The Real Housewives of New York City
On this day, May the 4th of the year of our Lord 2016, by the bylaws laid out by the Eileen Davidson Accord of 2015, we are now allowed to discuss and openly disparage the new Real Housewife Jules Wainstein. Hear ye, hear ye, for a judgement shall be passed.
I’m glad for the Eileen Davidson Accord, because without it, I would have been way harsher on Jules than I will be after watching this episode. I was impressed that she brought up her eating disorder to Bethenny and was open about how debilitating it was for her. She didn’t seem to grandstand, but she is aware that she can use this platform to draw attention to how awful an eating disorder can be. I’ve had friends and family that suffered for years with anorexia, bulimia, and the like, and I know how destructive it can be to a person and those around her. Jules truly is brave for putting herself in a position where her appearance will be publicly scrutinized. As a result of that, I’m not going to comment on or make fun of the way she looks or her relationship to food. I urge you to do the same, my faithful members of the Real Housewives Institute. After all, we have high standards to uphold. How can we call Faye Resnick “morally corrupt” unless we can ride in on a high horse?
That said, Jules is a phony. She is obviously playing up certain things about her life for attention (and, of course, for the cameras). The best example of this is when Jules plunges her arms into the ice bucket after she touches shrimp at Dorinda’s book party. That is just showing off. If she really felt that badly, she could have gone into the bathroom and washed herself. She didn’t need to make a public display of her orthodoxy. This is especially true because she eats in restaurants. The people I know who are hardcore kosher will only eat in certified restaurants, which are pretty hard to find, even in New York City. Jules may not eat shellfish or pork or dairy with meat, but she seems “kosher light.”
But this is part of a larger trend. Does she think the other women are “elderly”? I don’t believe she does. There is no way one would say that unless she were going out of her way to be provocative. Does she really not care that she brings her kids to school an hour late? No, I don’t think she does. Anyway, Manhattan private schools are so competitive that if that were the case, they would kick her out and fill her children’s spots in a snap.
This is why Jules is a phony. She is trying to decide which aspects of her personality will impress the world. The problem with this, of course, is that none of us are really impressed. It’s like that person you meet at a cocktail party who is trying to brag about his proximity to D-list celebrities. I’m so glad that you have lunch with Robert Verdi, but that doesn’t excuse you being a horrendous bore. Jules is vastly misreading her audience; all we really want is authenticity. (Ramona is a mess, but she is Ramona, through and through.) When a new Housewife tries to create a false persona in order to be “good TV,” we end up with Aviva Drescher, who throws her leg in a public space and is run out of town, leaving the fumes of desperation behind for everyone to choke on.
Her worst comment of the night is when she criticizes Bethenny’s house and says that she has old money and Bethenny has new money. This is ironic because Bethenny is the one with the “small,” understated, entirely classy home in the Hamptons. Jules is building a monstrosity of a McMansion. She’s the one who acts like the nouveau riche, not Bethenny. The fact that she can’t realize the difference between class and size shows how little taste she has. And here’s what really makes this deplorable: I think this is the one thing that Jules actually believes.
Being a phony is not the worst thing in the world. Jules isn’t a walking DSM-III manual like Danielle Staub. She’s not a violent rage monster like Brandi Glanville (say her name three times and she shall appear). She’s not continuously defending her boyfriend who lies to the world about having cancer like Vicki Gunvalson. She is not a literal criminal like Teresa Giudice. On the spectrum of Housewives crimes, being a phony is a five on a scale of one to 10. It’s in the same realm as trying to pretend like you didn’t sleep with a Johnny Depp look-alike on vacation, or pulling someone’s wig off outside a restaurant. It’s dumb, but not immoral.
I have a feeling that Jules will quickly knock off this behavior. She might settle into becoming someone we don’t entirely mind. Just look at her lunch with Bethenny, when she confronts the alpha of the group. Jules is clearly looking for Bethenny’s approval and nervous about gaining it. When Bethenny makes it clear that she should be honest and upfront, Jules follows through and they seem to bond. Now that Bethenny is on her side, I hope she’ll stop showing off like a 5-year-old who ate too many Sour Patch Kids.
