I have always found the women in my life to be rather remarkable when it comes to their professional accomplishments. I have a family member who used to be the Dean of Students at a college and another was a Senior Vice President at one of the largest advertising agencies in the entire world before eventually becoming a professor at both Columbia and N.Y.U. I have a friend who trains future educators and another one of my friends does the voiceovers you often hear in ads for razors. There is a person in my life who I can text at the drop of a hat to find out how much money someone I know should charge to contribute a chapter in a book and another who does something important in Finance – her job is always a little fuzzy to me because it involves numbers, but still, I know it’s impressive. But ladies, not one of these accomplishments means anything to me anymore because what I realized while watching this last episode of The Real Housewives of New York is that there is nobody in my life who has made a living as a Swami Priestess and I call fucking foul. And stop pointing your non-healing fingers my way! Sure, I could have become our group’s resident Swami Priestess, but I write recaps of the most important shows of our time and I think that’s quite enough for me to bring to the table, and I know that many of you are thinking that I also used to bring my yummy brownie pie to the table, but since I have not heard even one rumor that I am suffering from an eating disorder since I started this no-eating thing I’ve got going on, there will be no brownie pie in the foreseeable future until one of you gets off of your slender ass and starts whispering that maybe I’m just a little bit anorexic. Anyway, I have made the difficult decision to let you all know collectively that you are now dead to me, but I’m hoping that I won’t be friendless for very long. If I can find some time between now and next spring to get a lot of plastic surgery, I figure I might be able to bond with Ramona’s group of friends. One of them looked to be around my age, but then again, she might be eighty.
What I know definitively is that it is Ramona’s birthday, and she makes it clear that today is her big day by arriving at an empty restaurant and fist-pumping the air while dancing and singing, “It’s my birthday!” To celebrate, she has decided to throw a luncheon for scads of her friends. Ramona has a lot of friends? Does such a thing confuse anybody else? Could it be that all these women are just always drunk and never notice the kind of nutbag Ramona is at her core or are they maybe just better people than I am and therefore choose not to judge her for being crazy? In any event, there are all of these women who begin to fill up the tables in the restaurant and Ramona knows all of them and they all seem delighted to see her.
“I have thirty-plus great girlfriends,” says Ramona, and that’s kind of impressive, but all I can really focus on is that she says it in a way I (probably very judgmentally) read as kind of odd, like she was reading the line from a cue card or like she is a toddler high on Sour Patch Kids and Ritalin who just learned how to speak in full sentences. Still, I really do give her credit for having the gumption to be able to celebrate herself even as her world comes tumbling down around her. I think that shows real strength and maybe just a little bit of delusion, but just a little bit of delusion never hurt anybody.
As for her friends, the room is crammed full of women who have clearly had a lot of work done. There are taut faces everywhere and the women all have eyes that probably never used to slant. And fitting right in to the scariest visual example of conformity I have ever seen outside of a fifties horror film is the birthday girl herself who, for the first time all season, looks, um, very recently rejuvenated. There’s not a tiny shot in hell that the rejuvenation is due to applying her own Tru Renewal moisturizer or from getting a good night’s sleep and her appearance is kind of jolting. How can I put this kindly? Ramona’s eyebrows are about four inches higher than they have ever been.
Did that sound kind?
Into the frozen faces that seem happy – but then again, who the fuck knows; maybe those faces are just frozen that way – comes Bethenny. She is not a lady who lunches and she feels out of place and compensates for it by being as curt as possible to everybody besides Carole. Carole is there wearing a cross between a knit beret and a floppy chef’s hat, which I think means that she likes to keep her baby chef with her at all times, even if it’s symbolically by shoving an odd accessory atop her head. New love is really so adorable.
What Carole and Bethenny bond over is how Sonja seems to have lost her mind and Bethenny explains to Carole how she told Sonja that she really needs some help and definitely some therapy to deal with everything she has going on and all of the stuff she has yet to come to terms with. And then, in the cruelest and most hilarious bit of editing done so far this season, we cut back and forth between the lucid conversation happening between Bethenny and Carole to the bonkers discussion taking place across the room between Sonja and Robin, the Swami Priestess, who is also my new best friend. Sonja asks the Priestess how her Zen force field is doing – you know, like you and I ask people about the weather – and I’m thinking that maybe that kind of question will not be the thing that puts the rumors to rest that Ms. Morgan has indeed lost her fake Cartier marbles. As the conversation continues, Sonja tells my newest best friend in the whole wide world that Bethenny recommended therapy, but she is already one step ahead of her and that she has been seeing a psychopharmacologist, which I did not know was a real thing, and now I can say with a straight face that watching The Real Housewives is actually an edifying experience, which is something I sometimes try to pull off saying to new guys I meet, but I can never stop myself from bursting into hysterical laughter in the middle of the sentence and it all just seems to frighten them.
Across the room in the Zen force field of normal, Carole tells Bethenny that she calls bullshit on the psychopharmacologist prescribing things like herbal teas and natural balms to their friend because those doctors actually prescribe real stuff like drugs, but neither Sonja nor her Priestess can even hear such a comment because they are deep in the throes of discussing important things like when Sonja can light her abundance candles and then do yoga to solve all of her problems. Here’s the thing: I do yoga too – and I feel great when it’s over. But after I’m done downward dogging and planking until my arms almost fall off, my bank account still looks exactly the same as when I started and so will Sonja’s and that’s the kind of stuff that needs to be taken care of in her life just in case her global luxury brand doesn’t take off and wind up being sold in any store across the entire globe ever.
The Swami is far more open to Sonja’s insanity than I am, and she wants to help Sonja with her vortex of energy. And to that I say go for it, Priestess. Everyone else has had a turn trying to fix Sonja. You and your vortex are now on deck, and if you still have some energy after lighting all those abundance candles, perhaps you can then muster up your power to remove all of the interns from her home while you’re at it because – and I have said this before – I am fairly certain that what we’re watching is a televised human rights violation and someone needs to put a stop to it. And if not a Priestess, then who?
When lunch is finally served, Sonja sits across from Bethenny and tells her that everything they talked about in Atlantic City is starting to make sense and come to fruition and that her Swami Priestess just told her that she needs to “get back to writing and to Christ,” and it’s about then – before an appetizer is even served – that I feared for the first time all season that Bethenny would try to kill herself with a butter knife right at a ladies lunch on the Upper East Side.
But Bethenny cannot become a suicidal cutter just yet. First she needs to talk to Ramona about how she has been through a lot recently, and Ramona is good as long as someone talks about her projected strength, but the second Bethenny brings up Mario, her entire face (well, not her eyebrows) falls and she asks if they can discuss all that another time. It’s really all very sad, but Ramona manages to get up and toast her friends and, though I strongly believe that she will leave that lunch and spend the rest of the day screaming into a pillow, I do give her credit for trying and she even eats a bite of birthday cake which makes me realize something very profound and very serious: I want a piece of cake so fucking badly.
Before we get to leave that party, we are first treated to Dorinda telling Carole and Heather (and maybe Kristen, but girlfriend didn’t say a word during that lunch) about how she was at some guy’s apartment and he had a huge shower in his living room and that, after a crazy party, sometimes a bunch of people would hop in that shower. The story made Carole inquire as to whether Dorinda and her boyfriend John are swingers, and I’ve watched some of those episodes of Real Sex on HBO and three episodes of the Showtime series Gigolos, so I know that not everybody in those lifestyles looks like a model – or like the sixty year old white woman at Ramona’s birthday party who apparently told her plastic surgeon that she wanted to look twenty and maybe like she’s from China – but can you imagine swinging with Dorinda’s boyfriend? I suppose at least he could come in handy when it’s time to dry clean the sheets.
The next day, with the luncheon just a dark and hazy memory, Bethenny goes to see her therapist, the same one she went to on her spinoff show, and she greets him just as warmly as she greets everyone else. I always kind of liked the guy, though I’m generally suspicious of any therapist willing to conduct a session for the Bravo cameras, but at least he’s not suggesting lighting an abundance candle and calling it a day. I feel badly for Bethenny as she discusses her “failed talk show, failed marriage,” and I get it when she explains how, when it comes to the man she used to love, that she’s in shock from how it all went down.
“There is no way to know a person, and that’s the scariest thing in the entire world,” she says with a catch in her voice.
I hear you, sister. (I’d call you momma, but that didn’t work out so well for Heather.)
Bethenny feels betrayed and she feels like she cannot trust her own judgment because she followed that judgment and it led to her present pain, and I think a lot of us have been there. I might not always find her delightful because she’s not usually all that delightful, but I hope that Bethenny does eventually find happiness or at least learns to trust herself again.
Maybe Sonja will light a candle for her to speed up the process.
Bidding adieu to the emotional ravages inherent in any therapy session worth its cost, we join Carole, Kristen, Luann, and Ramona at a boxing match because Carole is a big fan of boxing. Her love of the violent sport might have come from when she saw a great documentary on the subject, but then again it might have its origins in that time period when she was taking testosterone. Here’s how you know you’re watching seriously crazy entertainment: one of the women on the show randomly mentions that she used to take testosterone, and you’re still so hung up on the fact that already this episode you have met a Swami Priestess and watched as Sonja realized that all she really needs to become normal is a journal and some Christ, and so you just kind of shrug and think, Carole took testosterone? Okay.
When the match first starts, Kristen is a little grossed out because the boxer’s mouth guard all but lands on her and then some of his blood or sweat or some other bodily fluid falls smack dab on her thigh. She pulls out a travel size bottle of antibacterial gel and begins to blot some of it across her skin, and who really cares that sometimes Kristen is boring? She’s the kind of person who carries around antibacterial gel and I never remember mine and maybe that means that she’s a good person to have around. Plus, hers is the kind of enthusiasm that grows because by the end of the match, she is very into it and she shows her excitement by screaming, “Get him!” and then, “Finish him off!” It’s actually more than she has said all season long and I think there’s a lesson here. People need to start beating other people to a bloody pulp in Kristen’s presence constantly because, when it happens, she gets a little mouthy and finally adds something to the mix. I’m thinking Sonja should be the first one to be tossed into the Housewives boxing ring, no? Surely her stylist intern can rustle up a boxing intern and teach her how to throw some punches and I’d like to officially propose that the first match will be Sonja vs. Vicky from the Orange County Housewives. First of all, no matter who it is, taking either one of those women out will better mankind in general. Second, I’m actually stunned that this is not already Bravo’s newest spinoff, and I have no doubt that it will happen soon, but I’m willing to forgo the credit for conceptualizing it because I’m already fearful of what this close-watching of all things Housewives has done to my soul.
After the match, the women (plus Heather) go for a drink, but Heather orders a gluten-free beer and Kristen would like some tea because she has screamed herself raw and Ramona wants to know if maybe the place has some steamed vegetables the waiter can bring out like other bars toss some pretzels onto the table. Bizarre orders aside, it’s all going swimmingly until Carole is asked about Adam and Luann can’t quite handle it. The guy used to seriously date her niece who is like her daughter. She feels too close to the situation. And also, the guy is young. How young? Sonja-young.
Upon hearing Luann disparage the idea of dating a younger guy, Carole keeps her cool in the moment but later in an interview calls the Countess out on her utter hypocrisy – and she does it like a fucking champ. She makes an analogy that Luann lecturing her about dating younger men is like the Saudi government lecturing the world on feminism. And I swear, upon hearing not only an excellent comparison but one actually fraught with political truth, I immediately looked directly into a mirror to see if my reflection was staring back at me because I thought that maybe I’d entered some unknown vortex and that I’d only have Sonja and three of her interns to keep me company forever. But no. I saw my actual face in the mirror and I knew that it had finally happened – a Housewife who actually knows some real shit is on this show and maybe it doesn’t cancel out the fact that this franchise also brought us the knowledge that Theresa Giudice exists on the planet, but it’s a fucking start.
Bang Adam as much and as hard as you want, Carole. Keep eating only cucumbers and sipping vodka and do whatever it is you want to your face. I want you to be on this show forever.
Away from the table in New York and at another table in the Miami sunshine is Bethenny, who is in town for a girls’ weekend with her high school friends. Luann will also be in Miami for Art Basel, so Bethenny plans to meet up with her too, but it’s not that particular reunion that’s causing her stress. Instead, it is her appointment to meet up with John, the man who was her stepfather for most of her childhood and they have not spoken in about twenty years. The nerves are alarmingly popping out of Bethenny’s eyes and her neck muscles look like they might snap and she tells one of her best friends about how she feels about seeing John, a man who allegedly physically abused her mother and once abused her as well, and I get that Bethenny would desperately like to have some dependable family members she can call her own and she got seriously ripped off in the parent department, but listening to her stories about her past and this guy in general, I can’t help myself from suggesting that maybe she can just hire herself someone who will masquerade as a distant cousin.
Are there interns willing to act like family?
“I’m so numb in some ways,” Bethenny tells her friend Teri, and she listens and nods and doesn’t try to change the subject or tell Bethenny something silly like everything will work out just fine. What she actually tells her bluntly is that she looks like a skeleton – a pretty skeleton, but a skeleton nonetheless. And to that I’d like to propose that after the Swami Priestess and I braid each other’s hair (not our pussy hair, Bethenny; I still have no idea why you felt that comment was either necessary or funny), that Teri will become my other newest best friend. Sure, we probably have zero in common, but if she’s handing out skeleton compliments, maybe she could heave one my way. Because then I can eat cake.
