As long as we’re on the subject (since I just brought it up), here are a few things I don’t miss in the slightest:
· Those incessant blizzards that rocked the east coast last winter. Yes, I realize that I might have just committed the weather equivalent of shouting, “Looks like a no-hitter!” during the ninth inning of a baseball game right before the batter smashes a grand slam homerun straight into the outfield bleachers, but should a month of continuous snowfall accompanied by ice thudding from the sky suddenly commence, please blame Mother Nature, not me.
· Thinking that I have to say yes to everything I’m asked to do at work. There were those early years when I tutored for the SAT and helped students write college essays and ran classes designed to get kids a better score on the Regents exam. I was even suckered into being the advisor for the Trivia Team my first few years, an act that mandated that I accompany kids who loved shit like physics and trigonometry to academic decathlons where I had to read questions that I not only didn’t know the answer to, but often I couldn’t even pronounce half of the words in the question. Even the time I dove into a pool and then unknowingly conducted an entire conversation with a guy I was interested in for fifteen minutes straight before realizing my left tit was hanging out did not make me feel as big a moron as I did when I went to those trivia competitions. Finally recognizing that I was allowed to say, “fuck no!” to random requests at work changed my life.
· In terms of technology, I do not mourn the commercial-crammed days when I lived without XM Radio, the dark ages when DVR was just a figment of an excellent idea in some madman’s mind, and the years my phone didn’t contain that beautiful “block” button that I’ve started to use pretty frequently.
· I do not miss the days when I refrained from telling people in my life who were behaving like pathetic assholes that they were acting like pathetic assholes and I definitely don’t miss the nights I couldn’t sleep because I was far too consumed with running the imaginary conversations I should have had with them in my mind. I also do not miss the years when my nearest and dearest were less than honest with me. Maybe it’s a loss of patience or maybe it’s the gaining of patience or perhaps I’ve just formed an allergy to bullshit, but I’d much rather have the difficult conversation for real than perfect it a hundred times in my mind for imagination’s sake and nothing else.
· I can’t even pretend to miss the dewy mornings when coffee didn’t spurt instantly from the Keurig that sits in a place of prominence on my kitchen counter, especially since I never properly learned how to make a pot of the stuff on a normal coffee machine and it turns out that exploding coffee grinds are a real pain in the ass to clean up.
· I’ll never again long for the years when my salary was so low that I internally debated every now and again how maybe settling for a guy with money and not much else wouldn’t be the single worst choice I could possibly make – and that includes the time I got those terrible choppy side bangs that not even my closest friends could react to with anything but horror.
· I was once certain that I would, but I do not miss those flavored ramen noodles that made my hair smell like chicken or that month when I went on an all-candy-corn diet (scoff all you want; it worked) or when I moved out for the first time and realized that it meant I could buy any kind of cereal I wanted – that it didn’t have to be one of the healthy kinds – and I truly began to believe that Apple Jacks tasted like a sugary form of freedom. I mean, sure, it might have been the single most liberating experience I’ve ever had inside of a supermarket, but that doesn’t mean I miss that day.
· I also don’t miss the banana clips that could never properly hold back my too-thick hair, the year everyone (including me) wore a tiny Prada backpack for no good reason at all, the nights I spoke to guys in bars who rocked fedoras completely without irony, the years I was convinced thongs had to be equivalent to having a perma-wedgie, and the money I spent on Juicy sweatpants because I managed to convince myself that my ass would look best in ridiculously overpriced aqua terrycloth.
· And more than any of it, I do not miss Stassi Schroeder.
