For a certain period of time, this was the motto I chose to live my life by: In the grand scheme of things, this moment will not matter in the slightest. Such a mindset was very helpful during years when I was almost chronically making all sorts of silly choices, like skipping Philosophy class because it started way too early (11:15AM) or lying to a boyfriend about where I’d spent the previous evening. But even as those words swirled through my mind back then – even as I conditioned myself to believe that none of my actions could possibly really matter – a part of me was always very much aware that my rehearsed mantra was just a verbal defense mechanism meant to absolve me of the guilt I should have allowed myself to internalize. Had I felt those waves of shame, perhaps I would have made different – wiser – choices.
It was probably during the first semester of my senior year in college when that plastic bubble formed entirely out of Goldschlager and delusion finally burst. I was applying to graduate school and I couldn’t help but recognize that my cumulative GPA was lower than it should have been because of all the classes I’d skipped as a freshman back when I’d convinced myself that nothing could possibly matter in the long-run. Though I was a Film major, it was the F that I ended up earning in Math during my first months of college when I was seventeen that ultimately prevented me from getting into NYU and I finally understood that some of the past actions I’d waved away so flippantly did impact the grand scheme of my life in the most miserable of ways. The time had come; I had to do the adult thing and burn those ingrained words in some kind of cosmic mental bonfire. And as the ashes of my prior mistakes wafted high into the nighttime sky, I chose a brand new motto for the next stage of my days: It’s all about the adventure. Okay, so perhaps that one wasn’t the most mature of mottos either, but in my defense, I was twenty-one and living in Manhattan and officially single for the first time in four years and I needed the confidence to walk down those crowded streets and spend my nights ignoring the fact that I knew better. That motto comforted me as I engaged in questionable dalliances with tattooed guys who rode motorcycles around Union Square while I hung off the back (always wearing a helmet; I was foolish but never stupid) and those words also helped me come to the moronic decision to defer graduate school so I could immerse myself in whatever I’d convinced myself was The Real World where I lasted for less than six months before crawling back to a campus because, adventure-seeking aside, I’ve just always done better in an environment where there’s a meal plan.
And then came a New Year’s Eve I spent in New Hampshire skiing with some friends. Right at midnight, my best friend and I went outside and stood on the icy porch of the grand house we’d all rented and we screamed into a sky that was filled with vast darkness and zillions of silvery stars our most significant resolutions. Since I’d finally mastered the art of not swallowing gum, my main resolution and my brand new motto was to simply make better choices. I haven’t always honored that motto of mine, but at least I never let myself get away with the moments when I go backsliding in the way I would if my “grand scheme of things” mentality was still ruling my brain.
The decision to continue to try to make better choices has sometimes been harder to stick to than I initially expected, but it’s allowed me to figure out some extremely important life lessons:
1. Time itself is infinite. Your own time, however, will always be fleeting. Use your time carefully. Tell the people you love how dear they are to you, even if you’re afraid. Allow yourself to be vulnerable today because it’s always possible that you won’t have a tomorrow.
2. Do not skimp on any of the following: thread count of sheets (the low-count ones will literally cause chaffing); garbage bags (the cheap ones will break while you’re wearing something white that can only be dry cleaned); or face-cleansing instruments (for fuck’s sake, only trust the Clarisonic). But if you choose to spend more than ten bucks on any sort of shampoo or conditioner, you’re a fool.
3. If someone is truly batshit crazy, do not try to explain anything in a logical manner because batshit crazy people are allergic to logic. And if you attempt to properly analyze a batshit crazy person for her own good to determine what exactly it was that so horribly damaged her in her formative years, maybe keep your eventual diagnosis to yourself because batshit crazy people who unironically say sentences like, “There’s no shame in my game,” after behaving shamefully view the truth with about as much joy as Superman views kryptonite or Warren Beatty views the PricewaterhouseCoopers employee who handed him the wrong envelope.
4. The next important piece of advice comes from Oprah who got it from Maya Angelou. Oprah and I have a great many things in common. We both like to read and we both enjoy sitting in the woods and shrieking, “I love chips!” until every bird in the vicinity heads anywhere else, even if it’s not south. But mostly what Oprah and I share is this belief coined by Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Had I tattooed those words across my soul, I probably could have saved myself from some seriously shitty days so heed that advice, my friends. Then come join me in the forest where we can debate the merits of Ruffles vs. Pringles.
