As someone who has always believed heartily in the concept of evolution – you know, since I value shit like logic and I wasn’t raised a Duggar – I find it fascinating sometimes to trace how one moment in life can directly lead to the next. It’s not always possible, of course. The passage of time and the slugging down of wine can blur those once clear linear patterns, but one thing I know for sure is that writing recaps of reality shows caused one of my sweet readers to recommend to Kate Casey that I appear on her podcast. For those of you who have yet to hear of Casey, she’s a phenomenal interviewer who manages to snag every single reality participant you have ever heard of (including those, like Spencer Pratt, you are trying desperately to forget) and then she pounds them with direct and probing questions People and US Weekly would never even think about asking because Casey’s legitimate inquiries in no way involve how Kylie Jenner’s lips might change due to her unplanned pregnancy.
The very first time we spoke long into the night, I dragged a blanket into my closet and huddled beneath it next to the pile of shoes from J. Crew, the last shoes I ever owned that didn’t have a heel. I wore skirts mostly, even back then, and the bottoms of the longer ones grazed my arms as our conversation became animated, as I gestured with my hands to make a point. While my earliest anxiety-ridden phone calls with short middle school boys had taken place with me shutting myself in the downstairs bathroom for privacy, the long telephone cord stretching taut from the kitchen as I stared at my face in the mirror – I’d hope beyond hope that I would instantly become prettier by the attention I was getting, that the impact of a boy calling would be similar to the effect of the sun changing the color of my skin – that time, the time with him, was the only time in my life that I took refuge inside of my bedroom closet.
In the densest layers of the muck-and-scum-filled reality television ecosystem, a few Bravolebrities have risen like deranged phoenixes to the tippy top. They bob there proudly upon the fungus-ridden slimy surface and take comfort in the asinine belief that the only thing that matters is that strangers know their name. The creatures currently crowding that swamp include:
I was just fourteen when Twin Peaks premiered on ABC, but I see that show – my exposure to it and my eventual obsession with it – as defining. It was prime-time event television so profoundly scarring that it beckoned me to forevermore embark on journeys down symbolic narrow hallways that were too long and lined with too many doorways and crowded by the thickest of shadows that could still barely hide my increasing fondness for the wicked.
The earliest commercials for the show seemed longer than what was typical for TV back then, and I thought about that a bunch of years later when I heard Paramount was allowing Forrest Gump commercials to stretch for more seconds than was customary in order for the scope of the film to be properly communicated. Had ABC given that same approval for Twin Peaks, a show so surreal that selling it as a straight murder mystery could almost be considered an act of fraud? I have no idea, but what I do know is how strongly those initial images hooked me in, how I became a fan before even a second of the actual show flickered into the darkness of my bedroom. I became someone willing to accept stories about characters who wandered around town holding logs like babies, characters who danced away their sanities in a Red Room with moves so fitful and jerky, it was as though the show had veered briefly into the world of German Expressionism but nobody even thought of whispering this news to the viewer.
The scent of peppermint now wafts through every single room of my house. Courtesy of a essential oil diffuser I bought late one night on Amazon, the steady stream of minty wonder has grown so enticing that yesterday I contemplated licking the wall – you know, snozzberry-style.
Everyone’s got an opinion about my new aromatherapy habit:
You know, peppermint is an energizing scent, said the person I call My Most Informed Friend because she knows pretty much everything about anything. This pumping of peppermint could explain why you don’t sleep so well.
Your house smells like a spa, one guy told me – and I had to inform him the only massage that would be forthcoming was the one he was about to give me.
I’m not sure I can ever go back. Logic and emotion have finally teamed up – they’ve formed a no-nonsense coalition in the anti-bullshit portion of my soul – and together they've managed to pry open my eyes and pound the message into even the farthest recesses of my brain, a message that assures me that my decision to not write weekly recaps of The Real Housewives of New York City this season was the wisest choice I’ve made since I’ve gone full-Paleo.
I took my puppy for a walk yesterday as the dusk fell behind cherry trees so swollen with blossoms that the outside of my home currently looks like a land formed out of fragrant pink cotton candy. There are times when the air manages to feel almost mystical, and I looked up at the flowers through the squint of the last sun flares of the day and I could hear the tinkling bells of the ice cream man in the distance and I said to the person walking beside me – the one holding the leash – Tonight smells like camp.
A friend at work recently told me that she’s vacillating about sending her young son to camp for three days a week this coming summer. She feels guilty about it, about not spending every single minute she can with her child. My guess is all the horseshit people post constantly on Facebook and Instagram has finally succeeded in driving her from somewhat-mad to completely-over-the-edge mad in the manner that too much exposure to sanitized social media is wont to do. You know the posts I’m talking about, right? You’ve seen all those parents writing epic poems about how they cannot fathom why anyone could possibly complain during a snow-day because what could be more blissful than an entire day spent stuck indoors with children? I see those posts and I giggle and my empty uterus does also. My very best friend – a mother of two children who are absolutely beautiful and never ever shut the fuck up, not even while they’re sleeping because they’ve been blessed with chatty night terrors – called my house during the last snow-day of the winter because she needed to talk to someone whose ass she never once had to diaper, not even on a twenty-first birthday that was basically sponsored by whichever maniac came up with a drink called The Cement Mixer. I picked up the phone and she didn’t even say hello. Instead, through clenched teeth, she spoke this sentence: “I hate snow-days even more than I hate my bitch of a grandmother,” and I laughed and I could hear her children arguing over a broken plastic truck in the background and I kindly asked if I could call her back after my mid-morning nap. “You’re an asshole,” she responded and I laughed again.