Yes, my dear friends, it looks like Stassi will soon be galloping back to Vanderland on a wounded pony and I for one could not be less excited to see her. Her return feels the very opposite of triumphant; in fact, it strikes me as remarkably similar to the reaction I have when that one student who graduated five years ago continues to stop by every few months just to say hello. “Time to move on!” I always consider bellowing his way, but I just keep the interaction to a swift, “Nice to see you,” before I go fleeing down the hallway and away from a kid who is perpetually ensconced in the dynamic that was high school. I’d argue that Stassi continues to be stuck in a high school mentality too and that high school probably felt like her glory days when she ran that fucking cafeteria like an Adderall-guzzling Gestapo agent who inspired fear in her lowly minions with just a withering glance or a flick of her newly-dyed hair. I cannot forget how, at the start of this series, Stassi would mandate who her “crew” were and were not allowed to speak with and how she would threaten minor punishments like castration done with a rusty chainsaw to anyone who dared violate a single one of her decrees.
I almost gave Stassi some credit last year. It was probably some combination of the fact that the girl at least appeared lucid when compared to a shrieking human nightmare like Kristen and also because she so clearly wanted to move beyond these people and this show. Sure, I laughed uncontrollably as she continuously stated that SUR was like a time warp when she herself had yet to really move on, but I thought that maybe I saw some genuine ambition in her eyes. Even if her goal was just to appear on yet another reality show – I think this show is her third – at least she wanted a change and she recognized that many of her Vanderpump Rules castmates are far too thrilled with being considered amongst the most disgraceful individuals in the entire hemisphere.
I really didn’t expect Stassi to come back this season, even after I saw reports that she was unsuccessful in shopping her own reality show. I guess there’s just that foolish part of me that still believes there are other options out there for people that don’t involve signing a binding contract that requires they experience a break-up in high-definition. Silly me. Stassi will go where the cameras are and now I have to talk about her and her raging superiority complex when all I’d really hoped for was that she’d go slinking away into the night with her head held as high as her terrible jewelry would allow.
(By the way, the only reason I knew ahead of time that Stassi’s would be a topic on tonight’s show is because I always check that my DVR is set and I saw the brief synopsis of this week’s episode. See, I have a deadline I have to meet for Reality Steve’s site and I’d never miss a deadline like I did an entire semester of Evolution and Extinction class in college and nothing would probably compromise getting a piece in on time like missing the show entirely. And while we’re on the subject of Reality Steve, you guys should check out the major press he’s gotten lately in places like The New York Times and New York magazine because that shit is no joke.)
But before we can get to Stassi and the emotional breakdown she likely experienced that culminated in the snapping of Barbie doll heads and limbs into chunk-like pieces after she heard that Scheana was at the table the night Katie got engaged and she was not, first we have to deal with some other issues. After all, Katie and Schwartz are now officially engaged and Jax officially is stuck with a girlfriend and Kristen, Lala, and James are still officially hellacious. And now that we’re all up to speed, let’s begin.
Schwartz and Katie, still wrapped up in the fluffiest cloud that is their post-proposal glow, head out to have a romantic picnic that includes a blanket, some snacks they don’t eat, and a camera crew. After musing that she was too drunk last night to have sex with her new fiancé, Katie lets her intended know that she received a text from Stassi. Simply the sound of her name stuns Schwartz silent because Stassi can be terrifying to someone who hasn’t yet mastered the art of laughing in the face of a grown-up stunted in adolescence. Still, the text Stassi sent was sweet and full of both congratulations and some barely-contained longing to be a part of the whole thing, but one thing Schwartz knows is that his girlfriend’s life is far brighter without her former ruler hovering above her and all of her choices. Katie’s not sure if Stassi and her boyfriend are still together but one thing she is certain about is that, while the text was a lovely gesture, she has no desire to have Stassi back in her life. The thing is, Katie once said the very same thing about Kristen and now she’s the one advocating for her inclusion on the Hawaii trip so it’s kind of hard to know if this Stassi mindset will remain solid. I guess it really just depends on how drunk she ends up getting in the chick’s presence.
At SUR, Jax is ready to play Gatekeeper. It’s time for him to reveal who gets to come on the Jax/Sandoval vacation to Hawaii and he knows for damn sure that James is not going – which means that James should start packing now since nothing anybody declares on this show ever matters. But in lieu of Kristen being allowed to get on a flying tube with her ex-boyfriend and the girl she threatened to mangle for so many moons, Jax is extending an invitation to her for his birthday lunch because apparently SUR staffers have two things in common: none of them have any desire for even a semblance of privacy and all of them believe their birthdays should be made national holidays where mail service grinds to a halt and everyone in the vicinity must celebrate for a week straight.
