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.
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’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.
Incredibly important news came out this week – and I'm not talking about an Olympic swimmer reacting with a blithe "Whatever" upon allegedly being held up at gunpoint in Rio or the fact that there are now Swedish Fish flavored Oreos with a startling bright red cream center. (By the way, what is going on in Oreo Land? Who is doing the focus groups and reporting back that the public is dying for such revolting flavor combinations? At this point, I'm fully expecting the next edition of the Oreo to be Athlete's Foot flavor to kick off football season.) But I digress. The really important news of the week is that Luann just announced she will wear three dresses at her upcoming wedding. One dress is for walking down the aisle, veil included. Another is for the party itself that will be attended by the finest C-List socialites nobody has ever heard of. And the third dress she will throw on WHEN SHE PERFORMS A SONG. Yes, the Countess has not only convinced herself that she should marry a guy who cheated on her, but that she should also commemorate their union musically – and I'm not sure which part of that is more disturbing.
Quick disclaimer: I haven't slept in about sixty hours. My sweet puppy got spayed yesterday morning because one experience of caring for a 6.4-pound Maltipoo in heat was more than enough for me to deal with in an entire lifetime. Those were some rough days, some peculiar days. I strapped extra-small diapers to the dog for six weeks straight. I learned how to pop her tail through the hole in the back so she would be more comfortable. I apologized every time I did it and told her how exciting it was that she was becoming a woman. Her response was to remove the diaper herself in the middle of the night and then place it on my pillow. Tallulah? She's sweet – but she's also as crafty as they come. Anyway, I was anxious about such a tiny thing having surgery so I was up all night on Monday and that waking misery continued straight through Tuesday night as my dog and her plastic-coned head struggled to get comfy without any success. This morning, I forgot to put a mug under my Keurig and coffee spilled freely across the countertop. Yesterday afternoon, I tripped up my steps. What I'm trying to say is that since walking up my own staircase feels incredibly complicated right now, there's also a chance that this recap might be all over the place. Should I, however, begin a paragraph by talking about how the Countess is just terribly misunderstood, please send help.
Where last we left our Housewives, Jules was realizing once again that her husband is terrible, Dorinda was stirring some shit to earn a better spot on the Reunion couch, Ramona was sexually harassing one of the yacht’s crew members, Carole was counting backwards from seven trillion just so she could make it through the party, Luann was proclaiming to the moon and the stars that nothing could ruin her night, and Sonja was finally admitting to herself that it felt all kinds of yucky to watch her friend get engaged to a man with whom she too was once quite close. Oh, and Bethenny? She was lounging on the beach while holding text messages that are apparently so damning, Luann might end up hurling herself off that boat and swimming to shore while ruing the day she ever met Tom – but anyone who thinks Luann will actually admit her life is not perfect or that she’d believe some woman over her possibly-wealthy fiancé has not been paying attention to who Luann has clearly shown us she is over the last several seasons.
There are quiet lunatics and then there are bombastic lunatics. The bombastic lunatic side of the wall currently includes those who enjoy proselytizing into cameras about all sorts of things, including how much we desperately need a wall. I happen to be a Democrat, but I don’t think it’s some staunch affiliation to a particular party that caused me to stare in disbelief at my television screen last week as Chris Christie – lambasting everyone but the treasonous bigot he’s supporting – turned almost blue with fury. Rudy Giuliani appeared to master the art of turning himself into an animated cartoon villain before our very eyes, a Gargamel for conservative millennials. These men? They fall into the category of lunatics who actually look unhinged – unless, of course, you happen to agree with everything they say, in which case you probably just view them as incredibly passionate. But whatever it is you believe, nobody can deny this form of lunatic has all the physical signs of someone losing control. There’s the hyper-quick adrenaline rush that ends in a face so flushed the color can only be described as falling somewhere between crimson-shock and heart-attack-red. There’s the antagonistic pointing of fingers until they become full-fledged jabs to the blank air. There’s the perspiration that spreads like a fungus. It can be uncomfortable watching people behave this way. In public, I’d avert my eyes. However, I kept finding myself tuning into the Republican National Convention, if only to see who was presently yelling or to see if anyone actually saw fit to offer any clear strategy for achieving the many things they all just kept screaming about.
I’m not a strictly vote-the-ticket kind of Democrat. I once dated someone who told me that he wasn’t mentally tied to any party. “I vote Common Sense,” he’d say, and though I’d bet a good deal of someone else’s cash that he’s a registered Republican, I think I have spent my voting life pulling the common sense lever, too. I recognize that what’s common sense to me may not be to others. I accept that to some degree. But watching all of the unedited footage at the RNC that looked as close to teetering madness that I’ve ever seen left me feeling uncomfortable. (It’s possible I actually experienced a change in blood pressure over the last week.) You’d think, then, that staring for a while at one of those quiet lunatics would be effective in calming me down, but Luann – Countess, engaged woman, quiet lunatic extraordinaire – is also almost too much to take tonight. While she’s not screaming her message to the masses or turning alarming shades of red, she is just as insufferable as the man who was celebrated for no good reason in Cleveland and I’d bet my own money that the two are double-air-kiss friends.
This episode of The Real Housewives of New York begins the way every episode of this show – and every single day of my life – should always begin, with a Deep Thought By Luann: “When you’re in love, everybody tries to rip you down!" Luann wails the sentiment, and it's probably because she has no idea who she really is or how people really view her. She’s a woman so blinded by her massive and spiking levels of self-worth that she cannot see that it’s actually her insufferable arrogance that is causing these women to turn on her, not the jealousy that only she can see. Also? Whenever someone above the age of twenty-three insists upon using the word “soulmate,” the wise people in their midst need to be given free reign to snicker and start forming brackets or perhaps an entire gambling ring that will monitor just how long it takes for this relationship to implode since the people in the relationship are clearly currently clouded by overwhelming lust and dollar signs that smell like lube.
We are still at Dorinda’s dinner party, the one she threw because she’s contractually obligated to do her part in getting this group of women who would never actually see one another on their own volition into the same room every once in a while. Having heard quite enough about which of her fellow castmates Tom has seen in just a thong, Luann finally gets up and walks out. She runs into the smokers on her way to freedom. Dorinda and Jules implore her to stay, but Luann’s had it. She is going home, dammit, to the penthouse apartment with the fucking terrace and she will stare into a hand mirror until she feels better about herself while she reclines on a chaise that allows her to stare down from Tom’s rooftop at all of the little people who just want to be her.
Since it hit ninety degrees this week in New York, the images of the snowy winter that started this episode of The Real Housewives felt momentarily soothing. All of those beatific miles of freezing white... But then I reminded myself just how miserable all of those blizzards actually were and I realized that I'd rather see a close-up of whatever picture Jules definitely still has on her iPhone of her busted vagina than relive all those mornings in February when I had to clear off my car at the crack of dawn. In any case, we leave the frigid tundra quickly and start with Bethenny coming into her office and, while there is no discussion of her nether regions, we can all be placated by the fact that Kristofer, her “Celebrity Make-Up Artist,” looks very well rested. (Can I just say that I find it completely preposterous that the guy’s title is not simply "Make-Up Artist" but instead it must be "CELEBRITY Make-Up Artist?) Anyway, it's bandied about that maybe this guy – who earns a living by only tending to the faces of the incredibly famous – garnered his aesthetic freshness by having ingested someone’s placenta. Listen: I do not mind these gynecological references. In fact, I hope he will sculpt his client’s eyebrows so they eventually resemble fallopian tubes, but it turns out that his alertness is not actually due to downing a shot of liquefied afterbirth. No, Kristofer looks so wonderful because he recently had his fat frozen. This is aspirational television at its finest, folks! But let’s not stop there! We can also stare at our screens and covet the ginormous clutch Bethenny had made out of what I’m guessing is a Skinnygirl shopping bag and she’s told by the assistants who clearly hate her that her brand new accessory will look amazing with a jumpsuit. We’re not two minutes in and already I’m certain that everybody in that loft dreams hourly about murdering their boss and replacing the pops of Skinnygirl red paint on the wall with her plasma.
As for Bethenny, she’s feeling anxious. Her surgery is only three days away and she’s getting ready to launch a new line of Skinnygirl chocolates that I pray will be made by chemists who had nothing to do with crafting the formula of her margaritas because that shit tastes like evil. In any case, the medical issue she’s facing is no joke and her friends have been incredibly attentive and kind in the days leading up to it. Carole, of course, has been there for her, but the real news is that Ramona has been unbelievable, something that – bizarrely – doesn’t surprise me at all because Original Ramona was clearly abducted in the dead of night by a fleet of aliens interested in studying the root of where lunacy comes from and the New Ramona they dropped in its place has proven herself to be nothing short of lovely and selfless. I mean, Ramona brought Bethenny flowers and toted along a book so she could hang out in the other room and read while Bethenny recovers so she won’t ever have to feel alone. That sort of thoughtfulness is no joke so I refuse to make one here.