While I’ve never once heard my work friend call her children “monsters” the way my best friend does triweekly, I could still see that the Parent Propaganda she’s being exposed to on a daily basis is sinking in deep and fast. I tried to explain that all those people who boast that the finest twenty-four hours are twenty-four hours spent in the company of tiny beings who pull on you to open up yet another package of Goldfish crackers and never allow you to pee with the door closed are most likely the same people who scream into a pillow during hour twenty-five of that never-ending pretend-perfect day. I told her the people who post pictures of silent snuggly children also have pictures of those same kids mid-tantrum, their mouths wide open while they scream bloody murder because they were informed they can’t keep the ripped balloon they found in the Target parking lot forever, but nobody posts the negative stuff and what that means is she’s not getting the whole story from anyone and therefore she shouldn’t allow these mommy phantoms to judge anything she does with her child, including the way he spends his summers. Besides, I explained, being at camp is amazing! Who doesn’t want to be in a place where a bugle moves you from activity to activity and you’re constantly surrounded by rope so you’re always prepared for a throwdown round of Tug of War? Camp is not a punishment; it’s eight weeks of fucking joy that comes with a parting gift of rope burn!
Big Little Lies was remarkable television. Did you watch it? That series felt to me like a fucking Super Bowl that gloriously spanned seven blissful weeks. It had everything I long for in my entertainment – everything. Phenomenally layered performances by actresses at the tippy tops of their game? Check. Sweeping pans of treacherous bluffs that simultaneously read as luxurious and bitingly haunting? Check. Wardrobe that captured each character’s essence, from the floral fit and flare dresses on Madeline to the power suit dug from the depths of her closet and her soul on Celeste to the diaphanous dress probably made out of hemp that still couldn’t hide the sculpted and sinewy yoga body on Bonnie? Check. A soundtrack that had me whipping out my phone every ten minutes like someone had set an egg timer so I could Pandora the hell out of the show and add every single tune to my playlist causing me to later belt out the words you bloody motherfucking asshole as I planked on my living room floor and then hum the absolutely perfect and totally melodic theme song when I applied conditioner to my hair in the shower? Check. A mystery I couldn’t hold out on so I bought the book and read it in less than a day and knew who the killer was and still applauded when the actual crime finally went down that Sunday evening on HBO? Fucking check.
Having to remove Big Little Lies from my DVR almost caused me to bawl my eyes out, but at the same time I’m into the limited series trend that’s happening right now. Some of the finest writing is being done for television and many of our most gifted actors will appear on shows that are guaranteed to last for only a season so they can delve deep into a character, get nominated for an Emmy, and then move on to doing something else they’re passionate about. This is not to say that I don’t harbor hopes that the rumors about a second season of Big Little Lies are true. Had a forest been in the vicinity of my home, there’s a slight chance I would have been compelled to walk there and light a candle during one warm twilight in an effort to sway the powers that be to greenlight season two immediately. Then again, all those Smokey the Bear commercials that used to air on Saturday mornings when I was little and up watching The Smurfs have sunk in deep so no matter how badly I want to hear Madeline tell someone to go fuck himself on the head one more time, the truth is I’d never strike a match while standing in the depths of the wilderness.
And so I moved on from Big Little Lies. Notice, my friends, how I didn’t say I moved up from the show because down to the depths of hellish TV did I slide to get myself a new fix and that slide took me as far away from compelling twisty storylines set on the gorgeous Monterey coast as is humanly possible and instead to the boozy streets of Charleston where I landed with a thud in the land of Southern Charm. I’ve written about Southern Charm once before. During a brief bout with a miserable cold, I stayed in bed for a few days and watched every single episode from every single season and I got hooked and wrote about my reactions in a piece entitled Prince Charming is a Fucking Pig. (Speaking of which, heeeeey, T-Rav!) Anyhoo, my newest descent into the world of these monsters is not about being even more critical of a man who looks alarmingly like a deflated Shar Pei and longs for the days already gone by when a particular pair of magic khakis managed to get him instantly laid. No, this particular piece is about the ladies of Southern Charm who, in my eyes, will only fully redeem themselves when they band together and break into Thomas’ house in the dead of the blackest night to steal those khakis and then torch them under a full moon while Cameran twirls in gleeful circles around the fire because she’s finally fulfilled her destiny to be the whitest witch of all time.
John Travolta was the first.
Though the alleged incidents occurred before I developed the capacity for memory, family lore includes tales of me shaking my Pampered-clad ass to You’re the One That I Want in our sunken suburban den, my feet clomping through shag carpet so lush it rose to the tops of my ankles, my toddler-soft shoulders breaking into a shimmy whenever Sandy and Danny together cooed “ooh, ooh, ooh, yeah.” The whole thing sounds delightful, but I cannot recall a single second of those days – then again, I also cannot recall a time when I didn’t know the entire Grease soundtrack by heart. I’ve forgotten hundreds of things throughout the passage of the years. I willfully surrendered real estate in my brain to far more essential matters like Caddyshack quotes and remembering what that one guy’s pores looked like – a dreamlike version of Orion – but even though I’ve forgotten phone numbers and names and bold intentions and grand promises, I’ve never forgotten a single lyric of any song in Grease.
I remember reading this almost perfect article in Vanity Fair more than a decade ago about the fierce friendship and even fiercer competitive spirit between two men I truly believe helped to usher in the devolution of society even more significantly than Trump, Putin, and all the hackers crammed into that Russian think tank combined. Mike Fleiss and Mike Darnell, the friendliest of professional foes, are the men who separately or together blessed us with the following illustrious television fare: