a lot of fun dissociating ourselves from our famous alter egos.

Of course Martha Stewart herself is now a blogger. Check out The Martha Blog where, among many other things, Martha displays the handmade birthday cards she received from her summer interns, along with the special box they made for her to keep them in.

Yesterday Kathy and I talked about blogging to a new friend named Martha. Our Martha 'got it' immediately that marthettes are Martha Stewart knock-offs. So the neologism is apt and will probably stick -- but not, let's hope, on me.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License