Lord help me.
I'm back to watching Orange County Housewives as they play for pay the game of reality life.
What happened to the simpler days of Hungry Hungry Hippo or Operation? (Allow for a brief moment of bliss while I imagine taking rusty tweezers to Vicki's larynx and yanking it free, ignoring the game's flashing red lights and the terrible buzzer sound. Then I will use those same tweezers to pull my psyche out through my ear canal in an attempt to permanently remove the dinner table sound bite during which Brooks expounded on the glory that is Vicki's vagina. Wait -- can those tweezers remove her vagina? Or maybe just Brooks from this world?)
I could blame this renewed viewership of mine on wanting blog fodder, but in the spirit of being more authentic than these aspirational loons, I'm going to just admit that something about the glossy editing and constructed dramatics have drawn me back in. I'm embarrassed enough by watching this bullshit that I'd absolutely delete any recording of it off my DVR before a guy came over -- but I'm not so embarrassed that I won't write about it, outing myself to anyone who stumbles upon this blog in the process.
Therapy required? If the therapist takes my insurance, sure.
As I've stated before, I'd moved away from the blonde women of the OC. They had ceased to interest me, and the unholy shrieks they elicited during their ever-present restaurant brawls brought me back to an awareness that I don't like to be around people -- even TV people -- who yell. I'm not a screamer; I never have been. What's the point when a cold, blank, dead stare can say more than a howl ever really could?
But I'm back watching, and I can't say how it happened; it just did. And, after all this time, it's like I never really left the shrill wealthy women with their enhanced breasts and over-inflated egos. It almost feels like I’m coming home -- if home were a place I ran fleeing from at the age of sixteen for a better life on the streets as I worked as a stripper named DezTiNee whose only companion was my feral kitty I named Merkin on a meth-induced whim.
I'd celebrate my viewing return by hosting a dinner party I wouldn't dare invite any of these women to attend because I'd go broke on the alcohol budget alone and I'd be genuinely fearful that one of my mirrors or windows would end up broken when (not if -- when) Shannon throws a fellow housewife -- or herself -- through the glass.
Yes, this Shannon woman is a dramatic gold mine, and I'd like to commend both the Bravo producers for finding her and her asleep-on-the-job psychiatrist for sanctioning her participation. She's so wealthy that she has a basketball court in her home and a secret room her seriously beautiful daughters descend into to hide from their mother, and she believes in nontraditional methods to heal all ailments. Unfortunately for her, the cause of her stress is not something an acupuncturist can needle out. For relief, she's going to need a good divorce attorney and maybe some Westernized medication, which I highly recommend she does not take with her ubiquitous tumbler of vodka.
In real life, I have never seen adult women drink so much, so often.
Why do these women with marriages hanging by a frayed piece of a highlighted blonde split-end go on these shows? Statistics have proven that the shakiest of unions will end. Seriously, I could make a pie chart that would have a heavily shaded portion to illustrate the divorce rate of participants of this franchise. (To make it seem less snarky, I'd use a pretty carnation pink color to highlight the marriages that imploded in hideous manners that then spawned vicious public custody wars. I'm sweet like that.)
So Shannon. She's married to a grey haired guy named David who looks a little scary with his steely gaze. If he were a cartoon character -- and really, he kind of is -- he'd have a balloon bubble over his head saying something along the lines of "How much will alimony really set me back?" He's a man who goes to sleep at dusk to avoid his wife. I'm not saying he's not a dick -- he absolutely is -- but I can also see why someone who loves him might consider sending him a block of Ambien so he can fall asleep while it's still light outside and try to avoid his wife for even more hours of the day.
This season seems all about Shannon’s imploding marriage and her true, grief-consuming sadness, and I feel badly for her, but I cannot reconcile why she would go on this show, a show that is filmed in a home with more tension than square feet.