One of the reasons I like Ariana – despite her palpable air of gloom – is that she laughs at Jax every single time he opens his mouth, like when he invited her to the “Asian-infused” meal for Part VII of his birthday extravaganza. She stops laughing, however, when he tells her that Kristen will be there and she also doesn’t understand or appreciate why her best friend Scheana wants her to forgive a person who has been seriously awful to her for a long fucking time. As for Scheana, she’s sick of fighting with Ariana about something she considers so silly and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Scheana is a shitty friend and Exhibit H is that she immediately shuffles out to the alleyway after her talk with Ariana to tell Katie exactly what went down between them. Scheana says that she and Ariana used to be so close but now Ariana seems to resent her for absolutely no reason and there’s so much tension there and I think Scheana is a legitimate moron to believe that having Kristen around (while Ariana is trapped on an island where there’s plenty of space to bury a body) will surely bring about the calmness Scheana so clearly wants for her dear friend.
Jax comes over to the bar next to steal a bottle of vodka right before Lisa appears to hang signs with Stassi’s face on them all over the restaurant. It seems the girl who boldly declared herself so over this place and these people has been showing up lately to the Time Warp Café and Lisa’s not having it. After all, Lisa explains that Stassi flounced out of the place and called Lisa an old woman and she was dismissive of all her friends and there’s unfinished business between them and the very last thing Stassi will be allowed is a free fucking drink on SUR’s premises. As far as Lisa is concerned, the bitch can pay for a cocktail down the street.
And now it’s time for James. I missed him, you guys. From the second he’s onscreen tonight, he does not disappoint by appearing all but shirtless in the alleyway where he tells Max that he’s loving the vibe he’s creating by pressing play on a turntable inside. But what James really loves is the sound of the word “Hawaii” coming out of Max’s mouth because who cares that most people hate James and that not a single person has invited him on this tropical vacation? Nobody has ever liked James and now he’s a top DJ and the star of a very important television show! His face falls when Max tells him that Jax doesn’t want him there, but that’s not about to deter him! No, he will go and speak to Jax and nod at everything the guy says to him (which I guess means he’ll be nodding at the words, “You’re a fucking loser and I hate you”) but nothing matters besides getting to go on vacation with people who loathe him. I guess it’s true: we all have dreams.
(Random thought #1: I think Lisa should consider locking Max away in one of her vault-like panic rooms until the kid learns how to choose better friends.)
Back inside, James approaches Jax and appears wholly pitiful as he sucks up to a guy he can’t stand. First he apologizes for fawning all over Lala and then he doesn’t head butt Jax when Jax states that if he “wanted to take Lala down,” he totally could (which is sad because it’s true) and finally he compliments Brittany and Jax’s amazing relationship and I am so embarrassed for this guy that I almost can’t breathe. James then literally begs him for a chance to fly to a state that I guess Jax was recently elected the emperor of (I swear, you miss one day of the news and you’re just lost about the new world leaders!) and Jax is such a weenie that he agrees that James should join them.
Over at Katie’s apartment, Kristen stops by to hug her and gape at the ring. Katie wants to forgive all the nonsense Kristen has pulled in the past and she thinks Kristen’s really been trying lately because the girl hasn’t threatened to slaughter or piss on anyone in the last month or so. She tells Kristen that Stassi texted her and Katie finds out that Kristen and Stassi are fully in touch now, which I guess means Stassi got over the fact that her former best friend slept with her boyfriend twice and then lied about it for well over a year and Kristen has gotten over the time Stassi slapped her across the face in public. See, all that really matters is the warm haze of memories and how awesome it was back in the day (before Jax got some random girl in Vegas pregnant and before he and Kristen fucked on Sandoval’s couch and before Stassi proclaimed that every single person on the planet was beneath her) when they would all recline on Katie’s couch and talk about what Katie’s wedding would be like. Looks like all the violence and the cheating is now just water (clogged with hair and bloody tampons) floating under some bridge where scores of people commit suicide every year.
