Here are a few of my very favorite things -- and unlike Oprah, my list will not include a plush chenille throw, though those are really nice too:
- Catching a glimpse of an Old English Sheepdog anywhere, even if it's just on TV.
- Twisting myself into a new yoga position called The Pigeon and not breaking into three pieces in the process.
-Long lunches with friends where a drink I've never tried is served and it turns out to be pale pink and it tastes like maraschino cherries instead of the vodka that's actually the beverage's main ingredient.
-Eating anywhere outside, especially if I get to sit on a high stool at a high table. I've just always loved a high table...
-When the call comes in at the crack of dawn that there is, in fact, a snow day, that school is cancelled, and I won't have to shovel my car out at 5:45 AM in frigid temperatures and that means my fingers won't have to turn a freakish shade of puce.
-Buying a new pair of shoes and introducing them to my collection, hoping jealousy will not arise between my footwear, though a little healthy competition never hurt anything, even slingbacks.
-The moment of knowing I actually want to go on a third date with someone instead of having to come up with some ridiculous excuse or head into the Dating Protection Program, which should really be a thing to protect people from having to fake emotion or illness to get out of being with someone you'll just never really be able to get it up for.
-Waking up from a hideously realistic bad dream that stars everyone you have ever known and cared for playing the game of Duplicity against you and you lose horribly -- and realizing what was just swarming through your head like a pack of angry mosquitoes out for blood did not really occur in your life. You'll still have to fight your subconscious for creating the dreamlike hell, of course, but you can do that over time.
-And when someone on a reality show actually acknowledges that she's on a reality show and that the pandering, the preening, and the unwarranted protestations have been done for the benefit of a camera crew with the hopes of being brought back next season for a paycheck.
Yes, I love the break of the fourth wall in entertainment, from when Richard III tells the audience in an aside that he's planning to execute dastardly deeds to Frank Underwood letting us into a psyche so evil that it actually deserves to be studied by real scientists. I remember being about nine years old and loving how Ferris Bueller explained how to get out of school, instructional-style, right to the camera, like he was talking to me personally -- and some of those techniques actually ended up working in real life. I teach full lessons to my Film students about how such cinematic choices are inherent in a viewer developing an identification with a character, even -- and especially -- with an antiheroic character, and it's a lesson they tend to understand and enjoy. And this coming academic year, when we explore why we as spectators root for those with, shall we say, compromised morality, I will use Mr. Underwood as an example a few kids will get, and those will end up being the kids I like the best.
(Whoever said teachers don't have favorites have never spent a day teaching. Or they're fucking liars.)
I will not bring up the moment to my students that brought this idea to the forefront of my mind today, as it's still wise to be seen as smart and discerning when you're a teacher, but it all rushed to me due to watching Heather lose her shit with grace and style on The Real Housewives of New York City.
Let me be clear: I find Heather physically unattractive and I like men exclusively, but I'm pretty sure I would marry her or allow her to adopt me in a second. She is ballsy. She is a loyal friend. She has built herself an empire based on making women appear slimmer than they really are. She is an intelligent, articulate goddess, and Tuesday night, during Part 3 of the Reunion Triathlon where they clearly served alcohol instead of Gatorade, she told Aviva -- one of the most hideous specimens science should only bother to examine once she's a cadaver -- that she had no storyline other than her prosthetic leg, the one she tossed across a dining establishment during a party that her friend had thrown to celebrate that, sure, none of her businesses had yet to come to fruition, but that at least a gossip who gives facials and a psychic are key parts of her life.
The parties on these shows are clearly manufactured to put six women who mostly despise one another into a room together, surrounded by an underpaid waitstaff who signed waivers to appear on-camera and who will eventually host a viewing party where they can then shout, "Look! There I am! See? Behind the Countess laughing at Sonja's speech?" And the person's friend who came to the party, the one who will coin herself a "fashionista" without irony, will be excited by her sudden proximity to fame.
But back to the faux parties. I'd go to any of them if I was promised the centerpiece would be not a bunch of lush peonies, but an ice sculpture of Heather, carved to show her face mid-snarl, one that could shout "Motherfucker!" as it melted. Hell, I'd throw that party. But I still wouldn't sign the waiver that proved I was actually in attendance.
So on the last leg (not even a good pun anymore) of the Reunion, Heather startled me when she told Aviva that her "only storyline was the fucking leg." I was actually surprised, not that she said it, but that the words made it into the final cut of the show, as it's de rigor to never acknowledge you're a woman in your forties behaving like a manic tween for pay and, hopefully, future endorsement deals. Not only was the line aired, but after it was said, they cut to commercial so the line hung in the air, and when the program resumed, it was repeated.
"Storyline" as part of the vernacular has never been a part of these shows, though viewers not in a coma understand that storylines are constantly and methodically being set up and nurtured until they become a thing that can then be turned into a hashtag of some sort, which will be endlessly promoted by the network until it catches on, and sadly, it catches on oh so easily these days.
Seriously: say the words "hashtag bookgate" in conversation, and I will know exactly what you are talking about. And just typing that sentence feels very sad to me that Bravo has made such inroads into my life.
But I loved that Aviva was called out for trying to seem relevant as a character, which is really now her only option as she has consistently proven over two seasons that she is not decent, self-aware, compassionate, or sane. Her only options to keep this career of being a Housewife going is to be intentionally and grossly antagonistic, and I will be more inclined to believe that Sonja left the reunion and went to church (she's a Christian, you see) than that Aviva did not plan her now infamous leg toss. And that she herself claims it happened out of nowhere is just further proof that there's no chance what she is claiming is accurate.
Aviva's illnesses, phobias, and her prosthetic were her storylines. She took on the wrong woman when she accused Carole -- and, later, Harper Lee! -- of having a ghostwriter. It's like she didn't read a clause in her contract that said in small font that if she fought with Ramona she would probably win the fight because Ramona is no longer human and has morphed into a being made up entirely of Pinot, mock swagger, and blonde hair that cannot get wet, much like a Gremlin. Picking on an actual writer, a person who uses words instead of mere hysteria to communicate, was just idiotic, and she had nothing left then to lean on to appear sympathetic except her gigantic inhaler or her leg, which we all horribly learned can be detached in a mere instant.
I believe the producers high-fived each other after seeing that footage, knowing it would bracket the promos for the season, and I know when I saw the first footage, I thought holy hell. When does this season start? It was a storyline I don't even think a producer could have thought up in her wildest, hallucinogenic-fueled dreams, not even on a horrible lowbrow show like Bachelor in Paradise, which I explained to a man yesterday who has never seen it as "rejects from random seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette competing to see who the first one is to come down with chlamydia." But what I don't think Real Housewife producers initially realized is how desperate some of its participants are to stay on the show and maintain a level of fame that comes from anything other than actually having talent. The exposure goes to their heads, and they begin to need it like oxygen, or whatever it is that comes out of that inhaler -- which I'm putting on my Christmas list, because that stuff looks potent.
So Aviva crafted herself a storyline all on her own and Heather called her out on it, which I loved. And, in the process, I got to relearn that there are in fact some morally-corrupt characters you just can't root for, no matter if they address the viewer directly or not, and Aviva is one of them. And if she's renewed for next season, which I'm betting money I would typically spend on a cute back-to-school-sheath-dress she will be, the only way that I will not fast-forward through her scenes will be if there's a House of Cards crossover and Frank Underwood appears and ushers Ms. Drescher quietly into a garage or a subway tunnel for a quick chat.
That's a scene I'd watch on repeat.
And you'll all be invited to my viewing party.