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Martha Stewart Comes Clean

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She likes living alone. "I chose that," she says pleasantly. She seems to need a solo life. "You're not tripping over people." That goes for Charles Simonyi, her beau (and, she says, the only person she e-mails socially). Stewart has known the 58-year-old self-made software billionaire for about 13 years, and they've been dating for the past few. She's not one to go all girly talking about a man, but she does speak warmly of Simonyi. "He's a self-professed nerd," she says fondly. "Very nice, very thoughtful, very smart" — and with a bachelor's fixed habits. "He's very compartmentalized; he knows exactly where he's going to be when," says Stewart, who finds his life a little too "beautifully planned" and suggests that this limits their opportunities to get together. She shrugs. "I just let it be that way." When I ask whether she'd ever consider living with him, she responds straightaway, as if the answer is obvious: "Well, he lives in Seattle and I live here, so it's kind of impossible," she says. "He can stay on his boat for six months at a time, and I have a job."

In April, Simonyi became the fifth space tourist to fly by rocket to the International Space Station, a 14-day adventure. He likened the journey, Stewart says, to her time in prison. "When he first decided to do it," she recalls, "he told me, 'It's sort of like what you did, Martha.' None of that trip was in his control, and neither was mine. He was so admiring of me for having done what I did so well that he wanted to have that kind of experience" — being flung into very unfamiliar territory. "His was much more interesting," she says of their sojourns, then pauses for comic effect. "Obviously."

Her months in jail didn't change her, Stewart insists. "You don't need that kind of ordeal to change," she tells me briskly. "That should not be the stimulus for change, and it wasn't." But Stewart is an ardent fan of the idea of transformation. "When you're through changing, you're through," she often says these days. "That's my new motto, and I'm imposing it on everyone else." She's such a believer in change — by which she mostly seems to mean learning new things, tackling a new project or idea — that she won't give what she sees as her unfair trial and imprisonment the least bit of credit for helping bring about anything so positive.

She used her incarceration as a hiatus, she says. "It gave me an opportunity to read, to think about a lot of things — my farm project [at her Bedford estate], my whole company, and what I wanted it to be."

She's never contended that she wasn't sometimes disheartened — days after her sentencing, she told CNN's Larry King that she felt "shamed," and that the trial had "been really devastating." She seems philosophical about having been what she terms "beleaguered," suggesting that hardships go with great success. And she's proud of the way she coped. "I kept my chin up and my stomach in," she says.

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