An epidemic is threatening the very foundation of the Real Housewives Institute. No, it is not narcissistic personality disorder, overreliance on Botox, or the travesty of having a house that is made entirely out of skylights and glass bricks. I am, of course, talking about the Hashtag Hat.
At first, I thought it was subversive genius when Tamra wore a rhinestone-encrusted #ClassyAF hat at the Glamis Dunes (not to be confused with Glamis Dunez, Laguna Beach’s No. 1 Tamra Barney female illusionist). This week, Kelly Dodd wears what I can only assume is an ironic “#Cool Mom” hat while talking to her mother. First of all, the #Hat should never have a space between words, so maybe it’s acting as a punctuation mark, like something said sarcastically. “Yeah, that Chardonnay Go video is real #Cool, Mom.” I do not believe that is its definition. I think it means that Kelly thinks she is a cool mom, the sort of mom who believes she is her daughter’s best friend. That is, until her daughter gets a fine-arts degree at a third-tier liberal arts school and starts making mixed-media sculptures about how her mother never truly loved her, how she just wanted everyone to think that she was a #Cool Mom, to which she would then say, “Yeah, you were real #Cool, Mom.”
There might be another epidemic to combat in Orange County and that is Vicki Gunvalson trying to Kill All Cancer, which sounds like some sort of bad game your nephew would download onto your phone after you mistakenly let him play with it for an hour just to shut him up. This is supposed to be a charity because, as Vicki says, charity is “right up my wheelhouse.” Okay, that is not what the expression is. It sounds like something you would say to someone who keeps lording their expertise over you. “Oh, why don’t you go shove it right up your wheelhouse, Cheryl.”
As Vicki’s smirking son Michael (hey, Michael, Snapchat me!) points out, it is a little bit ironic that Vicki would be starring in a commercial to help everyone Kill All Cancer, considering she was just in the middle of a maelstrom of fake tumors created by her ex-boyfriend. As she always does, Vicki tries to play it off and Michael adds, correctly, that Vicki is pretty much the only person who thinks Brooks really had cancer. Whatever, I think we’re all over this debate except for when it comes to Vicki actually trying to fight cancer. If Vicki wants to make amends by helping cancer charities, I’m all for it. “When you are continuously helping people,” she says about her new venture, “how long can they hate you for?” The answer, it turns out, is quite some time.
The biggest problem with this whole thing, however, is that it doesn’t seem like a charity. Now, I might be misunderstanding the exact aims of Kill All Cancer — other than sending all of your credit-card information and nude pictures to Chinese hackers to exploit for their gain — but it doesn’t sound like a charity to me. It sounds like an insurance policy that someone would buy so that if they do get cancer, it will pay for their considerable expenses. Isn’t Vicki in the insurance-sales business? Is this a charity or a new product? Will this help people by giving them money to fight their cancer, or will she somehow profit off of it? I don’t know, but it kind of sounds like the latter to me.
Shannon Beador is certainly concerned about cancer, because she thinks she’s going to get it if there isn’t “hospital-grade air” in her home. Now, isn’t a hospital someplace where people routinely get sick from staph infections and all sorts of other maladies that happen because of the environment? Do you really want that stale air pumping into your McMansion that overlooks the harbor? When she’s in her new home, which has a stove that is as old as Vicki’s original face, Shannon laments that they haven’t even “brought the electromagnetic radiation meter in here.”
Seriously? That is what she’s worried about? She’s moving out of her haunted grove of a palace with a basketball court, no WiFi, and formaldehyde-free wood paneling (a million question marks and three smiley-face-wearing-surgical-mask emoji) and she’s worried about electromagnetic radiation? I’m sorry, Shannon, but WiFi is everywhere. The radio waves and microwaves and Katrina and the Waves are all flowing through your body right now, rearranging your DNA and giving you cancer. There is nothing you can do to stop it, unless you can hop in a time machine and go back to the year that the oven in your new kitchen was born. There are only so many things in life that we can worry about and the vibrations of the universe ripping you asunder on a nuclear level is not one of them.
Speaking of things I can’t be concerned about, let’s talk about Kelly’s relationship to Michael. This thing is going to be a cornerstone of the second half of the season, based on the preview of “what’s coming this season on Real Housewives of Orange County because next week’s episode is going to be a snooze about Meghan’s candle-store opening.” It was already a big consideration during Take Your Enormous Ugly Floppy Hat to Work Day at Glen Ivy, which sounds like something you would get because your mother sent you to a cheap summer camp.
When Kelly and Vicki are getting massages, Vicki starts talking about Kelly’s relationship with Michael and Kelly starts to do the ugly cry while two middle-aged men sit there and try to ignore their conversation and how implausibly ridiculous it is that they have their hands all over their bodies while they’re being wracked with sobs? This guy needs hazard pay. The sobs weren’t just annoying him, but also Tamra and Heather, two cabins over in the Wooded Delight Massage Time Jamboree Glen and Day Spa or whatever the hell it’s called. Also, Vicki mentions her love tank again. Jesus. Of all the things I never want to hear again, Vicki’s love tank is No. 3, directly behind George W. Bush saying the word “nuclear” and anyone on American Idol singing “Hallelujah.”
It may be because I hate Kelly and it may be because I am a heartless asshole, but I have very little sympathy for her. She got back into her relationship with Michael after years of his mistreatment. Yes, she got back with him after he was diagnosed as having a narcissistic personality disorder. But she got back with him after two years because he was so awful she couldn’t stand to be away from him. I realize that the threat of losing her daughter was too much for her to bear, but does Kelly think that the torture Michael will inflict on both of them is going to help?
Tamra certainly didn’t make things better by telling Kelly that the only thing worse than being with an awful narcissist is breaking up with an awful narcissist. I’ll admit the parallels between Michael and Simon are shocking, except Michael would never wear one of those dress shirts with different fabric on the inside of the cuffs so that they look jaunty when you roll your sleeves up. So why wouldn’t Tamra tell Kelly that she’s better off now that she divorced him? I think the answer is pretty clear. As clear as, say, the scar on your finger where you had your ex-husband’s name surgically removed after an ill-advised tattoo.
Still, Kelly goes home to him, her big floppy hat in her hand. She goes home and walks up all the flights of stairs to the very tippy top of her beachfront chalet, the floor with the bedazzled wine opener sitting on the counter, and she plops herself down in one of the tall chairs with something that resembles a sigh. She sits there, still and drained, thinking that she should open some wine to encourage that glow kindling inside her gut, but she’s far to inert to move. She travels within herself, deep within her brain where she’s neither thinking nor moving nor feeling, just breathing with a slight sway like a sprig of lavender in a zephyr. She feels it behind her right ear, something tight and pinching and she scratches it and the flakes of dried mud slough off in her hand. She thinks it’s gone but she keeps scratching, even after the brown detritus is clearly gone, even after it starts to hurt, she keeps scratching until there is something behind her ear like a wound, like a blister, like a cancer.