This woman looks like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but not in a stylistic Almodovar kind of way. She is harried and devastated. She spends much of her screen time chasing down where the rumors about the destruction of her marriage began in an insane game of Telephone instead of dealing with the actual destruction of her marriage. Who cares if Tamara, Bitchy Queen of All Strip Malls, said something about Shannon's husband contemplating leaving her? I mean, I get feeling betrayed by a friend, but this show is in something like its 8th season and Tamara has been squinting ferociously at her "friends" for almost all of that time. Can any of these new hires really play the card that they don’t know who these women are? That would be like me being surprised that Kim Kardashian has some vain tendencies -- or being gobsmacked to discover that Andy Cohen sort of liked conflict. You can’t pretend you haven’t watched a show you signed on for in indelible ink with the misguided hope that doing so will potentially enable you to start a line of leather fingerless gloves, which clearly everybody who is drunk in Orange County believes they need.
When you describe your marriage by saying, "It's been thirteen-plus years of dysfunction," while staring into a camera after being hooked up to a microphone whose battery is latched onto the back of your wee pair of jeans, how can you actually make any sort of big deal that you're concerned that your children will be impacted by rumors they hear about their parents' misery? You're the one spouting the information! For fuck's sake, own it.
I get that the tides are swishing against the brown-haired one, Heather. Sure, she's pretentious and a little uptight, and yeah, she passed along the story that Shannon's husband was in the process of maybe leaving her or possibly just trying to gnaw his own limbs off in an effort to make his escape both more interesting and better televion. (Fantastic crossover idea: we all know that at some point soon Aviva's prosthetic leg will be flung across a New York dining establishment because Bravo has promoted that moment almost on a loop, and who can blame them? This was not a woman hired for her sanity or her astute observations on the subtext in the work of David Foster Wallace; this terrifying woman was hired with the hope that one day she would beat another housewife senseless over the head with her detachable limb, and I don't believe for a single second that Mr. Cohen, he of the Housewife enablers, doesn't light sage and chant in a slimming chamber daily for it to just fucking happen already. How frustrating it must have been for it to have taken two full seasons. But I'm thinking that maybe Aviva could hold out that leg through a window in the dead of night and maybe Shannon's husband could crawl across it to freedom, much like how I used to walk the wooden tightrope during a Color War obstacle course back when I was seven. God. I miss sleepaway camp.)
But back to Heather -- Orange County Heather, not fabulous New York Heather, who I kind of love. Orange County Heather is guilty of stirring shit. A sometime-actress, she fancies herself Uta Hagen. She is the kind of woman who juts her finger in your direction to make a point. And yet, I don't care about any of that. She is articulate. She is typically sober. While obviously professionally sculpted, her face doesn't look like it's melting. And she thinks Shannon is crazy.
Look, Heather also agreed to be filmed for this show, but I blame the trait of mild narcissism for that choice, not total desperation. I could be wrong; I don't actually know these people. All I can know is what they choose to put before the cameras, knowing that story editors sift through every action, every statement, every eye roll to formulate story arcs, and Shannon's arc is an inverted one. She's on a descent, and she's sliding so low that I might need a piece of graph paper to chart this shit.
The woman has never made it through a meal without bounding from the table in a state of anger or desolation. I think that might be why she's so thin. (Note to self: start dining with people who will tell me to go fuck myself. Maybe it'll stop me from eating dessert, or at least half of my entree.)
"You will all see the truth!" Shannon yelled at the last dinner party like she was a witness at the Nuremberg Trials, desperate to prove that Heather was out to destroy her, not allowing herself to realize she's doing it to herself while her husband watches it all occur, reacting to his wife's hysteria by alternating mild concern with detached shrugs. And as Shannon went screaming into yet another night, Tamara, attempting to calm her down, grabbed her face -- which doesn't even work with a dog.
There's real pain here, playing out every Monday night at 9:00pm. And there's no question that the Reunion show, where the women will sit clad in ridiculous sequin gowns, facing off against one another on two separate couches, glaring while contractually-obligated to rehash every stinging moment, will be the stuff of lowbrow television glory. And I have no doubt that, even after everything -- all the pain, all the times she looked like an unhinged and broken woman -- Shannon will once again sign a contract to return to the Housewives next year.
In the meantime, I hope her children are locked safely in their secret room, plotting how to build a fortress to keep themselves sane.