5. Last but not least, part of making better choices is staying out of other peoples’ choices. Since you cannot fix a relationship you’re not a part of, you should therefore maybe keep your mouth firmly clamped shut at certain moments. To be clear, I’m not saying that anyone should ignore abuse they witness or stay mute during a conversation someone in the relationship beckons you into, but if you’re a raving lunatic like Kristen has proven herself to be – one who believes the root of all problems in all of her relationships are due to someone else’s infidelity instead of her own questionable sanity – maybe it would be best to not be the one to decide that the only thing Katie and Tom ever really fight about is that time he cheated on her two years ago. It might also be best not to confront the groom-to-be while he’s dressed in drag and his wig sits askew on his head and he’s filled with more alcohol than oxygen and he’s spent the last several years just being a shell of a person because he’s slowly come to the realization that he’s stuck with this miserable girl and her psychopathic friends for the rest of his life. I’m not saying Schwartz’s cheating wasn’t traumatic for Katie, but their problem – and their problem is clearly a very layered problem – is not one Kristen of all people can fix. Stay out of romantic strife that’s not your own or you will be punished by spending your glory years living down the hall from a grown toddler still wearing a tiara on Celebrity Rehab because that’s the reality television equivalent of karma.
Listen, I’m not saying I have all the answers. If I did, I’d live in a castle with Tom Ford and he would be straight and I would have to tromp over a moat to get to my front door and I’d take my ponies and otters to have playdates with Lisa Vanderpump’s livestock every Thursday at noon. I certainly don’t know all there is to know about life and I’ve made plenty of very messy mistakes, but by choosing to at least attempt to make better choices on a minute by minute basis, a certain sense of clarity has been able to sink in and what that clarity is currently screaming is that nobody should ever listen to a word Kristen says about anything and someone better get the number of a nearby shelter before Schwartz and Sandoval have complete mental breakdowns.
I understand why Katie still feels hurt by Schwartz’s Vegas hook-up. Being cheated on sucks and being lied to sucks even more. But I don’t quite buy Kristen’s asinine theory that Schwartz admitting on camera during the vacation they’re all taking to celebrate their upcoming wedding that he slept with some girl will do anything but cause Katie to lose her mind even more than she already has. Does Kristen think Katie will nod, smile, and thank Schwartz for telling her the truth and all of their issues will magically disappear? Am I trying to make sense of Kristen’s misplaced and misguided loyalty? Ugh. Going down that road would be the literal antithesis of making a good choice. Shame on me.
Speaking of shame, tonight’s episode throws us back into an emotional tsunami that’s been orchestrated by Katie’s bridal party. In the past, there were certainly some moments when my fellow bridesmaids and I contemplated shooting the bride – our once rational friend – with a tranquilizer dart to get her to calm the fuck down, but not once did we mention to the guy she was about to marry that maybe he should just go ahead and admit he’d nailed a stranger while he was in a committed relationship with the crazy lady trying on veils and screaming about nail polish colors in the corner of the room. Clearly my wedding party nightmares were child’s play; what’s going on in these New Orleans hotel rooms just weeks before Katie and Schwartz march down some aisle in the woods takes dysfunction to a whole new level.
It’s almost three in the morning and both Toms are so distraught that they’ve removed their wigs. Ariana and Scheana explain that all the girls have finally solved the mystery of WHY KATIE AND SCHWARTZ HATE EACH OTHER, but Sandoval immediately shoots back that it all can’t possibly come down to the Vegas thing because those two have been miserable for years. (Save it for the toast, Sandoval!) As though reality has finally set in and caused him to feel empowered, Schwartz declares that he cannot marry the girl. Weirdly, the girl we all know he eventually will go ahead and marry is calm as a fucking cucumber in the next room. All season long, Katie has behaved like someone who seriously struggles with rage issues, but now that things are getting nuts for real, she is lounging comfortably on a sofa with her girlfriends and Jax and thoughtfully explaining that yes, Schwartz’s infidelity could be the cause of her rarely-contained fury. It makes me want to punch a wall, though, when everyone around her nods sagely as though this one incident fully explains the unsavory relationship these two people have allowed Bravo to broadcast for years. Look, I agree when Katie says that if someone doesn’t want a relationship like the one she’s in, that person should just be grateful the relationship isn’t theirs, but there’s really no denying that these people battle constantly (and rarely have make-up sex) and logic fucking dictates that Sandoval and his wig cap are correct. There’s way more to this issue than whatever happened in Vegas.
