I would never call myself an intellectual. I read, yes, but I prefer fiction to non-fiction. I watch Ken Burns’ documentaries, but I also love RuPaul’s Drag Race. I speak French, but only because I am Canadian. I have been all over Europe, but never to Asia. I love Chanel, but I also love Target. I have a degree in International Business from American University, which is a good school, but it isn’t Ivy League. It isn’t even Georgetown. I am a published author, but I write books about women with super powers.
I’m not the smartest person in the world (I have trouble sometimes with my daughter’s fourth grade math homework) but I feel like I am smart enough to talk to anyone about most anything and am wise enough to not be overly concerned about what they think of me after the conversation is over.
Which is why I don’t mind saying that I love The Real Housewives. Full disclosure: I don’t watch all the cities. Some are too much for me to handle, but I do watch Orange County, New York, Beverly Hills and Bethenny’s spin off. What I find to be the craziest by product of all this watching is that I actually believe I know these women. I will often find myself muttering during an episode things like:
“Why is Jason giving Bethenny such a hard time? It’s her birthday and if there are only X amount of people being invited, why is he demanding that his friends be there at the cost of hers?”
“Trust me, Gretchen, Slade is never going to be the guy you need. You think you love him, but could it be that you love his potential and not who he really is? Which isn’t going to change as long as you keep enabling him all with the money you make. Also, his name is Slade.”
“Oh my God, Taylor, stop drinking, right now.“
It’s ridiculous. I don’t know these people and I’m not sure how much of what I’m actually watching is even real! This, of course, is the universal appeal of the show. The feeling that you are in this cool girl clique. You know what’s going on, even if they don’t. So imagine how disorientating it is when someone I actually DO know starts on the show? Not just know, but am related to.
My step-mother is the new housewife of RHOBH. And now whenever I watch, I feel like I’m in a Salvadore Dali painting. Here is the house where your dad and step-mom live in Malibu. But now that it’s pristine and perfect and on TV, is it really the same house where you put your feet up on the coffee table and nap on the couch? Here is your dad making toast and all the housewives are swooning and he seems so debonaire. Is this the same dad that spanked you when you gave another one of your step-mothers (long story) a dirty look when you were eight years old? The same dad that falls asleep watching TV and then snores, loudly? Whose favorite TV show used to be Boston Legal (what the hell)? This is your dad, but it is not your dad. This is your dad playing David Foster on TV. Which is not to say that he isn’t being genuine, he totally is. He is then, I suppose, both these things. You see how crazy this becomes?
So now I find myself talking about Yolanda, my step-mother, as if I know her as a girlfriend, as if I know her like the other housewives, which I don’t.
“Are you really sure you want to invite Kim over? Really? I mean it’s great that she’s sober, but is she stable?”
As if I couldn’t actually pick up the phone and ask her! As I am watching the show, it would never occur to me to do so. Because, the truth is that I don’t feel an actual connection to the people I am watching on TV. It’s as if they exist in a parallel universe where I am not related to them by blood or marriage. This notion is strengthened by the fact that no one asks me about it. No one wonders what it’s really like or how I feel. I have been given a wide berth by even my closest of friends because of course to ask would be seen not just as nosey, but Perez Hilton nosey which is of a different calibre altogether. My association, tenuous as it is, with such a high profile show has now garnered me with a certain privacy that is generally reserved for celebrities, and isn’t that crazy? My friends and other family members think that I am part of it, somehow, but I know for certain that I am not. Then again, there’ s no denying that is my family on TV, so I suppose in a way I am. But, let me tell you, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I mean, I live in Portland.
For all that I love to watch the Real Housewives, I am by nature, too self conscious a person to ever be on it (not that anyone has asked me to btw.) As a writer, I am more comfortable being behind the scenes. How can I observe, as a writer must, if everyone is looking at me?
We are talking about Rich A** Families: The Astors on the podcast this week. Now THAT’S some serious wealth!
Photo from Bravo TV