Here at the Real Housewives Institute, we want the start of a new season to feel like going to a restaurant opening or a good magazine launch party. We want the premiere to feel like opening a cool can of LaCroix Sparkling Water, or the tickle of bubbles when drinking bottomless bellinis at brunch. We want to start off with that delightful lurch of a yacht finally kicking into gear, or the swirl you feel when swinging around a stripper pole. But that is not what the first episode of this new season of the Real Rat Infestations of the Second Avenue Subway felt like. No, it seemed like group therapy in a deleted scene from the Girl, Interrupted DVD.
Seriously, what is wrong with all of these women? We ended last season and everyone was whole and, while probably off their rockers, functioning at a very high level. We come back and they’re all blubbering messes who can barely keep their lives together and their Hermès scarfs from sliding off their shoulders and landing in a pile of dog diarrhea that the spring rains have yet to wash away.
The big news, of course, is that Bethenny Frankel, the skinny girl herself, is back on the show. Can you feel that? Can you feel the throbbing, searing hatred just emanating from an apartment on the Upper East Side? No, that is not Madonna pissed off that there still isn’t any plastic surgery to make her pterodactyl claws look any younger. That is Jill Zarin pulsating with seething rage that Bethenny is back on the show and she is sitting on her couch drinking her 18th Diet Coke of the day.
Bethenny is back, and even though she is a millionaire who owns two apartments and a house in the Hamptons, she’s calling herself a homeless person, which is an insult to Larry, the guy who sleeps under three copies of the Chelsea Register under the scaffolding that has been up on my block for the last three months. Instead, Bethenny is living in hotels, which I always thought was the most glamorous thing in the whole world. I hope to one day live in a hotel that is not some fleabag SRO with a replica of the Eiffel Tower on the top of it that you drive past in Queens on your way to JFK. And why does Bethenny keep changing hotels? Can’t she just stay in the same hotel? Wouldn’t she get a better rate? Wouldn’t she get to know the staff and get all sorts of perks and kind of turn into a grown-up Eloise? Wouldn’t that feel like home?
Things are hard for Bethenny, and I can only imagine how pissed off you would be if your ex-husband took over your gorgeous apartment and refused to divorce you and won’t move out. You would probably feel, well, however it is Jill Zarin felt while watching this episode, I bet.
Bethenny isn’t really homeless. She has an apartment, but it’s being renovated, so she’s living in hotels. We all weep tears of joy for Bethenny. Her life is like a Billie Holiday song, except she dies drowning in a vat of her own money rather than poor and alone, of alcoholism. Then, at the end of the episode, she takes Fredrik from Million Dollar Listing (whom I made out with three times at the Cock somewhere around 2007, and now he’s trying to find surrogates for his gay love-child) to try to see if she can buy a third apartment to use as her office. Oh, it’s real hard to be her. I do feel bad for her when she says she wants a new life, though. No matter how rich we are, how successful we get, how many chic white silk blouses with beautiful giant bows we own, we’re just never happy with the crummy little asshole that lives in all of our brains.
It’s so funny, Bethenny coming back. She has so much more money and power than the rest of the women, and she no longer gets to play the poor underdog. I wonder what this is going to be like. She doesn’t even really know Heather, Carole, and Kristen, so this is going to be really odd.
We didn’t hear much from those three. Carole has a meeting with her editor about how her next book is several months late, and I really feel bad for Barbara, the editor. She has the worst job in the whole world. Being an editor is sort of like running a nursery school, except all the children have egos, hate each other, need constant validation, and would rather sit around sniffing the paste than actually do any damn work. There is, however, the same number of accidents. Seriously, writers are the fucking worst, and I say that being one of them and knowing scads. We’re all horrible, awful, lazy people, and whoever has the crappy job of trying to control us doesn’t make nearly enough money and gets absolutely zero credit. Carole is a wonderful person, and I would be just as late handing in my book as she is, but my heart really goes out to Barbara.
Heather barely spoke a sentence this entire episode, and all we got from Kristen was a little check-in at home. We learned that her daughter had lots of therapy and is now walking and perfectly healthy. Then she tells us that her husband, Josh, a used Band-Aid you find baked into your pizza crust, “has changed a whole bunch.” Yeah, he’s now wearing a pink sweater rather than a shirt that he got free at a 5K and a look of disdain for his wife. Please, Josh, a locker that has had a pair of sweaty socks left in it for far too long has not changed one bit. Josh, the Soho House of people, has just gotten hip to the fact of what happens when you are yourself in front of the cameras.