(By the way, raise your hand if you’re utterly shocked that it was Jax who leaked the scandalous information about one of his alleged best friends to Kristen and then provided that loon with enough details that she now spends a minimum of twelve hours per week investigating exactly what went down two years ago in some hotel room. Yeah. My hand’s not up either.)
This episode has only been on for five minutes and I’m already anointing Sandoval the M.V.P. in a landslide victory. The guy is the only one making any sort of sense and it’s not his fault that the truth he’s spewing is kind of unseemly. I’m sure he does love her, but as far as it was shown on the television program they have agreed to be on year after year, Schwartz was basically bullied into proposing when he did because of an ultimatum Katie gave him and Sandoval has had it with his friend being belittled and being told what to do and acting like an abused spouse – and then he kicks open the door of the bathroom where Schwartz, still in full makeup, sits forlornly on the can. Besides finding out what was in the hatch on Lost, this might be the most riveting bit of television I’ve ever seen.
Scratch that. I clearly spoke too soon because I want someone to get an Emmy for the moment Schwartz – wearing a dress and a sash and an expression that was molded by fear and gin – walks down the hall at the very moment when Jax (Jax!) wonders aloud why the guy can’t just apologize for lying. How this entire group of people hasn’t yet pushed Jax off a tall building and screamed all the ways he was a hypocrite as he plummeted to the cement below is beyond me and I realize I sound rather violent right now, but I did say I was all about making better choices and I’d like to suggest this particular choice to this particular group of people because Jax or Jason or whatever his name will be next will eventually destroy everyone around him like he’s a walking manifestation of a zombie apocalypse and anyone who doubts such a thing has not been paying attention.
But it’s really time to move away from my bout of fantasy violence and head over to listen as Kristen announces that the only thing that’s wrong with Schwartz is his affiliation with Sandoval so maybe she should slit Sandoval’s throat and then everything can be all better. (My shoving Jax off a building’s not looking so creepy anymore, huh?) After Schwartz wanders into the room and slurs insults at Kristen for stirring up shit and then turns his rage on his fiancé because he kind of hates her, Stassi crawls into bed beside Katie and just listens very compassionately as her friend talks about her sadness while outside in the hallway, Jax tells Schwartz to either apologize or call the wedding off because this is his bachelor party weekend and Schwartz has already cried three times.
Buoyed by the words of the same friend who outed him in the first place, Schwartz stumbles into the room to see Katie and promptly falls off the bed because the guy is so drunk he can’t even pee straight. Jax ushers Brittany and Kristen out of the room so Schwartz can maybe salvage his relationship in semi-private (Stassi is still in the bed with Katie) and he promises Brittany he’ll go down on her if she just gathers her stuff and leaves Katie’s room quickly. There’s so much romance abounding that I almost can’t take it. Schwartz’s apology doesn’t go all that well because he’s veered off into some kind of pre-verbal state, though he does manage to randomly insult Stassi’s dating history as he flails out of the room. And over in a place where some eating out’s supposed to be, um, going down, Jax is instead telling Brittany that Schwartz totally slept with that girl and the normal part of me cannot help wondering why he doesn’t think to finally tell her this nugget of truth when cameras aren’t pointed at their faces because I think that’s the wiser choice I’d make if I was truly trying to support one of my dearest friends.
The next morning, Schwartz has almost no recollection of what transpired the night before, but at least he’s still rocking his sash. As all the couples discuss what this particular couple needs to do to achieve joy – or, more accurately, to lessen their misery – Katie writes in her journal. I imagine today’s entry begins, “Dear Diary: my fiancé is a pussy who fucked some other girl and I know it because Jax told me so and Kristen did also and there are no two people more filled with wisdom in this universe. Also, I’m considering not wearing my nose-ring to the wedding. Love, Katie.” As Katie scrawls down her deepest thoughts, Stassi comments that all the same issues Katie and Schwartz have been brawling over for years are the same ones they’re still fighting about and it’s hard to know quite what to do when you’re a bystander to all of it while trying to be supportive.
