It all started five seasons ago, when Kim Richards bellowed in the back of a car, “You stole my flarking house!” It was then we knew that she and Kyle, her sister and co-star, had considerable darkness in their lives. They built walls around their hearts, tried to keep everyone out as they let America in, but the darkness, that thick, burbling tar, seeps through the mortar of their walls. The bricks are gummed together, not with their secrets but with their hatred, their animalistic animosity toward each other that can’t be described in words, but we see it in looks and stares, sideways glances and silences. The Sisters Richards have a whole lot of shit to work through, and they’ve decided to do it on national television.
That is funny because, from everything we can tell, their mother, Big Kathy, didn’t want them to talk about any of their nonsense in public. That’s why Kim is so reticent to divulge the truth or really let people in, even though that is her occupation these days.
What, exactly, is troubling these sisters? It’s hard to pin down. I think it has to do with Kim’s early success and Kyle’s resentment, and Kyle’s later success and Kim’s resentment. I think it has to do with Kim’s addiction and how Kyle treated her before and after, and how Kim treated Kyle during the long-gestating shitstorm that was her drunkenness. I think it has to do with the sale of their mother’s house and Kim’s dog attacking Kyle’s daughter. It has to do with everything and nothing. Mostly, I think, it has to do with the fact that they are both horrible shadow-monsters who feed off of attention and other people’s misery. Neither of them is blameless, and neither of them is at fault. Kim and Kyle are like mushrooms, growing only in their dark silence and moist hatred.
But we can really only judge them by what we saw on the reunion, so let’s talk about those specific things, shall we? Kyle is mad that Kim’s objectively poorly trained dog Kingsley bit her daughter’s hand badly enough that her daughter had to go to hospital and have an IV drip for some days. Kyle didn’t say this, but I think she is mad that Kim won’t put the dog down even though it has attacked multiple people. Kim is mad that Kyle Instagrammed pictures of her daughter in the hospital and tabloids figured out that it was because Kim’s dog attacked her, even though Kyle didn’t mention the dog in the posts.
When they revealed this whole story, Andy Cohen asked, “And this is what you’ve been fighting about?” It wasn’t a question of clarification; it was more like what everyone at home was thinking. “You two are getting this worked up over some stuff that is on Instagram?” But yes. Yes, they are.
Kim didn’t want to talk about this on the reunion because she said it was not part of the show. She’s right. It’s not. Kyle and Kim both should have kept quiet about this or found a way to talk about their recent feud without getting into specifics on camera. It’s possible. Caroline and Dina Manzo have been doing it for years after their falling out, but that is not possible for the Sisters Richards. They both need to be martyrs, to perform their pain in front of an audience of millions so that they can grow tall and strong off their reflected sorrow.
The accusation that Kyle is only interested in talking about this on camera is sort of a damning and telling one. Kyle does seem more interested in letting the world into her pain than she is keeping it private and trying to work things out with Kim. If that is true, then that just proves that all the horrible things that we assume about reality stars, and Real Housewives in particular, are absolutely true. The show is both the thing that saves them and evaporates their souls, melting them like a popsicle left in the sun until nothing is left but a sticky film and a flimsy stick that no one wants to touch.
Though Kim was right that they should have kept all this deep family stuff (about the dog attack, about Kim’s daughter’s wedding) out of Bravo’s hands, what Kim did next was indefensible. “There’s more to the story that I won’t talk about. Something that no one knows about. It’s the truth, and it’s about Kyle, and she won’t like it. But no, I won’t say that on television.” That’s a paraphrase, but that is essentially what Kim did, making some sort of vague allegation about Kyle misbehaving but not bringing it up entirely so that she can look like a better person and Kyle can’t defend herself because she doesn’t even know what the charges are. This is the same thing she did to Lisar in an earlier reunion, when she brought up some vague accusations against her husband. This behavior is absolutely inexcusable on so many levels, mostly because it’s not playing fair.
This just points to Kim’s larger problem about what she will and will not talk about on television. She is right, there are some things that need to be kept private and shouldn’t be brought up. However, she also says that no one can talk about her sobriety because it “is an issue I am not having.” I’m sorry, Kim, but being an addict is like being a mother or a cancer survivor. It is not something that goes away. Once you are one, it does not go away. That’s why, at every meeting, no matter how long they have been attending, people in AA say, “Hi, my name is John and I’m an alcoholic.” It is a problem that she is having, it’s one that she continues to have, and it is one that she has had on the show. That makes it fair game, not only for her but for everyone else. If she doesn’t like it, well, then maybe she shouldn’t go taking pain pills before getting in a limousine to go to what is essentially a professional function.