(Random thought #2: I’m pretty sure Katie is wearing a small hoop in her nose like she’s a ram, though it’s quite possible that I’m momentarily hallucinating. It’s been a long day.)
Back at the restaurant, Lisa arrives and James tells her that he’s going to Hawaii and the reason he wants to be there is because Lala is going and Lisa shouldn’t worry about Max because James will take care of him – which is the most terrifying promise ever made to a parent in the annals of history. “Don’t do anything stupid and permanent,” Lisa advises and I think she might be talking about a tattoo, but there’s something tragically ironic about the executive producer and star of a reality show telling her young costar not to do anything permanent that could harm him while cameras record every single moment for posterity and she is the woman who helped to make such a thing occur.
In a shop that sells teeny bikinis, Lala, Scheana and Faith rifle through racks and Lala and Faith maintain that they will not be staying in a room with the guys. Then again, Lala is a sucker for tattooed Polynesians, so this trip will be pure heaven for her. (Then she starts talking about herself in the third person and my head briefly exploded.) Inside the dressing room, Faith applies heart-shaped pasties to Lala’s nipples because Lala is basically extremely classy. She also lets it slip – by saying it outright – that James has a dick that cannot possibly fill up a Magnum condom and she has no idea how to stop flirting with Jax even though the guy has a live-in girlfriend. Speaking of that girlfriend, Brittany is packing for Hawaii while Jax takes a shit with the door open because real romance can never die. He also flat out lies to this girl by telling her that never in a million years would he have been the one to invite Lala to Hawaii and the ease with which this guy employs deception is really alarming. But Jax is not finished quite yet. First he has to make Brittany feel like she’s the crazy one for having suspicions that Jax wants to fuck Lala when all he has done is state outright how badly he wants to fuck Lala. “Are you going to make this awkward in Hawaii?” the crusty douchebag asks the southern girl with the very worst taste in men in the whole wide world and I have officially lost all hope for humanity’s future.
On the day of Jax’s birthday lunch, the group shows up to celebrate the day an asshole was shot into the world. Then Ariana and Sandoval arrive and Kristen has decided that she is no longer even going to waste her breath on the girl who is so mean that she won’t even forgive her for plotting her death! Ariana is so unreasonable! What’s a lunatic to do in this situation other than announce that, since she’s not going to Hawaii, she has brought leis for her half of the table? (This girl needs to be committed but fast.) Scheana, who has a part-time job as the bearer of all gossip, lets everyone know that Max passed out yesterday and cracked all of his teeth and James came to the rescue by creating a bandage out of one of his low cut tank tops and he applied pressure to the wound by using his small penis to push the tank top against Max’s mouth until the bleeding stopped. The guy is truly a Renaissance man.
Wanting to see how Max is feeling, Faith, Lala, and James stop by his house. Lisa calls to express her worry over her kid’s mangled mouth while the housekeeper brings them tea and crumpets and James ponders how he can get his friend to heal quickly. Stop being silly; he doesn’t want Max to heal so the guy is no longer in agony. He needs Max to heal so he can get his ass on a plane and drag Faith away so Lala has nobody better to hang out with and James can pounce on the least discriminating girl on the island. And even though she recently announced to the world that James’ penis would immediately fall out of a large rubber, that doesn’t stop her from skinny-dipping with him in her boss’ swimming pool in the middle of the day while she’s being filmed because, once again, Lala was raised beautifully and she always makes excellent choices.