Luckily, other jokes have begun to percolate like coffee laced with laxatives because the beauty routine is not over. Tokyo shows up next. His job as the hairstylist today is to wrap Bethenny’s head in a wig cap and toss a red wig on top. Come to think of it, Bethenny sort of looks like one of the aliens that I think might very well have stolen Original Ramona. That’s not to say that Bethenny looks bad. She pulls off the ridiculous look and she knows it, which is evident the moment she bellows, “I’m definitely having sex with a stranger tonight!” Is it wrong that I sometimes say that while I’m not wearing a wig or have not just been tended to by a man who is carting around his very own cellulite icicles?
As someone who once politely asked one of my male friends if he was interested in placing a bid on my uterus should I happen to put it up for sale on eBay during a particularly hellish and crampy month, I clearly don’t have a problem with women discussing vaginal issues or flashing iPhone pictures of wounded vulvas as they make their own pizzas. What I do have an issue with is the way two women, exceptionally thin in their own right, seem to think it’s acceptable to speak about someone else’s eating disorder while they are wearing microphones. Is Jules almost invisible when she stands sideways? Yes. Did I recently see a picture of her in shorts that caused me to actually gasp out loud? Yup. Might it be problematic that the lady totes around Lidocaine – which can be added to coke to increase the numbing effect of the drug in a way that might impact the ability to successfully chew anything resembling a calorie – and gleefully pops some into her calzone? Definitely…though I want to try a forkful of the stuff. There is obviously something quite disturbing about Jules and her frail frame, but watching Carole and Bethenny joke about it and debate her weight makes me feel uncomfortable. These are two people who should (and do) know better. (By the way, I am very much aware that I too have just commented on Jules' weight issue, but I'd like to plead that I have to do so in order to accurately recap this show. I feel sort of badly about it, though. I shall punish myself by watching an old episode of this series, the one where Jill Zarin donned a full costume to ice skate at a party she threw for herself, and I'll turn the volume way the fuck up so it's as unpleasant as is humanly possible.)
But before Jules can once again be shamed for a psychological condition that manifested into a physical one, Bethenny tells all the ladies (besides Sonja and Luann, who are no longer invited to events planned by producers unless Bethenny gives her explicit written consent that their presence is acceptable) how grateful she was that Dorinda accompanied her to the doctor and that it’s hard because she doesn’t have family who will care for her during events like a medical crisis. Ramona is sweet here. She tells Bethenny that her friends are her family and they’re there for her. But enough about the serious stuff! It’s time to make pizzas, decorate them with toppings, and ask Jules her exact weight, even though both her expression and the tone of her voice clearly indicate that she would rather discuss her husband’s alleged infidelity. She claims to weigh 115 pounds, a nothing weight for someone as tall as she is, but while she’s outside – inhaling nicotine and the kind of freedom that comes from not sitting at a table and being grilled by her new friends –Carole and Bethenny remain inside and sneer that there’s no way their emaciated buddy weighs more than 95 pounds, max. “Jules presents her eating disorder as something she’s gotten past,” Bethenny says. “It strikes me that she’s right in the middle of it and maybe not entirely dealing with it.” I’m sure Bethenny has a point here. I have a point, too: commenting on Jules’ weight to the cameras will probably not be the thing that propels her to get healthy any time soon.
Welcome back to The Bethenny Show! And just like last week’s episode (and the episode before that and the episode before that), I’m fully anticipating that this week’s installment will be rife with the kind of sinisterly bitter conflict and emotional mayhem we’ve come to expect when a show that’s supposed to be about the lives of seven women has been permitted to transform into a series about six of those people reacting to the constant verbal eviscerations and machinations inflicted by one very slender lady.
Look, I certainly recognize that there are some ramifications that come with Bethenny Frankel hijacking this show. I know some viewers are irritated – furious even – that this season is panning out in such a way that Bethenny has managed to dictate the temperature of any room she enters, and that includes closets and outhouses and bars located inside of sheds. I too find her borderline impossible much of the time and I will happily go on the record and say I probably would not want to be anywhere near her in real life. Still, I do not hate Bethenny’s presence on my television screen. Yes, she is undeniably the single coldest human being I’ve maybe ever seen – and I watched all of The Jinx and stared at Robert Durst’s face for many hours. There’s a hardness that emanates from Bethenny – a blistering chilly steel – and it is blatantly obvious every time she spits out her words in a flurry. She enunciates each syllable so methodically that it’s like she’s biting and snacking on her own vocabulary, a form of organic trail mix made out of sarcasm and strychnine.