Guys, I have no freakin’ clue what is going on here. In all my years as executive vice-president of development at the Real Housewives Institute, I have never seen a change quite like this. Last week, the episode seemed boring, with all the Housewives focused on their own lives and just sort of swanning around in their fabulosity like a 4-year-old girl spins around in her princess dress to watch the skirt puff up. There was no fighting (mostly), there was little interaction between the women, there was no group gathering, and there was nothing to indicate that this was a Real Housewives program and not Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or an episode of Cribs that somehow didn’t feature any rappers.
But last night’s episode was the same way. That leads me to think that this is what the show has become! This isn’t the ladies getting back into the swing of things before the talons come out and the sequins and insults start flying. This is season five. I’m not mad at it, necessarily. I enjoy watching the antics of amusing rich ladies whom I want to be friends with on television. I just do. So when there are amusing rich ladies on the screen, I’m into it. When it’s like Brandi, well, maybe not so much. I don’t really know how to watch this show when I'm not braced for some sort of conflict and filled with the dread that someone’s implant is going to explode at any moment, creating a Silkwood-like situation for everyone at Bravo HQ.
I also don’t know how to write about this new show. I’m usually just playing referee and telling you who is right or wrong about any particular fight that may or may not involve someone being told to maybe bring tabloids on vacation with Joyce, a half-dead doctor’s-office cactus. What am I supposed to say about this new show? “Well, Lisa and Ken went to buy clothes for Giggy, and they put him in this purple frilly suit that made him look like either the Purple Pie Man or one of Prince’s velvet bodysuits after it had shrunk in the wash.” I mean, that did happen, but you don’t need me to tell you that. You don’t need my insight for that. You know what one of Prince’s velvet jumpsuits looks like after it’s shrunk in the wash!
So here we are in this brave new world, blinking and dazed and not sure where to stumble. It’s like coming out of a nightclub and realizing it's morning and you don’t know when your ecstacy is going to wear off, but you probably still have another hour to get a McDonald’s hash brown, which is really the only reason to be awake before 11 a.m. on a Sunday anyway.
There was one thing that happened last night: Yolanda Bananas Foster’s daughter Bella got arrested for a DUI, which now makes sense why last week we had to watch mother and daughter bond about all the adventures the daughter was going to go on in the future. But when YBF got the call from her husband, it was handled, dare I say it, tastefully. Yolanda went down to her room on Kyle's nacht (which is what you call a big boat that is not quite a yacht), and when Kyle came in to talk about it, they closed the door.
That is the significant event. It was not the DUI, it was the door closing. That is what this season is about. It’s about rich people being rich, and the difficult things they deal with are just glimpses, little black-and-white postcards from the real world, where Yolanda tends to her mother, who is battling cancer for the second time. It’s not gross or exploitative or dragging Bella in front of the camera for a teary confessional. No, we just get to hear a choked-up Yolanda say, “I’m disappointed by her choice,” which is such an honest and classy way to say it. That’s what this whole thing was. It was classy. That is not an adjective that you use very often when talking about the Real Wildebeasts of Eye-Poke Canyon, but here we are. Welcome to progress. When can we leave?
The thing with Bella had me thinking about daughters on Real Housewives programs. I think when they’re old enough to make an informed decision about being on the show (and, let’s face it, the franchise is never as interested in sons as it is daughters), that’s one thing. Bella and Gigi were old enough to see what the show would be and how it might affect their lives and make a choice if that was something they were interested in. Do teens make decisions like adults do? No. But it’s a lot easier to do something like that when you’re over the age of 12 like Lisar’s daughters Mount Parnassus and Leopold Bloom, who are 13 and 16.
What concerns me is the Portias of the world. They are given no choice in the matter, forced into a seedy world of child labor by their parents. I have a feeling that their lives are going to be a lot more affected by being on the show than the older teens. Just imagine being 20 at college, and a boy you’re about to go on a date with Googles you and finds videos of you being precocious at 7, and just what that is going to do to the conversation over dinner at a moderately priced taco restaurant with really good margaritas (don’t drink and drive, kids!)?
