Childfree Celeb Spotlight: Ina Garten (aka, The Barefoot Contessa)
I don’t know what it is about an episode of The Barefoot Contessa that leaves me feeling like I don’t have nearly enough gardenias, gay friends with specialty cheese shops, or bowls of citrus fruits in my life. There’s something so enviable about ole’ Ina Garten. Maybe it’s her and husband Jeffrey’s matching BMW’s (one-upping all those couples in identical velour jumpsuits). Or perhaps the fact that her Hamptons pantry is larger than my condo. Could even be her denim shirts or signature black blouse (quit pretending you’re not jealous, it’s unbecoming).
But I suspect for me, it’s something a little simpler than that – namely, that she’s created this amazingly full and rich life without any baby Barefoots running around. Would she have gone as far if she’d added a pair of kids into the mix? I kind of have to doubt it – this lady’s done a lot of random stuff. You all know she’s built a full-blown empire on the Barefoot Contessa name, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that she:
- Worked at the White House as a budget analyst in the seventies
- Has her pilot’s license (!)
- Bought the Barefoot Contessa store with profits made by flipping houses
- Has her MBA
- Turned down Food Network multiple times before finally agreeing to her first 13 episode season
What a sassy lady, playing hard to get like that! After the wild success of her show, Ina was asked to create her own magazine, chain of boutique stores, and lines of furniture and cookware. She turned them all down flat, saying she didn’t want to further complicate her life. Not many people approached with seemingly lucrative offers are wise enough to say no, with the confidence that they’re already as happy as they can possibly be with their life. What if she’d taken them up on those ventures, or decided to add motherhood to her load of responsibilities? Maybe it would have been great, but maybe she would have been stretched too thin. Maybe her perpetually high school sweetheart-ish relationship with Jeffrey would come under strain. Maybe she’d be too sleep-deprived to bring her trademark jolly laugh to her uber-serene show. Or, most terrifying of all, maybe she’d stop selling that coconut cupcake mix and the jig would be up between me and everyone who thinks I can bake.
Ina’s kept her personal affairs largely guarded from the press (though she did write this little article about how children only belong at holiday parties), so we may never know why she and Jeffrey didn’t have kids. But anyone wondering if there’s anything missing from her life without children needn’t look any further than her thoughts on what family means to her:
We all know that families now aren’t necessarily like Ozzie and Harriet … family has a traditional context, but today it’s not as simple as two parents with 2-3 kids… it’s about relationships… it’s about people who are bound together by love and a sense of being responsible for one another… it’s spouses with no children, like Jeffrey and me… it’s a group of women who meet to cook dinner together once a month… it’s a one-parent family with adopted children… it’s two men who’ve made a life together… at the end of the day, all we have is love… getting love, but even more, feeling love…
As Ina would no doubt say, “How bad can that be?”