Countess Crackerjacks, barely healed from her split with Balki Bartokomous, is just as messy as Bethenny. She has a new house and is still holding on to some resentment. However, she is the Countess. I bet you she gets more ass than the toilet seats at a Mexican resort on shrimp-taco night.
Are there still women to talk about? I mean, damn, how many characters are on this show now? It’s like we’re following around the entire freshman class of Miss Porter’s or some shit. Who else is there? Oh, Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Molly Ringwald Morgans. Everyone is a little mad at Sonja because she’s obsessed with herself and can’t be bothered to be Crackerjack’s friend or listen to Ramona’s troubles or train her interns properly. She just wants Satoko, the sadistic facialist, to come by and gild her face with precious metals while she makes the interns watch. Why do the interns watch? Do they need to learn how to get a facial? Isn’t that the sort of skill that one just acquires naturally? Anyway, Sonja is the same old Sonja, my favorite floozy who used to be classy and now she’s just trashy. Yes, that is it. Plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer. She’s still here.
Are we still not done? Oh God, there is this Dorinda woman we have to talk about. I already don’t like her, mostly because of how she acts in the “On this season of the Real Escapees of Rikers Island” preview, which isn’t really fair. But the rest of it is based on the fact that she wants to return that Fendi bag with the tongue on it, which is the most genius accessory I have seen since someone gave me a Saved by the Bell slap bracelet for my 35th birthday. What was up with that necklace she was wearing when she had lunch with Ramona? It looked like it was cross-stitched by someone’s grandmother, and it had the giant lips from the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the middle. Can Carole please give this woman a class on how to buy accessories?
However, Dorinda is dating the goomba who owns Madame Paulette, which is the best dry cleaner in the whole damn world. I know that people outside of New York won’t understand this (just like you don’t understand why it is a cardinal sin to lean on the pole in the subway or say mean things about Dr. Zizmor), but Madame Paulette is the dope-ass shit. It’s like the Dom Pérignon of dry cleaners. Just trust me that it’s pretty damn cool. I would spend about seven hours asking her about various ways to get out very difficult stains from fabric.
Man, we still have to talk about Ramona. There are really eight people starring on this show now? Are there any women in New York who are not on this show? Oh, sorry, Jill. Ramona is the most damaged of all. It seems like her split from Mario was a whole lot more awful than it might have looked at the end of last season. Apparently he asked her for another shot, and after 25 years of marriage, she deserved to give him one. It did not work out, particularly because he managed to somehow blame Ramona for his cheating. Now, I’m not saying she’s a perfect person, but that’s like if your husband gained 200 pounds and then told you that the reason he’s fat is because you keep buying Double Stuf Oreos.
I sort of feel bad that this relationship was over. Ramona is Ramona, love her or hate her, but I always found it oddly comforting that she and Mario seemed legitimately in love. I wasn’t quite sure how they made it work, but they did. That gave me hope for all of us, that we’ll all eventually find someone who will put up with us and make us happy. After all, if Ramona Singer, of the crazy eyes and baseless accusations, can find someone to love her, then there has to be hope for the rest of us schmos.
But no, it’s over. She’s trying to move on but has somehow become unmoored. This strong woman is now crying in public, welling up while at lunch on Madison Avenue and barely covering up the numbness and terror that lies underneath, like the cloth that covers a corpse at the scene of an accident, the stain spreading slowly as the fibers start to absorb the blood. At night, when she’s alone, Ramona just crawls under the covers and brings them over her head, trying to let the warmth suffocate her as the tears come. Not little rivulets but deep, wracking sobs, a deep, rhythmic keening that makes the springs in the mattress groan ever so slightly. She just cries like that, hoping that it will stop on its own, but it won’t. She knows it won’t. She keeps it up until it’s so rhythmic, it’s like breathing or her heart, the sadness an autonomous function of her body, like the blood coursing through her veins. She wakes up in the morning to find that the sun is shining, the city is coming to life, and her pillow is just as wet as when she stuttered off to sleep.