“I didn’t raise you to do something like that,” my mother said to me – and I swear I could almost see icicles forming on her tongue.
“Actually,” I responded, “You raised me to do exactly that.”
To fully understand this story, it’s essential that you know two things:
1. I will do anything for my brother.
2. I will go anywhere if there’s even the slightest chance that a pig in a blanket will make an appearance.
It was with those two factors dancing like alcohol-poisoned sugarplums in my mind that I agreed to accompany several members of my family to a political fundraiser just a few days ago. Those events are not typically my thing. I don’t own a business so I don’t view a proximity to politicians as a necessary evil and I generally tend to not want to attend gatherings that are fueled by very small glasses of wine and stilted, albeit polite, chatter. The only political events I’ve attended over the last decade were ones my family hosted or events they were honored at and to those I’d show up on time and I’d smile at everyone and eventually I’d go hide out in the kitchen so I could snag the appetizers first and also pump the caterers for tips about how to make a platter of food look extra pretty. The best tip I ever got was to form the dough around the mini hotdog into the shape of a daisy and then poke that sucker through and whammo: a pig in a blanket in the shape of a flower is born! Then you shove sticks into them to give it all some height and plunge the sticks into some wheatgrass and the whole thing comes out looking like a blooming garden of nitrate deliciousness. I had a ton of them made for a party I threw to celebrate the release of my first book and those blossoming piggies looked so beautiful I almost cried.
…Old English Sheepdogs, frozen Twix bars, fluffy chenille blankets, coconut-scented lotion, Tom Ford’s face, the stillness after a snowfall… Oh, sorry – I was daydreaming again. See, since the abject horror of last week’s election (my recap, my opinion!), I have been attempting to soothe my ravaged psyche by reminding myself constantly of everything in this world that makes me feel instantaneously happy. Other things that have popped up on my Bliss List over the last few days include snuggling in the crook of the right person’s arm, the smell of a smoldering fireplace in the winter, that first cup of strong coffee on a Sunday morning, my puppy actually fucking sitting when I ask her to sit, and stumbling across a marathon of Veep. What has not appeared on the list of things that keep me from hopping off the nearest tall building is anything even slightly related to Donald Trump or reality TV in general because I’ve begun to believe that these “stars” so many of us have giggled at or discounted for so long could very well have a rather large hand in ushering in the total denigration of civilization as we know it.
I have been guilty, too. After all, I write about – and therefore somehow glorify – reality television. For about two years now, I have recapped some of Bravo’s silliest franchises while marveling at how poorly behaved grown adults are willing to be all in the name of infamy. I have watched participants of these shows amass great wealth and so fully embrace the recognition they get when they walk into a boutique that they have convinced themselves that it’s a reasonable tradeoff to expose their lives to the world even though they have no say whatsoever in how any of that footage will eventually be edited and then exhibited. I have been able to convince myself – almost – that there is no real power inherent in being a part of reality TV, but I’m just not so sure I can make that case anymore. I think part of what swayed me is that I recently saw an interview with someone none of us ever should have even heard from again after her brief rage-filled stint on The Apprentice all those years ago. Remember Omarosa? She was the lunatic who all but bit her competitors when she appeared on Trump’s show back when all of us watched it. She was so nuts that producers didn’t even think of cutting her for a very long time because the carts of crazy she hauled around were the kind of thing networks tend to see as ratings gold – and we have all been complicit in completely validating that belief at some point over the last decade. I hadn’t heard about Omarosa for a while and I just figured that meant she had finally been locked inside of some asylum, but I was very wrong. Turns out, she was appointed Donald Trump’s Director of African American Outreach during the election, a job that must have involved smiling at herself in the mirror and maybe eventually shaking the hand of the guy who was pointed out to the crowd by the eventual President-Elect himself. “Look at my African American over here!” Donald Trump actually crowed during a speech in Redding, California. But Omarosa did way more than get one guy to a rally. She also did a few interviews on behalf of the man whose show once made her appear completely unstable to the masses and I can’t really say that any latent sanity trapped within her became evident when she made these comments about her new boss: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”
