It occurred to me recently that there are entire stores dedicated to helping human beings try to outsmart dogs. Seriously, walk into Petco or whatever establishment wants to charge you money for rawhide and just wander around for a while. There are aisles and aisles filled with products and, regardless of their lovely packaging, the subtext for most of them is TAKE BACK CONTROL FROM THE ANIMAL YOU ALLOW TO LIVE IN YOUR HOUSE AND SLEEP IN YOUR BED, THE ONE YOU INSIST UPON DRESSING IN SWEATERS OR IN A NICE FLEECE WHEN IT GETS CHILLY. I was at one of those stores last month for the third time in one week and I stood looking for a moment at the array of items in my cart that I'd soon pay for and then lug home:
There was a plastic square designed to hold a wee wee pad in place. I needed this item so my dog might stop ripping her pad to shreds before swan-diving into the pile of crumpled wee wee pad she created in what I think was an attempt to fashion a plusher fluff pad than the one I'd so lovingly provided.
There were sprays of all kinds. One was to stop her from peeing everywhere. One was to cover up the smell of pee when Plan A went to hell. And one was flavored bitter apple and it was designed to stop her from nibbling on my moldings, which my former dog used to wander by without ever showing the slightest interest.
I had two plush toys with tags attached that claimed the toys were demolition-proof. My puppy demolished all of the moose and half of the chicken in two days flat.
She kept knocking over the dishes in her crate, so I found hooks that promised to hang the bowls permanently. Those worked. I also found her a pretty sweater that she happily romped around in for a while before removing it herself because apparently she spends the time I'm at work practicing to be a stripper.
"How's it going with Tallulah?" a friend of mine asked today.
"She's the sweetest dog in the world," I responded with a smile, "but she's having a hard time with some of the commands I'm trying to teach her."
"Which ones?" he asked.
"You know – just sit, stay, and come."
I bought and read three training manuals. I spent twenty minutes trying to decide which training treats to buy. I debated the merits of chicken vs. bacon. I purchased a leash the "experts" recommended for teaching commands.
My dog sits when she feels like it.
What I've realized is that training anything is really fucking hard, especially when you're doing it during the same months you've decided to cut bread out of your life. The benefits my sweet puppy brings to my life far outweigh the difficult moments, but it's not easy and it's made exponentially worse when you realize you've one again been bested by an animal that weighs 4.4 pounds and that means her brain is only, what, half a pound? I think I just always assumed my larger brain would prevail when it came to which one of us would outsmart one another and prove ultimately victorious. I was sadly mistaken.
The thing is, I know I have to train Tallulah now. I've listened to all the random adages I've heard over the years! I know it's the journey that's important and that success is 90% perspiration. I also know that it's almost impossible to teach old dogs new tricks and that lesson has led me to start thinking about our dear Housewives. What kind of tricks would I attempt to teach them if they were my pets – and more importantly, what kind of dog would each of them be?
Lisa Rinna looks very much like a cute Yorkie I once knew, so I've decided that's her spirit pup. As for what I'd teach her, it might be nice if she learned how to stop over-apologizing for things she really shouldn’t feel so badly for doing. Of course, should she piss in the corner of my bedroom in dog form, I'd like her to apologize for a day and a half straight.
Eileen is clearly an Afghan. I'd brush her daily. And while I have no idea about the mathematical capability of hounds, I'd instruct her to take over the financials of her household because all of these references to Vince's gambling this season have started to worry me.
Kathryn, so tall and slender, looks like a Whippet. Still, I have decided that she should be a Siberian Husky because you can sometimes teach those dogs to make noises that sound like words and I want to teach Kathryn to tell Faye Resnick that she is a bottom-feeding barnacle who complicated Kathryn's life once for no reason other than for personal profit. Sure, she had her chance at the barbecue that wasn't really a barbecue, but she fumbled her words miserably and didn't say much of anything and that's why I'm gonna turn her into a dog – so she can finally say something eloquent.
Kyle is a Pekinese. I'm not a fan of the Pekinese. Like Kyle, the Pekinese has lots of hair and it glares at you when you're not looking. As for what I'd teach my new Pekingese named Kyle, I'd obviously go with the splits because even in dog form, Kyle’s gotta perform.
I'm not sure what kind of dog Erika would be. Is there a breed that can wear extensions? At any rate, I'd teach Erika to fiercely obey her master because her husband’s barking display last week properly scared the shit out of me and I’m a member of the Humane Society so I like to keep my pets safe.
Lisa Vanderpump, a Maltese with long untangled hair, would spend her days basking in the sun while reclining on a pillow made out of the softest pink silk. I'd teach her how to heave a child's confidential medical record into the smirking face of the child’s mother to stop that kind of bullshit from happening in restaurants.
And Yolanda? She would obviously be a seeing eye dog who is blind. She will operate purely on instinct! She will know everything about anything just by taking a quick whiff of a situation. Then she will tear you limb from limb if you try to question if a single one of her actions makes any sense. What will I teach her? I'll teach her to get off Instagram, bite her husband hard on the scrotum just once, and to start eating solid foods.
But all of this is just fantasy. Not only are these women not part of the canine family, but most of them probably can't be trained at this point. The evidence for such a statement is clear as the bone broth Yolanda drinks for sustenance when you realize this episode will once again deal with Yolanda refusing to get over things two women never actually said.
We'll get to Yolanda's stuff soon, but first it's time to Soul Cycle for charity. Kyle is raising money for Habitat for Humanity and she makes sure to drop the name of Mauricio’s company in the process, but hey, at least it's a worthy cause. A bunch of the Housewives show up to peddle away, though Lisa Vanderpump announces early on that she will not straddle anything for forty-five minutes straight. Mauricio is wearing a baseball hat backwards and a Madonna microphone on his head and Kyle is just so proud to be on trend when it comes to charity.
On the bike, Erika is a fucking pro. She whips her ponytail to and fro and she checks out the instructor’s look so she can incorporate it into her next appearance at Pervert Night and she's having a grand old time. Kathryn's kicking ass too, but Lisa is exhausted and all she wants is a shower and to then throw on her pink heels back on and then get the hell out of dodge.
After the class, they all go to lunch where Eileen, Yolanda and Lisa Rinna might join them. Looking positively elated, Kyle tells us that she's "curious" to know where Lisa Rinna and Yolanda stand after Yolanda congratulated herself to Lisa's face for not announcing that she harbors the belief that Lisa is bipolar. The joy that spreads over Kyle’s cheeks at the possibility of conflict in her midst is kind of gross, but the verbal bloodshed does not happen immediately. First, Yolanda shows up with flowers for Lisa Vanderpump since its her birthday and then Kathryn pulls out her biceps and reveals that she can beat the shit out of anyone at that table.
Yolanda then mentions the dinner party she's throwing soon, but it will not be at her house, which probably means that lemons she personally cut from her trees will not be given as favors. It's just too much for her to have to hire people to do all the work so she's holding her event at a restaurant. The rest of them nod and look like they’re trying to figure out an excuse so they don’t have to show up and then Yolanda asks if Lisa Rinna is coming. She’s not – she’s working – but Yolanda’s question prompts Kyle to immediately ask how things are between them and she does this while squeezing her bladder tightly so she won't pee in excitement when Yolanda tells everyone that she has decided to hate Lisa. But Yolanda disappoints Kyle! She tells her that everything is fine. “Nonsense!” thinks Kyle. After all, these two just had a humongous fight and now they're acting like everything is okay? Who does that – wonders the woman who has been a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills cast member since the show's inception. Is she ready to let someone else's problem leave the table that quickly? Um, have you met Kyle? No, she makes sure to stage whisper to Lisa Vanderpump that she doesn't think Lisa Rinna knows that Yolanda said she might be bipolar. Hearing her, Eileen says Lisa knows and that she's moved on and Erika rolls her eyes at how blatantly transparent this Kyle chick is in her quest to be an asshole while actively trying to pretend that she's not an asshole. As for the woman who might have tossed that bipolar stone, Yolanda tries to minimize what she said by once again stating all the reasons Lisa might in fact be bipolar before again stating that she'd never ever say such a thing.
It almost kills me to say this, but Kyle has a point when she tells the woman who refuses to wear makeup that Lisa never said Yolanda has Munchausen; she just stated that other people said it, and Yolanda talking about Lisa and linking her name to bipolar disorder is very much the same thing. But see, lack of mascara has made Yolanda tense and she refuses to listen to anything that might make sense. Instead she just strikes back. She informs Kyle that the issue has been resolved and she's just making it worse by bringing it back up and I'd love to just call this one a tie. Speaking of which, how great would it be if the Housewives was an elimination show and both women had to immediately forfeit, get up from that table, walk out the door, and never appear on television again?
Sadly, nobody gets up from that table because it's in their contract to sit there. "Relax," Yolanda snarls to Kyle. "Have some wine." Then she smiles with her lips slammed firmly shut and Kyle simply cannot take another second of being called out so she snipes back, "Yolanda, give me a fucking break!"
(Also: did a farsighted makeup artist use a shovel to do Kyle’s makeup for her interview scenes? Holy spackle and lashes, Batman.)
Lucky as hell to not be at that lunch is Lisa Rinna. She's off doing Jenny McCarthy's radio show. They begin by professing their love for one another and end by discussing the merits of dildos and it's a lovely afternoon.
But back at the restaurant, Yolanda and Kyle are still fighting and Yolanda asks Kyle once again to just drop it. After all, she says – looking exactly like a Bond villainess who forgot to put on eyeliner – she holds a lot of stuff in the vault. At that – at just the suggestion that a secret could be revealed after her mother once told her to never say a word about the family or the truth even while you’re on a reality show about your life – Kyle flips. Is Yolanda threatening her? “No,” says Yolanda soothingly, coldly. She has far too much integrity for that. (Can I just quickly say how uncomfortable I feel when people feel the need to repeatedly declare themselves full of integrity or really decent or not so violent? That shit often ends badly.) With a bemused expression on her face and her hands tucked under the table so she can frantically text her health advocate to come and get her the fuck out of there by claiming the room is stuffed with asbestos, Yolanda says that sure, there are some unresolved feelings she has for Lisa Rinna, just as there is some residual bitterness she feels for Lisa Vanderpump because she spoke once about her children being disease-free – but it's not like Yolanda would ever mention such a thing up because, once again, she has astounding levels of integrity. Once again, Lisa Vanderpump explains that she never said a fucking thing about Yolanda’s kids – she just answered a question posed directly to her – but Yolanda just stares at her in response until Lisa decides she's had quite enough and she gets up and leaves and that’s kind of why I love her. A normal person would totally leave that table, though a fully normal person would never sit at that table in the first place.
It’s a brand new day, and the two most recently hired Housewives meet up at Erika's house where they dig into some food and Kathryn tries to dig into her hostess. She wants to know why Erika is so cold. Does she have any friends who are women? There aren't many, Erika explains. She wants really good friends in her life, people who understand that she's a lot to handle and understand that she looks a certain way. Basically, she's sick of being judged in the same way those bitches judged her back in middle school. Me? I just blocked middle school out of my psyche entirely. It was a shockingly easy thing to do and I have a lot of female friends so I recommend Erika try it so she can then begin opening up to the idea of being friends with women since, you know, she just joined a show called The Real Housewives where everyone is a woman and she's supposed to at least pretend that she did it "to learn about herself" instead of for the real reason, which is to try to make Erika Jayne actually famous. She does have some friends, though. Yolanda is the one she's closest to and she used to be really tight with her grandmother who passed away from Alzheimer's. She recounts stories about her with tears in her eyes. Seeing such genuine sentiment, Kathryn decides that she and Erika need to be best friends immediately and Erika is fine with that as long as Kathryn will agree that Lisa Vanderpump is a total twat. It’s not that she's evil; Erika just thinks Lisa likes to attack people from the side and not leave fingerprints behind while being selectively honest. Sweetheart? That's just called being stealth.
And speaking of the person I do not think is a twat, Lisa meets up with Ken and Giggy for a drink and tells her husband about the nightmare she endured over lunch with a serene madwoman who refuses to wear foundation anymore.
Meanwhile, Lisa Rinna shows up to Kyle’s house and her head is spinning and it's all because of The Email. Yes, Yolanda decided to write Kyle an email after their fateful meal where they decided to hate one another forevermore. She cc'd every single Housewife in the bunch and proceeded to scold Kyle for being unsupportive, something Kyle steadfastly denies. The Story According to Yolanda – which is a movie I'd never see and a book I wouldn't even pretend to read – is that she was so frustrated after that lunch because her muddled brain wouldn't work at the restaurant and she wasn't able to fully articulate why it is that she wants Kyle to be tarred and feathered. So with her brain working to capacity in the dead of night, Yolanda typed out an email that explained very clearly that Kyle’s behavior was disgraceful. We then get Christmas come early in an adorable montage in which several of the Housewives read snippets of the email off their phones so we can hear everything they'll all be fighting about for the next three years. My favorite part was when Lisa Vanderpump read her section while rocking reading glasses. The email was harsh, and Kyle, a woman who desperately wants to be loved by everyone, has decided to focus on the "threat" Yolanda threw her way. Lisa Rinna hops on board by agreeing with Kyle and claims that only projection-hungry pussies make threats like that.
I'm not at all surprised that Yolanda does not attend Lisa Vanderpump's birthday luncheon, but most of the rest of them are there to admire the swans and the dogs and the goat and the pink sparkly unicorn who I’m guessing lives in the solarium. They retire to a gazebo in the country-inspired section of the estate's grounds and they're sitting down for a grand total of a nanosecond before Kyle decides that it's time to get her troops lined up. She brings up The Email. Eileen quickly tries to diffuse things by telling her that Yolanda is struggling, which I think might be Eileen's attempt to say that Yolanda is not behaving rationally. Still, if Eileen ever mentioned to Yolanda her irrational tendencies of late, Yolanda might arrange to have Eileen shot because that's what people with integrity do. Kyle’s not about hearing that excuse – not after she’s been so cruelly threatened – and she appears furious when the ponies all of a sudden saunter out and take the attention momentarily off of her and her problems and her shiny hair. Once everyone gets a quick gander at the ponies, Kyle all but says, "Back to me!" Actually, she says, "But about that email," ignoring that everyone around her would rather hold pony shit in their hands while they eat than discuss this nonsense again.
"No one doubts she's sick," says Kyle about Yolanda, but that doesn’t mean she's okay with being called out for attacking someone she never attacked. Not only that, Kyle says, but Lisa Vanderpump never said anything about Yolanda's children! Upon hearing Kyle actually stand up for her after refusing to do so for years, Lisa all but falls out of her throne and then graciously thanks Kyle for finally being a good friend. Now sure, the only reason Kyle is defending Lisa now is because 1) she needs allies and 2) they are both annoyed with the same person, but let's give her the pretend benefit of the doubt and pretend that she's grown.
(Also: I like the way Lisa Vanderpump says "tomato.")
Kathryn tells the others that she and Erika had lunch the other day and then took a boxing class. She also informs them that Erika shed six whole tears and, finally cleansed, tore into Lisa Vanderpump. "Don't get caught in her web," is what Kathryn tells everyone Erika said about Lisa in what's maybe the most perfect example of why Erika doesn't trust people. Could Kathryn be a spy? Who is this woman working for? I'd say maybe the kingpin is Brandi, but we all know Brandi can't afford to hire an espionage squad. She spends her money on booze and college-age moving men! It could be Kim who is working with Kathryn, but Kim doesn't know how to dial a phone. I guess it'll all just stay a mystery and in the meantime, I'll pray Kathryn's not aligned with Taylor and also that Kathryn is not just Taylor in a full body costume because that’s the shit night terrors are made of.
As one would imagine, Lisa is totally befuddled by Erika's comment. Eileen is confused, too. She has no idea why Kathryn would plop this information down before the dessert is even served, but she does have a theory about why Erika might not trust Lisa. Yes, Eileen believes it must all trace back to that time in the Hamptons when Lisa quizzed Eileen about how her marriage started through infidelity and then apologized for it later. Seems Eileen still believes that Lisa's apology was lukewarm and that must be the reason Erika hates Lisa. Now listen: not a bit of this makes any sort, but it does allow Eileen to pretend to be a conspiracy theorist for a little while and that's always fun, though not as much fun as it is when she pretends to be Erika Jayne. She’s landed back in this conversation simply because she was the one who brought it up again, and Eileen tells Lisa that she should stop minimizing her apologies and instead burst into tears to show that she's truly sorry for that thing she said two months ago. In response, Lisa apologizes seven more times and Eileen tells her that they're good now, but Lisa doesn't believe her anymore.
I came out of this episode realizing a few things:
1. Housewives only use circular logic to argue because they never bother to understand the actual root of an issue.
2. Any time someone on this franchise says, “It’s all in the past,” you can bet your home on the fact that the person’s entire future will be fucking defined by the event she has pretended to have moved beyond.
3. While I might never succeed in teaching her how to sit, I will make it my mission to make sure Tallulah never ends up on a reality show because, like Lisa Vanderpump, my puppy is just not all that crazy about bitches.
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.