Pick a Guru: Martha v. Oprah v. The Beekman Boys

A new business and lifestyle as a battle between Oprah and Martha.
A new business and lifestyle as a battle between Oprah and Martha.

The world conspired to make me read The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. I won a signed copy of the book at a conference, and I was delighted because I love The Beekman Boys’ blog and had rooted for them in The Amazing Race. I was delighted in concept, I should say, because my want-t0-read book stack is much larger than my  available time. But then hours of airflight delays morphed into an overnight wait which were so ridiculous that it seemed like the universe was telling me something. And The Bucolic Plague was right there, optimistically in my carry-on bag.

It turned out to be the perfect read and a charming memoir that takes readers along for the ride as adman Josh and his partner, Dr. Brent of Martha Stewart Living fame, take to the countryside to learn farming while creating the lifestyle brand Beekman 1802.

I related very much to many of the themes in the book: the desire to create a new way of living, the entrepreneur’s challenge of ever relaxing when hobbies tend to turn into grueling businesses, the worries of the new economy, the toll that business development takes on relationships, the strange new world of personal branding. Plus there are goats. Goats giving birth! Canning escapades. Not to mention some dishy behind-the-scenes at Martha Stewart’s private parties details.

The dramatic tension in the book has a name, and her name is Martha Stewart. Martha plays a haunting role in their journey. Brent is shown as seeking Martha-styled perfection in every aspect of his life, creating struggles with Josh, who seems perpetually late and slap-dash, more interested in the creative process and experiencing discovery than outcome. He sees these traits as failures until seeing a taping of Oprah which encourages him to follow her mandate to live one’s best life. The narrative overall presents a modern tug-0f-war between these two lifestyle guru giantesses: seek Martha’s perfection in order to see the light, or seek the resonance that is supposed to come from adopting Oprah’s maxim of Living Your Best Life.

It’s an interesting question. Which direction do we each naturally pull, towards what emerges when we pursue perfection and beauty, or what emerges when we are in harmony with our best selves, even if that is messy and the opposite of perfection? Can both tendencies exist peacefully in each of us? What about in relationships? Brent and Josh found their differences complementary when they were busy with separate jobs, but had a hard time reconciling them when they were pursuing a shared business goal.

I didn’t think of myself as needing inspiration from any contemporary guru, but I did like puzzling through the themes and I found Josh’s story inspirational. The Beekman Boys make it possible for us to avoid choosing between Team Oprah and Team Martha by selecting the Beekman Boy’s lifestyle brand as a guiding star. Their blog, reality show, books and products are a keen mix of the two values plus entrepreneurial advice, all wrapped in a fabulous gay package. If you want to jump into their stream now is a perfect time. Brent and Josh were married on their farm this weekend, and of course they shared the Martha-driven festivities via their blog, social feeds and on Martha’s radio show.

Be forewarned, any dip into the Beekman narrative will make you want to grow tomatoes, something you can not do while stranded in an airport. I’m determined to figure out how to add a little of the Boys’ heirloom magic to my backyard farm, though. They make it look delicious–not easy, but worth it, and delicious.

Check out some of my other posts on Babble Voices: 

Parents as Gender Warriors

Gay Marry Me: We’re on the Right Side of History

Watching Gay Parents on The New Normal

 Chick-fil-A: Eat, Pray, Love

Coming Out with Anderson and Megan

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Article Posted 3 years Ago
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