Back in New York, Ramona and Dorinda meet at the gym and it’s a brief and kind of nothing scene except that it comes out that Ramona doesn’t like Dorinda’s boyfriend and she thinks he’s a little bit crass and that maybe he’s with her because Dorinda has a lovely apartment and John doesn’t live in Manhattan. Personally, I would never go there; I’d just say that I don’t like John because he’s mildly repulsive and far too grabby, but I suppose everyone is entitled to her own opinion.
As Ramona and Dorinda sweat, Carole is downtown trying to write. She sits in the area of her apartment that used to be a kitchen but she doesn’t ever eat so she has turned the space into an office and I suppose that’s actually kind of genius. Behind her is a wall with some photographs tacked up and I think I saw one photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr., her late husband’s cousin and Sonja’s closest friend. But there’s little time to play a really good and kind of sad version of Where’s Waldo because Carole’s phone rings and it’s Adam, who is calling from Nicaragua where he is harvesting honey. Once again, I hear something like the guy is harvesting honey and I just shrug and think, fine – keep harvesting. I sometimes like a bit of honey in my tea and I appreciate your contributions to my happiness and Carole’s too. Carole answers the phone and does that cute thing where she walks around almost nervously at first while they start talking and then she settles on her couch and later on she mulls that with texting and Facetime and phone calls, it’s almost impossible to legitimately miss somebody anymore and it’s an interesting comment and it almost doesn’t matter that she’s saying it about a guy in his twenties and I actually laughed out loud when she then said, “when it comes to writing, boys are always a distraction.”
Amen, my CNN-watching Housewife.
The rest of the episode takes place back in Miami and it starts with a little bit of lightness. Bethenny joins Luann and her daughter Victoria at an exhibit where Victoria has a piece up and it’s a pretty impressive feat for an artist who is only twenty years old. They wind their way through the exhibit and finally locate Victoria’s stark self-portrait, which shows her naked with very prominent nipples and pubic hair and Bethenny is almost embarrassed at first because she has known Victoria since she was a child, but she keeps her mild shock in check and congratulates her. Luann expresses how proud she is of her daughter and it’s a nice moment and then, kind of out of nowhere, there is an opportunity to feed a somewhat smarmy clown all in the name of really abstract performance art and Bethenny shoves something into his mouth and now I am officially afraid of clowns and maybe eating in general.
Just a moment later, with the clown thing safely behind them, Luann tells Bethenny that she might need to start making more of an effort to get to know the other women because they are beginning to take her absences and her brusque attitude to heart and Bethenny nods and says that she understands and I think that she probably does, but she is also so emotionally torn up about everything else that she simply cannot allow herself to really care.
When we finally meet Bethenny’s former stepfather, it’s immediately very sadly evident why Bethenny is the way she is. They meet on the beach and he looks like a normal kind of guy, but it comes out that he used to take drugs and once thought the Mafia was after them and he used to keep a gun in the glove compartment of the car and Bethenny saw that gun when she was only five years old. She also saw her mother covered in bruises and watched as that same mother once tried to commit suicide in front of her and she listens as John tells her that her mother never wanted a child in the first place and that it was wrong for Bethenny to not have reached out to him over the years, even though he was the adult and she was the wounded child. Bethenny is bending over so far to be philosophical and fair to the man in front of her that she almost ends up horizontal. She tells him that she doesn’t hold anything against him, that she knows he did the best that he could. She says that she knows he’s a good person. But when John asks her why it even matters for her to try to reconcile the nightmare that was her past, Bethenny explodes and tells him that she can’t have sex with a man and then trust him because of all that she was made to endure in her formative years, and I very much believe in doing your best to move away from the pain of the past, but I’m about to forgive Bethenny for rarely being delightful and just go ahead and commend her for not ending up constantly medicated.
Maybe she can work out some of her very appropriate anger in the boxing ring. She can battle whoever is still breathing at the end of the Sonja/Vicky fight, and I might not like boxing at all, but I will attend that match with my very own six-pack of gluten-free beer.
Next week, it appears that Luann gets called out by Ramona for being a huge liar, and I’m guessing that this is that break-the-seal moment when Ramona finally takes off her I’m-so-calm mask and embraces her full-fledged antagonistic bit of crazy. I only hope that, when the mask comes off, her eyebrows will have returned to their original location.