I guess the only thing to really do now is pretend none of this is actually happening and the best way to accomplish such a thing is grab a cabana and enjoy the customized tees Sandoval had made for everyone, but even that bit of hopeful joy is shot to absolute shit when Schwartz appears and mentions in the first few seconds of the day that he’s afraid of Katie, he dreams of running far far away, and he’s totally falling apart. As he considers whether or not to change his identity to that of a pageant girl so he never has to give up his sash, Katie and Kristen accompany Stassi as she visits her childhood home. This is the single longest scene these three have ever been in without clutching something filled with alcohol, but that’s probably because Stassi’s been puking all morning. In any case, watching Stassi chat with her cute grandmother is very sweet to see and whatever kindness is left inside of my soul sort of wishes the rest of this episode could be spent watching Stassi try on this woman’s Chanel instead of heading back into the bowels of a soon-to-be marriage that will one day be the subject of a Lifetime movie starring whoever used to be on Melrose Place in season three.
Back at the pool, Jax congratulates himself for stopping the rumor he actually started about his girlfriend licking Kristen’s vagina and then suggests that Schwartz apologize to Katie so they can just try to move on. In a happier but far more boring place, Lisa Vanderpump sits in SUR and allows some random girl to audition to be a server. If she’s willing to sleep with the recently-fired DJ and admit to it while wearing a microphone, maybe this chick will get herself a spot on this show, too. Dare to dream, honey.
And now it’s time for The Big Apology and Katie immediately pushes Schwartz away because he staunchly refuses to admit that he slept with a stranger. It probably doesn’t help matters when he tells the woman he’s trying to reconcile with that she was “a nightmare of a human being” for the first several years of their relationship. Then he squirts whipped cream into his mouth, suggests that they both take a shot of vodka, and basically behaves like a kid suffering from intense ADHD who has lost all his meds. I’ve always kind of thought that Schwartz was adorable, but he’s not being so adorable here. He’s behaving like a child and when you combine acting like a child with his palpable terror of marriage – a terror that’s so intense that we could get a strong whiff of it if this show were distributed in Smell-O-Vision – I can’t help but wish these two had either never gone on this show or never went ahead and got married.
On their last night in New Orleans, they all head out and start drinking because nothing ever goes wrong when this group is wasted. At a certain point, Schwartz decides it’s time to play spin the bottle and destiny fucking takes over because that bottle goes whirring around in a circle and lands right on Sandoval. (Go back and watch the expression on Schwartz’s face when he sees who that bottle is pointing at and tell me it’s not the most blissed out the guy has ever looked in his life.) “No tongue,” requests Sandoval and they lock lips and soon everyone is making out and all would be wonderful if Sandoval didn’t head out of the bar to smoke a cigarette right after Kristen just did. Since she doesn’t believe in small talk, she instead mentions that his weave is showing (he corrects her; that terrifying mop atop his head is courtesy of extensions) and then she informs him that he is such a giant asshole.
“I just came out here to smoke a cigarette,” Sandoval says with a sigh.
“Well,” Kristen replies, “you just stepped into the swamp.”
Kristen’s current issue with Sandoval is that he revealed to Carter all the times she cheated on him during the toxic years the two dated before Sandoval moved on to someone who’s actually lucid. But Kristen would like for Sandoval to know that she and Carter have no secrets and yes, she did fuck a ton of guys behind Sandoval’s back and she doesn’t feel guilty in the slightest. “I’m a different person,” she lies, and if this incident alone doesn’t make Sandoval quit smoking immediately, I don’t know what will.
Inside the bar, Schwartz gives Katie a lap dance and they finally appear to like each other for more than six consecutive seconds and everyone feels very optimistic all of a sudden because their previous record was only four consecutive seconds. I think I finally know what hope is, you guys. And I think that’ll be my newest motto.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle. Also be sure to check out her website at nellkalter.com Her Twitter is @nell_kalter