Phew! I’m so glad I got that all out. There is barely enough room to discuss all the other things that happened in this episode. Between Ramona and Sonja Tremont Morgan of the San Joaquin Valley Morgans trying to say the world “solemnize” like they’re swirling hot gumbo in their mouths and Carole losing her phone with Adam’s shirtless pictures in it, there is so much to dissect. (An open letter to Carole Radziwill: Dear Carole, I know you read these recaps and if you want to do me the honor of Snapchatting a shirtless picture of Adam, you can find me @BrianJMoylan. Love, Brian. P.S. I loved seeing your ABC News badges, especially the ones with the short hair. How chic!)
Ramona had to confront Sonja about her drinking because, though she is my favorite floozy, it’s getting a little bit out of hand. I don’t think that Sonja is an alcoholic, however I do think that she overindulges and may not be a good drunk. We all have that friend whose life isn’t debilitated by alcohol, but she likes to party, and when she does, she gets a little sloppy. That is Sonja, and telling her to chill a bit is sort of like telling Charlie Sheen that he should only sleep with two hookers a week. It’s not an indictment of a lifestyle, just a plea to slow down.
The odd thing is that Sonja tries to say that Ramona also drinks, so she can’t really talk. Well, we all party and get a bit messy on occasion. We’re adults. It happens. That doesn’t mean someone can’t tell you to take it down like three notches. I think Sonja came around, though. If everyone is telling her that she needs to chill, maybe she needs to chill. She’s plenty of fun without the booze anyway.
The last stop on the Housewives express is the dizzying fight between Bethenny and Countess Crackerjacks at Ramona’s birthday party. Holy crap, what was that? It wasn’t so much an argument as it was a case of whiplash that you could witness on television. Bethenny is peeved that Luann pestered her to get an invitation to the dinner party she threw for Kyle Richards when the Real Shoplifters of the Sherman Oaks Target were in town. Luann is peeved that she gave Bethenny a purse and was bringing up old shit. They get into it right there, but just as quickly, it ends.
On a dime, the Countess turns the conversation around and says that she felt bad that she wasn’t included. She actually starts to tear up. I did not like the Countess showing emotions. It’s a display of vulnerability that makes you uncomfortable, like seeing your mother in her bra. The Countess isn’t supposed to cry. She’s supposed to stoically stand there and pass judgment. This is like Judge Judy bawling over an AT&T commercial.
Is this a calculated ploy to get more screen time? Maybe. Is it a bald-faced attempt to get on Bethenny’s good side by making her feel guilty? Maybe. But I’m going to give the Countess the benefit of the doubt and say that she’s struggling with singlehood and having an empty nest and really just wanted to hang out with some real friends. It gets lonely at night when all you have to soothe yourself is whispers to your collection of statement necklaces.
Of course, this all went down at Ramona’s annual birthday lunch at Chat Noir, where 50 women were crammed cheek-to-surgically-removed jowl at long tables. Outside in the dampening fall afternoon, one woman stood outside in a party dress and a light jacket, a very tasteful trench over a very loud print sheath. She had two balloons in one hand and a gift bag exploding with tissue paper in the other and she watched the lopsided sidewalk, cantilevered by the roots snaking underneath it, so that she wouldn’t trip in her heels.
She got to the door of Chat Noir and wasn’t sure what she should do. She had a gift, but she was not invited to this event that she had attended for so many years. No one will notice, she thought to herself about slipping in and just taking someone’s seat. She belonged there. She had earned her right at that table through spats and humiliations, through years of suffering Ramona’s indignities. She would go in and just blend in.
But what about the balloons? Those would stick out. Was the gift too much? Was the bag too bright? Am I trying to hard? She was wracked with doubt to the point of immobility. So she just stood there on the sidewalk, unable to take the three steps down to enter the restaurant but unable to return to her driver, who was circling the block waiting for her. It’s so hard, Jill Zarin thought. It’s so much harder to walk in there quietly than to blow the whole place up. She looked down at her shoe and a dead leaf skittered across the sidewalk with a deafening rasp. It was almost time to start again. It was almost time to enter.