Kim also refuses to talk about whether or not her dog is at a trainer for no good reason other than that she has decided that her dogs and her children are off-limits. However, she has put both of them before the cameras. If she doesn’t want people talking about them, then she needs to keep them to herself. Kim tries to gain control by saying who can and can’t talk about certain things, but the problem is that she makes up the rules all her own. It’s like she’s the bratty older sister who says you can borrow her top, but then when you borrow it, she says, “No one can borrow clothes on Tuesday,” because it’s Tuesday and she wants to wear it. Just wait until she comes into your closet next week and steals your boots. See you next Tuesday, Kim, you clothes-jacker.
This does open up larger questions about what can and can’t be discussed on the show. The same conundrum comes up again with Brandi and her comment about Kyle Richards smoking pot. Brandi says that Kyle is a hypocrite because everyone talks about her sobriety and Kim’s sobriety, but Kyle gets all mad when she brings up the fact that Kyle smokes pot. Here is the difference: Kim and Brandi get really wasted and act horribly on camera for everyone to see, and it is everyone’s job to talk about that stuff. Kyle may (or may not, who knows!) smoke some pot every now and again in private behind closed doors. That’s why it’s unfair for Brandi to go blowing up her spot like that. She did the same thing to Adrienne, who would not discuss where her children came from on camera and asked that everyone respect that, but Brandi did not. She doesn’t see that there is a line between the public and private persona. It may be because she doesn’t have one, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t respect other people’s. I certainly don’t have many boundaries, but my boyfriend hates how I talk about how giant his penis is in public, so I don’t. I really would never print anything publicly about his enormous schlong because he really doesn’t like it. I respect boundaries.
While we’re talking about what can and can’t be said, I guess we should address the texts that Lisar sent Kim Richards after the finale party. They said something like, “Don’t mess with me or I will fuck you up.” Alright, Lisar trying to beat someone up for real would be like a person getting assaulted by one of those inflatable men with the wildly undulating arms that they put out in front of used-car dealerships on the highway. I mean, does anyone think that Lisar is really going to attack them? Sure, she broke a glass at Kim and tried to strangle her, but Lisar’s attack would sort of be like getting a big piece of seaweed snaked around your ankle at the beach. It would be gross and scary, but you can break it off real easy. Lisar didn’t mean it like she was going to show up at Kim’s house with a knife, so anyone trying to make it sound like Lisar was making definite threats is crazy.
Just like when Kim brought up some fake rumor about Lisar’s husband, Lisar was provoked into such behavior. That’s what Kim doesn’t understand about tamping down the truth. You can silence people all you want, but their emotions, their rage and anger and hatred and hurt, will come flying back up after you push it down, like one of those toys you’d get at the doctor’s office that would suction to the table and sit there for a few minutes until the spring inside would uncoil and catapult it into the ceiling or your brother’s eye or some other random place. That is what happened when she shut Lisar up at the finale party. Everything she had to say was coming out, so Kim can either listen to it then or wait for it to manifest itself in an angry text message.
Of course it came flying out like a boomerang without a GPS system. Kim does the same thing to herself, not talking about her issues with alcohol or her sister or whatever else until it comes hurling out of her in the back of a limo on national television. Repression is never the answer, and if Kim thinks that it is going to continue to work, well, then, she is struggling with her addiction problems a lot more than she’s willing to admit.
When the reunion was over, both Sisters Richards went out to the black SUVs that were waiting to take them home. One of them got in the back of the car and closed the door hard. She was fighting back the urge to cry, knowing that she had done enough of that already and that it wouldn’t help anymore. She thumbed through her phone, looking for one of her daughters to call, one who would be sympathetic to all her grievances against her sister. Maybe she should call Kathy. She’s the only other one who would understand, the only other who had been through the house, and Kim’s career and sobriety, and Kyle’s rise through the ranks with her rich husband, and her always cleaning up after Kim’s messes. But she didn’t. She just stared out the window, wondering if they could put it behind them. If they could come to some agreement or détente, if they could just grit through it all these years, their jaws set in phony smiles as they complained behind each other's backs. She wondered, and that made her want to cry even more as the car lurched up the onramp onto the freeway and the lights from the oncoming cars blinded Kyle for a second. No, it was Kim. No, it was Kyle. No, it was Kim.