The Real Housewives of New York City
Well, it’s official. Eboni K. Williams is coming for my job. After Ramona Singer Ubered out of the Black Shabbat dinner in Summit, New Jersey, Eboni stole what was going to be my entire recap for Ramona’s behavior during the first half of the episode. “She was hungry. She was a fucking cunt. She ate, then she was less of a cunt, but still a cunt, and then she leaves.” Yup, that about sums it up. Thanks, Eboni. Where should Vulture send the check?
The continuation of her awful behavior from the last episode continued on with Ramona in the kitchen eating dinner before it was being served and everyone else collecting spiders with their jaws on the floor at how anyone could behave so rudely at dinner. Even after Ramona finally sits down, Archie …
“Ahem, Brian. Excuse me?”
“Hi, this is Archie’s PR rep. How are you?”
Good. How can I help you?
“I was wondering if you can include a few lines about Archie Gottesman, the host of the Shabbat dinner and co-founder of the nonprofit JewBelong. Maybe something like the below: ‘The Shabbat dinner was hosted by Archie Gottesman, who is the founder of JewBelong, the nonprofit organization that is rebranding Judaism and combating anti-Semitism.’ I know you said no when I contacted you last week, but would you mind including it this time?”
No. Get out of here. This is my recap!
As I was saying, Archie is trying to get the Shabbat back on track and tells the women it’s a great time for soul-searching. “Then show us your heart,” Ramona says, chucking her program into the center of the table. “I’m sick of reading, I want talking now.” Thankfully Eboni tells Ramona she’s not running shit, but Ramona can’t stand to be at something she doesn’t enjoy or where she is not the center of attention.
Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Water Seal Piddle Proof Sidewalk and Driveway Waterproof System Morgans takes the talking stick first and starts jabbering on about how she wants to work more one-on-one with all of her charitable efforts. Of course she was rambling on, as Sonja tends to do, but Ramona tries to interrupt her. “Sonja won’t let anyone get a word in edgewise. It’s annoying,” Ramona says in confessional. I would say that this is the pot calling the kettle black, but anytime something black comes up, Ramona tells us that all pots and kettles matter.
Sonja then starts freaking out and banging on the table and asking Ramona what she does to help people on a daily basis. Archie looks across the table and mouths the word “Eboni” as if she’s asking for help and assistance, but Eboni is staring off into the weird cages that line the dining room, refusing to make eye contact. Sonja is getting even louder. “And stop social climbing,” she shouts at Ramona. “It’s not another yacht, it’s not another jet, it’s not another dress.” She slams the table and gets up and runs into the living room. When Luann comes to comfort her, Sonja is upset that Ramona is so awful and disruptive at the dinner. Here’s the thing about Sonja, she is totally right about Ramona and what she has to say even though she is far too drunk and also disruptive for her to be taken seriously. As I always say about Sonja: she’s not dumb, she’s just a bad communicator.
Back at the table, Eboni says, “I’m going to say this with love, time out on the white people tonight.” Ramona immediately responds, “What? We’re segregating now?” Over on the “Black” side of the table, Eboni’s three friends feel their jaws somehow drop lower than the floor, down into Archie’s basement, which is full of kids’ toys and extra bat mitzvah yarmulkes for gentiles. One of her friends manages to get her hands around the bottom of her jaw and re-latches it to her face, like a snake that just finished digesting an entire cat, in order to say, “We’ve been segregated!”
It’s insane to me how at this cultural event that is supposed to educate people about the Jewish faith and show the relationship between Black people and Jewish people, an event in which Ramona is a guest, she can’t tolerate that her and her whiteness are not the main character even for a second. Eboni’s friend Linara tells a heartbreaking story about how she and her son almost died in childbirth because the doctors at the hospital refused to believe she was in serious pain and refused to give her pain medication because they thought she was a drug addict. Ramona can’t let her have the floor. She can’t believe that the medical system could be so biased towards people because Ramona, apparently, has not gotten her head out of her Hampton’s gopher hole to look around at the damn world in her 60 years of existence.
Ramona then counters with her own story about how when she was in labor, there was a [pause] Black nurse who refused to give Ramona pain medication. Okay, this, right here, is the problem with Ramona. She can’t see how her anecdotal experience with one Black nurse is different from the systemic abuse Black people face by the entire medical system. Since she hasn’t experienced it, then it must not exist. Also, she doesn’t see how she was already at term and giving birth when the nurse refused her pain meds. Linara wasn’t due yet and the doctor not prescribing her pain meds led to her labor coming on early and threatening the life of her and her child. Ramona can’t see the distinction between her inconvenience and Linara almost being murdered due to a doctor’s neglect.