At the birthday lunch I’d shoot myself if I had to attend, Sandoval gets up and walks away from the table and Kristen stares after him just like a girl with absolutely no feelings left for a guy tends to do. Sensing her chance to corner him, Kristen follows Sandoval and asks for his lighter and prays with every flick of her cigarette that he will take one look at her as she inhales and finally begin to love her again. Sandoval explains that it’s not weird that he doesn’t want her along on his vacation and that it would actually be inappropriate for her to be there because it will make both him and Ariana feel uncomfortable. But here’s the thing: after tarnishing every single relationship she has ever been even peripherally a part of (it was everybody else’s fault!), Kristen doesn’t want to be left out anymore and she tells him there will be gatherings in the future and that they need to learn to be around one another. See, all Kristen really cares about is how she doesn’t want the tension between them to ruin anything for Katie, the close friend who just started speaking full sentences to her again after a yearlong freeze. I’m guessing that Kristen doesn’t see how transparent she is, but it’s actually uncomfortable watching this level of pitifulness transpire and, sure, we all have weak moments but this girl has them onscreen – constantly. I think I might actually have to start praying for her. Excuse me for just one second…
Happy New Year! I hope it hasn’t been too warm lately in the confines of Hell since I read somewhere that you hate humidity. It might snow in New York soon!
Anyway, the reason I’m praying directly to you is because one of your followers needs some help. I know you’re busy and all dealing with checking in all the suicide bombers, but if you have a second, can you please encourage Kristen to take her medication and, if she has yet to be prescribed any, please procure some for her. Please keep her away from all sharp objects (pitchforks, axes, ice picks – you know, the usual) and refrain from allowing her to speak unless spoken to. Also, if you can whisk her suddenly into a padded room with constant surveillance, it might benefit both her and everybody trapped in her airspace.
Thanks so much.
PS: When he finally makes his way down there, can you please ask Charles Manson if he’s as crazy as he seems or if he’s been acting crazy to snag almost fifty years of press? Feel free to email me his response.)
I'm sad to report that my prayer clearly didn’t work. Kristen ends the conversation with the guy she is still obsessed with by uttering the words, “I respect your feelings,” before sniping, “Good talk, buddy.” Then she stalks away like the very normal person she has always been.
Since birthday lunches are the best time for confrontations, Scheana and Katie ask Ariana to go to the bar with them. They want to talk about how confrontational Ariana has been lately whenever anyone suggests how awesome and reformed Kristen is when there is entirely no evidence of such a thing. Katie (wearing a scarf on her head that defies explanation because my mind does not like going to such ugly places and that hoop through her nose I apparently didn’t hallucinate earlier) tells Ariana that she doesn’t like when her integrity is questioned and I think this is probably the wrong outfit to wear when trying to be taken seriously. Scheana then tells Ariana that her family even reached out to her to find out what’s going on with their daughter because she’s been so difficult lately and I’m on Ariana’s side here. I have no idea why she has yet to cut these assholes out of her life.
And now it’s time for Hawaii! James shows up in a tank top and paws Lala in line at security and now it’s a toss-up as to the most revolting thing I’ve seen all night. Was it the close-up of Max’s tooth shoved clear through his upper lip? Could it have been the look of very real confusion on Lala’s face when she was told that she shouldn’t wear pasties in public? Might it have been Jax literally being full of shit before he took that shit and simultaneously lied to his girlfriend? The competition is clearly far too steep for me to pick just one, but the horror might just be beginning because the episode ends with scenes highlighting the rest of the season. James and Jax will fight in Hawaii while sipping drinks out of coconuts and Katie will not appreciate how Lala takes her top off in front of her fiancé. That all goes down before Jax gets arrested for stealing a pair of sunglasses, Shay goes toppling off the wagon, James tells Kristen he’s still in love with her, Lala physically slams Kristen across the bar, and James declares himself “the white fucking Kanye West” before Lisa tells him his ego is (needlessly) out of control and he better grow the fuck up. Also, Schwartz will come down with a case of cold feet and Stassi will finally show up for real with way-too-blonde hair and such a need to be back on this show that she’s willing to cry on Katie’s sofa and flirt with Jax.
Welcome back to the asylum, princess. Drop the remnants of your pretend dignity at the door. Don’t worry – you won’t miss it. In fact, you probably won’t even realize it’s gone.
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.