Jane Ahlin column: Mary Contrary knows how to get to Martha groupies
When I pulled into the Kmart parking lot and saw the big, hand-lettered sign, "Authentic Martha: Tasteful Black Armbands Here," I wasn't surprised to see Mary Contrary next to a folding table heaped with everything from magazines to bath towels. ...
When I pulled into the Kmart parking lot and saw the big, hand-lettered sign, "Authentic Martha: Tasteful Black Armbands Here," I wasn't surprised to see Mary Contrary next to a folding table heaped with everything from magazines to bath towels. I almost made it past the set-up without her noticing me, but then the car behind me honked at something, and she looked my direction.
"Hey, Sunshine," she hollered, "you're a Martha Stewart fan. Park that heap of junk and take a look at my collectibles."
Seeing no way to avoid her, I parked the car and walked over. "I wish you wouldn't holler like that, Mary. It's embarrassing."
"Your hero is headed for the slammer and me raising my voice embarrasses you?"
"I don't like the word 'slammer,' Mary. And I wouldn't exactly say that she's my hero."
"Let me ask you this, Sunshine. How many Martha Stewart Living magazines have you got in your house? In fact, how many Martha Stewart Wedding magazines did you buy the year your daughter got married? And what about that sticky stuff you ordered?"
"You mean the fondant for the wedding cake?" I found myself smiling. "You know, Mary, that fondant arrived in the most adorable plastic pail...."
"Listen to yourself," Mary interrupted. "An 'adorable plastic pail'? You are a Martha groupie."
"Oh, I am not. But I think she deserves credit for bringing gracious living back into style, and, even with all the jokes about perfection, she made gracious living seem reachable and affordable for almost everybody. I mean, everybody knew it was domestic fantasy, but like Martha put it, 'That's a good thing.'"
"That's why these black armbands are done in impeccable taste, Sunshine. Take a look: elasticized black bands without frills and just a touch of pink in the lettering that says, 'Free Martha.'" She paused. "That'll be five bucks."
"I don't want one, Mary."
"Oh, I see. You're a fair-weather fan. When the going gets tough you scram."
"That's not it at all. I think she has nice merchandise at Kmart, and she has good recipes and gardening tips." I looked Mary in the eye. "All right, I admit I'm a sucker for her magazines. But as far as the trial goes, she seems to have become a victim of her own arrogance."
"Not to mention federal prosecutors who smelled blood, Sunshine. I mean, the woman lied while they investigated her for insider trading. Of course, the kicker is that they never charged her with insider trading. So she's going up the river for obstructing justice, because her lying made it harder for them to find out that she didn't commit the crime they were investigating."
"When you put it that way, it sounds like overkill on the prosecutor's part. And honestly, it is unfortunate that because of all the federal mandatory sentencing rules, the judge really has to send her to jail. For that matter, it seems somehow wrong that she's going to jail when the big guys from corporations like Enron and Tyco who ruined the futures of thousands of their workers and investors remain free."
"Heck, those guys are still getting tee times where the cost of a round of golf is a month's pay to some people." Mary Contrary looked off into the distance. "But I'm doing my part and I'm doing it in the entrepreneurial spirit of the great dame herself. So what piece of 'Authentic Martha' are you gonna buy, Sunshine?"
"Sorry, Mary. If I want Martha Stewart merchandise, I'll buy it in the store."
"That may work today, Sunshine, but you know it won't last, and then you'll be back. Groupies never know what to do when the party's over."
Ahlin teaches English as an adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State University Moorhead and is a regular contributor to The Forum's commentary pages. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org