Ramona excuses her behavior by saying that she’s just asking, though, and Eboni hits it out of the park when she says that Ramona doesn’t realize that her questioning can turn adversarial. Yes, she might be searching for the truth, but she’s doing it by questioning the experiences of the Black, brown, and marginalized people around her. Why can’t she take their truths at face value like they accept hers? Maybe it’s because she keeps leaving. After this interchange, Ramona goes to Nathan, the hot twink producer, and is like, “Get me an Uber, I’m ready to go home,” but not before sitting down at the table and answering her Shabbat question. Of course Ramona couldn’t be bothered to listen to everyone else’s responses, but they are definitely going to sit and listen to hers.
While she removed herself from the situation like a genital wart a week before spring break, there is still one moment I think we need to look at to examine not just Ramona, but so many people like her, so many of the Trump supporters that we deal with. Here is a little monologue she gives to the cook while she’s off in the kitchen eating. “I think we’re flustering the host, the hostess. Is it host or hostess? Host?” she says. “You know, it used to be waiter and waitress and now it’s just waiter. It’s supposed to be singular sex. It’s so confusing. Her/she/them. Seriously, things have changed in this world. I’m older and I’m learning the new world.”
First of all, it’s not just “waiter” it’s the completely gender-neutral “server,” but rock on with ya bad self, Ms. Singer. Secondly, she is barely trying to learn the new world. She’s raging against the new world. She’s trying to drag this new world, where the stories of people of color and other marginalized groups are taking the center, back to the old world. She doesn’t want to enter the new world, where she has to think about what she says and how it might offend people, she wants to stay a screeching pterodactyl in her own world where she can blithely do whatever she wants, and those who are offended have to swallow it down and carry that burden around with them. Ramona wants to be free. She wants to be unburdened. She wants to live without limits, but what she doesn’t realize is that her limitlessness walls in others. Now she is being limited, she feels the burden she has wrongly placed on others for the first time, and she hates it. Instead of empathy, she wants retraction. She wants to go back to when she was in power, but it’s not going to happen, and that’s why we see Ramona floundering like she’s best friends with Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Oh, enough about Ramona. OH NO, WAIT! What about the next day when Luann goes to her house to try to explain how rude she was at the dinner and Ramona just keeps coming up with excuses about how she did nothing wrong and then manages to bring up Luann’s own problems with drinking? Oh, wait. What about when she’s having dinner with the people from the Fortune Society, and she refuses to believe a woman’s story about being wrongly accused of a crime and trapped in Rikers Island at 17 and then asks them to help her fix her friend Sonja? What about when she says that Sonja is projecting her own problems on Ramona and then says Sonja has “no regard for people’s feelings, people’s property, and, most importantly, no regard for herself the way she’s acting,” when that is describing the way she behaved at the Shabbat dinner exactly? Okay. Okay. Really. Enough about Ramona.
For a change, let’s not center this on the women and how they react to Eboni, let us center this on Eboni herself. Linda, the genealogical researcher (how is there not an NCIS: Ancestry.com yet?), found her father. Well, it could be one of three brothers, but Linda thinks she narrowed it down based on their ages. She explains to Eboni how old he would have been in 198[BLEEP]. Wait. Did they bleep out Eboni’s birth year? Is that so that we won’t know how old she is? I mean, that is some Zsa Zsa Gabor bullshit right there. Is it to give her possible father some privacy? Is it for her mother’s sake somehow? Where did this bleep come from and what is it hiding? I need an entire Vox.com explainer right now, please. (Eboni can also feel free to write this, since apparently she’s freelancing these days.)
But Eboni is moved to tears by the news. She didn’t think Linda would find him, she didn’t think he would be alive, she didn’t think that she would have two sisters, one of whom looks almost exactly like her. Linda shows Eboni the picture, turning the computer slowly her way, and she sees him for the first time, the irrefutable fact that she has family, that she is someone, that she is alive. She sees his round face, his cheeks just like hers, and she wonders where he is, she wonders what he sounds like. She wonders what they will say to each other when they meet, if they meet. She wonders if they meet will he be good at cards because she always thought she would have a father who was good at cards. And she wonders, she wonders if this is what it feels like, the stretch of our genes across generations, time itself, the infinite.