Allow me to be clear here: I would rather kneel before General fucking Zod than Donald Trump. I’d sooner kneel in front of that guy I had one date with a few years ago who announced over appetizers that he didn’t shower before the date because he enjoyed having “a natural scent.” (Our relationship didn’t make it beyond one drink; I enjoy things that don’t reek of testicle.) I’d be more inclined to get on my knees in front of that hot CPA who recommends creepy Irish horror movies to me – though I think I’m getting off on a tangent here because I will totally end up on my knees with that guy and that’s really not the argument I’m attempting to make. What I am trying to say is that announcing that anyone who publicly disavowed this man will now have to bow before him is the kind of statement that is so truly frightening in its embrace of blind power and, at this point, I’m not sure we should pretend that giving people like Omarosa or Vicki Gunvalson airtime is no longer any sort of big deal. What I do believe in my heart of hearts is that Vicki Gunvalson is an awful human being and the world is a more repulsive place because she has been on our airwaves for eleven straight years. But even after all the times I rolled my eyes at the way she pantomimed the crucifixion or announced the deepest darkest secrets ever told to her by a friend drowning in vulnerability, I still don’t think I realized how potentially far-reaching her hideousness can go. I now think someone like Vicki is inherently dangerous to the fabric of decency that’s already fraying in our society. This is a woman who has only shards of a soul left and she would happily sell any remnants to secure herself yet another season on this series where she would like to stay until she dies. (Then she wants to go to heaven so she can finally be reunited with a man who lied about having cancer.) In the meantime, she might not become a member of Trump’s administration – though maybe we should just give it time – but I am rather terrified she will appear on some ballot in the very near future. And though I’ve never been one to threaten to move to Canada should an election cycle not go my way, I do hear the atmosphere on Mars is lovely and almost livable this time of year and I’m considering checking it out.
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.
There are those perfect sounds – those heart-stopping, universe-bending, sweepingly melodious sounds – that I would love to hear again and again. Like the time I was in a seat that was basically located in the rafters at the back of the stage of Madison Square Garden and Springsteen played For You, a song written before I was born, a song I hadn’t heard him play in any of the twenty-seven concerts I’d trekked to before that one magical night. Or the time my niece, who would always toddle out and greet me when I arrived at her house but would never actually say a word, finally walked over to me when she was about two years old and smiled big and wide and bellowed, “Hi, Nell!” She said my name with a southern accent, like she had actually been born in a place like Alabama, and it was hilarious and weird and unexpected and she’s never ever said it like that since. And then there was the night when a guy I loved twined his fingers through my hair near my scalp and raked them right down to the ends and whispered that I had the softest and most beautiful hair he has ever touched. Or the moment I stood by the shore of the ocean in whatever time of day comes after twilight with some of my closest friends in the entire world and we didn’t say much of anything as we stared at the horizon and listened to the waves break against the shoreline and realized how tremendously fortunate we were to have one another and this perfect night.
If I could hear any of those sounds again I would be incredibly grateful, but alas, the recurring sound that manages to invade my ear canal continuously these days is neither melodic nor is it magical. No, the sound I keep hearing is that of a fifty-something year old grandmother gagging back vomit, and this kind of repulsive sound byte has made me move forward in my quest to lead a coalition whose main goal is to leave Vicki Gunvalson stranded somewhere on that tropical island. I feel very badly that the locals will have to be stuck with her, but I’m guessing that if Donald Trump becomes President, he’ll totally back my plan because I’m sure he’s not attracted to the OG of the OC and I think Trump’s main platform – besides building walls along our borders and pretending that he is sane – might very well be to eliminate all women from this great nation that he’d never want to have to look at and I’m pretty sure that Vicki falls into that category.
Look at me! I’m a Republican now!