The Real Housewives of New Jersey
I bring exciting news from the literary vanguard: Joe Gorga has written a book. That is, a book printed with his name and beautiful face — lips pursed like he’s about to make a wet fart noise, a classic authorial pose — now exists in the world. Congratulations!
As a journalist, I consider it my duty to educate myself thoroughly on my subjects, so I read the free sample of The Gorga Guide to Success: Business, Marriage, and Life Lessons From a Real-Estate Mogul (foreword by Tiki Barber, naturally) available on Kindle. Chapter one, titled “You Gotta Have Balls,” begins, “You gotta have balls.” I love Joe, and I love this. Five out of five stars. I have flipped half a dozen houses since reading it.
Teresa’s daughters are understandably distraught over their dad’s transfer to the immigration facility. As Milania observes, this place is in many ways “more of a jail” than the previous low-security prison Joe was in, where he wasn’t confined to a cell and could freely hug and kiss his children when they visited. No longer. (This season of RHONJ is shaping up to be one of the most compelling anti-ICE documents in pop culture right now, whether the people living it realize that or not.)
Jennifer’s 11-year-old daughter, Gabriella, has been abruptly rejected by her friends because children are monsters, much like adults, who are frequently also monsters. She confides in her mother that the girls she was once close to now dispatch their boyfriends to, excuse me, throw food at her? I feel about ready to smash a glass and threaten my nearest reality-television colleague with the shards, but Jennifer takes this news surprisingly calmly: “Not everybody in life is going to like you.” (“Not Everybody in Life Is Going to Like You” was Bravo’s original slogan, which explains why the original title of Andy Cohen’s late-night show was Not Everybody in Life Is Going to Like You Live.) Margaret will later suggest that, in her fight with Jackie, Jennifer is being a hypocrite: What if someone had made that same video about Gabby?
Dolores, who insists she is not moving in with David without a “commitment” yet is very specifically dictating the placement of her coffee bar and her kitchen ventilation in the home that she and her ex-husband–slash–casual adult roommate are actively constructing for him, decides to distract her good pal Tre from her troubles by planning an outing to an “adult obstacle course.” Teresa is interested, provided that Jackie’s name be plucked from the guest list in favor of Danielle’s, despite the fact that everyone else has expressed strong anti-Staub positions in no uncertain terms. “Her pussy ring could get caught on an obstacle and it could pull her crotch,” argues Marge. While an unfair blanket judgment on the proud and capable pierced labia of America, that’s an image that may never leave me. And isn’t that what poetry’s all about?
If Danielle Staub is RHONJ’s Michael Myers (there is a Haddonfield, New Jersey, you know), then Margaret Josephs is our Dr. Loomis. She pays a visit to her and Danielle’s mutual friend Gina. Remember that duke that Danielle was engaged to for a while, about 43 seconds after she and Marty signed their divorce papers? Gina dated him for seven months. “I just dodged a bullet,” Gina says, and sure, I’m with her so far — but then she adds, “You take my bullet, because she gave me a bullet.” I expect to lose months of my life to trying to parse that sentence. Gina contends that Danielle, a flagrant violator of girl code, is “pure evil.” The blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes, the boogeywoman, etc.
Melissa has enlisted a party planner named Larry in preparation for her 40th-birthday party. “I love what you said about taking a photo of my eyeballs and placing it somewhere,” Mel G tells him, which, even in context, is a chilling sentence.
“Is there a theme for this party?” she asks.
“No theme,” he answers. “It’s a vibe.”
Melissa and Jackie browse Larry’s showroom for ideas, passing by massive chandeliers, a sequined jaguar, every piece of regrettable-in-retrospect wedding-registry china your aunts amassed between the years 1970 and 1985, a large glass jar stuffed with Charleston Chews, and another large glass jar stuffed with what may or may not be Slim Jims. It’s a vibe. Perhaps in homage to Jennifer, Melissa accidentally shatters a glass goblet, and the two women flee without reporting any of this to Larry. (I wouldn’t — I don’t want to hear how he’d talk about Melissa’s eyeballs when he’s in a bad mood.)
It’s an awfully chilly day to participate in an outdoor obstacle course, and the fact that Margaret quite clearly did not wear enough layers viscerally stresses me out. Dolores, meanwhile, has chosen to obscure her identity with the help of a neon-pink fur hood that covers half her face at all times. At least she looks warm. Danielle arrives, yet everyone nobly resists the impulse to scream even a single expletive at one another. Gold stars all around.
The women split up into teams of two — Margaret and Melissa, Dolores and Jennifer, and Danielle and Teresa — to scramble over walls, swing across monkey bars, and complete the kinds of puzzles that have been known to foil the brain trust that is the cast of MTV’s The Challenge.
Teresa and Danielle are mysteriously declared the winners despite finishing the course a full six seconds slower than Melissa and Margaret. I am self-aware enough to know that, if I were either Melissa or Margaret — neither of whom seems to care, for the record — this would be the injustice I’d be foaming at the mouth about at the reunion. I’m not proud.
From there, they’re off to lunch at Dolores’s house, where, upon realizing that they’re now trapped in a confined space with Danielle, everyone presumably takes mental note of the nearest exits and ground-level windows.
Danielle is preemptively mad about not being invited to Melissa’s birthday party and retroactively mad about not being invited to Jennifer’s event. She is also mad at Jennifer for bringing up, on a prior occasion, that her birth name is Beverly and madder still that Jennifer didn’t apologize. Jennifer insists she did apologize; Danielle acknowledges that, oh yeah, she did. All right.
Marge jumps on her about Gina. Danielle hits back about Margaret’s affair with Joe. “Prostitutes fuck married men, and you’ve fucked a lot more married men than I have,” snaps Margaret, like she had that one in the chamber. (Discussion question for the class: Do you think that by, say, season 20, RHONJ will have evolved to be even the slightest bit less anti–sex work? Me neither!)
Teresa predictably follows Danielle outside to comfort her, which strikes Margaret as ironic, given that it was Tre herself who stitched into the embroidery hoop of our collective unconscious the single most memorable two-word phrase — directed, of course, at Danielle — ever uttered across 170 episodes of this television program.
Time is a flat circle. Theme is a flat vibe.