I also think that there’s something about having those cameras around all the time at such a young age that brings out something gross and performative about these children. People compare Portia to Teresa Giudice’s daughter Milania, and they were both about the same age when the shows started, and now they feel like the only way to achieve some sort of success is to mug for the camera and make everyone love them and kiss them. They’re perpetually wound-up toy monkeys who never know whether or not it’s time to play. I bet Kim Richards felt the same way at her age, and look at how well that turned out.
Okay, I have now spent a long time vamping about Real Housewives philosophy because I don’t know what to say about what happened. So, what happened? Kyle went on another vacation because that is all she does now. They rented a nacht that was smaller than Yolanda’s plane, and Kyle jumped off the top of the boat, and it was just like Stars in Danger: The High Dive all over again.
Lisa and Lisar went out to lunch at Villa Blanca, which is like SUR, except the employees are real humans and not the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings. Then they went shopping, and Lisa invited Lisar to watch her get a star on the Walk of Stars in Palm Springs for being nice to gays. That is so Palm Springs. They’re going to run into a 60-year-old couple named Charles and Leroy who met at the baths in the '80s and have been running a mid-century modern antique store and they will laugh with Lisa and Lisar and make silly double entendres and everyone will chortle and talk about the time they were on episodes of Miami Vice in a French-cut bikini. I want to be there for that. I don’t care what these two do, I want to be the rosé in that picnic basket.
Things were not nearly as exciting for Eileen, a scratched Eagles greatest-hits CD rattling around the backseat of your Honda. We met her husband, a former teen idol and tennis pro, and her three children, son Somethingorother and stepsons Duke and Vinny. (Will I go to jail for saying hi to them? If not, hi, Duke and Vinny!) So, who were all those other people and strange children in her pool and using her Slip ‘N Slide?
Brandi got a new car and kept talking about how “sick” it is. Um, it’s a white SUV. It’s not that sick, even if she paid six figures for it. Also, Brandi not wanting to clean up her podcast (really, we’re talking about podcasts now?) so that she can get huge sponsors is Brandi’s problem in a nutshell. She refuses to compromise (which can be a virtue), but refuses to accept the responsibility for what happens when she refuses to accept responsibility.
Who else? Who else? Oh, Kim Richards! Kyle went by her Sad Valley Ranch to look at her mother-of-the-bride dress, and, well, it looks very mother of the bride. I mean that with a sneer like the tangerine Michael Kors would say it on Project Runway. It just sort of looks like the fabric came from the sofa in a woman’s lounge in a Hilton in a mid-size American city, somewhere like Columbus. But Kim loved her dress, she loved her house full of sick kids, she loved the possibility of ruining Kyle’s vacation with infection.
Kyle left eventually and Kim put the dresses away, hung them in her bedroom closet on the far left side. She squished everything to the right so they had their very own space at the end with nothing touching them. Their gossamer plastic bags seemed to always be moving, even in the stillness of the room. That night, when the house was dark and Kimberly was slightly snoring next to her, Kim woke up and could see the dresses in her mind. She got out of bed slowly and started when Kimberly roused, but she rolled over and went back to sleep.
Kim got her dress out of the bag and slipped off her oversize T-shirt with the logo of some band she had never heard of on it. She had stolen it from Chad, and she was convinced that the fading decal still contained some of his scent. She stepped into her dress and put it on. She zipped it up as far as it could go, and she smoothed the lace and looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the closet door. She thought of all the times she was married and how badly those had gone. More failures, a series of sad failures with good results. Brooke’s wedding wouldn’t be like that. It wouldn’t be about her; it would be about her creating happiness for her daughter.
She didn’t envy that white dress; she had earned her shot at being matronly. She loved being mother of the bride because the title had both of those roles that she loved so much but had messed up so royally. Now was her chance to do them both combined and changed, their power compounding each other like two sides of a triangle making a hypotenuse. She stood there in the dim light of the night, her head cocked to the side, thinking about looking out at her daughters on that altar. “Mom,” Kimberly mumbled from the bed, suddenly sitting up. Kim didn’t know if it was a question or a statement.