The Real Housewives of Dubai
There are many platitudes that, while trite, generally hold true. The golden rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — is a pretty useful base framework to offer children who aren’t mature enough yet to adhere to any more advanced ideologies around ethics, equity, and morality. But for the few that are succinct and profound, there are just as many that are meaningless, such as my most abused cliché in 2021 when I was going through repeated cycles of burnout: It is what it is. The most dangerous ones, however, are the ones that seem to have merit and grounding but don’t hold muster in application, and one of the most frequently disregarded sayings is “time heals all wounds.”
We’ve already seen that in this show with Ayan, who has been unable to free herself from her pain from her father after 26 years. This episode, however, sees the rise of a new conflict between Lesa and Caroline Stanbury, a woman who seems to utterly flail when not holding center court and has thus proceeded to unravel in a manner that manages to be both embarrassing and unentertaining. Personally, there are certain non-negotiables for me when it comes to conflict. We can call each other out by name all the live long day and there’s a possibility to find our way back, but spit on me, and in the words of Cardi B, you gon’ have beef with me forever — with a new amendment clause added to include “publicly proffer your husbands genitalia to my mouth because you are miffed that he engaged in civil conversation like any adult would.” In the words of NBA biracial icon Matt Barnes, “violence is never the answer, but sometimes it is.”
I am genuinely befuddled at Stanbury’s series of choices in this episode. First, we continue to have this fake child-rearing debate, down to a contrived argument with their contractor on a guest room versus nursery, as if he would care about their family unit. Caroline is making it pretty clear that, if anything, she would go the surrogate route — perhaps CosmeSurge hasn’t quite finalized the Mommy Makeover special that is en vogue throughout the Americas — and it’s laughable to suggest Sergio has any influence over the matter, not because of any feminist politic around a women’s right to choose, but because that is not the privilege afforded to sugar babies, regardless of the desires of the Carallo family line. At the birthday dinner for Nina’s friend, Stanbury is surprised that no one follows British standards of propriety and accepts her flimsy pretense for not going to the fashion show, with Lesa choosing to address the situation head-on. There is definitely a bit of producer ghost-editing happening throughout the rest of the scene, but as best as I can surmise the continuity, Caroline then proceeds to let herself get three sheets to the wind, and just when Ayan departs for the bathroom after holding polite conversation with Sergio, laid into her husband: He’s such a fucking girl! Sergio fucking loves everybody. It drives me nuts … my husband has become one of them … one of you guys [gestures at Lesa] … Am I watching this? I hope she’s gonna suck your dick.
*Record scratch* How many left turns did we take to get here? Is there a moment in that dinner that I missed? Did someone call someone else’s mama a bitch? Why is Caroline so wound up about such low-stakes conflict, and how many drinks did she take to promptly forget what she said? I truly don’t understand the animosity behind this hostility and comprehend the choice to let it all dissolve on the dance floor even less.
Beyond declaring war with Lesa, we see little more of her family dynamics and finally get a few glimpses at the cracks in the foundation. Despite running a well-known clothing line, Lesa is still expected to shoulder the majority of the family rearing responsibilities, with her career viewed as less significant even by her children, which is heartbreaking to watch them say. Of course, there are a few caveats to this narrative: Lesa has the benefit of a nanny to assist with child care and other critical needs, and her reported eight-figure revenue from last year is not an indication of profit margins. I’m not saying that she’s Adam Neumann at WeWork or anything, but that $10-$99 million figure means little until we know Mina Roe’s operating costs, expenses, and debts. Her frustrations with her husband’s professional investment in the business as CFO is understandable, but the most straightforward workaround for that would be to hire an assistant whose role would be to help facilitate getting top-line metrics across to her husband to help him evaluate her requests for any expansions or changes, and minimize the interference in their personal interactions. Highly occupied financiers work best with quick bullet points and year-over-year charts, although judging by his personal site, he may be overselling how in-demand he is.
Outside of Nina’s party, we get to know more about Nina’s family and background in general, particularly her husband, who uses their couple’s scene to blatantly promote his bitcoin mining machine reselling business from a company whose hardware is rapidly depreciating in value. Apparently, license plates are set at an obscene premium corresponding to an indication of class, further proving that you can truly make anything valuable. “I could never justify spending that much on a license plate,” says the woman who was planning to test drive multiple Rolls-Royces as an anniversary present as an upgrade from a Bentley. Nina’s aim to capture the tale of two cities is comical, but it’s a gambit with a very unclear endgame.
Ayan’s whole segment this week comes with a lengthy Islamic explainer. On a date with her husband, who is apparently a Boise State alum, they pass by what seems to be a Mosque that is loudly broadcasting the Surah Al-Fatiha — the opening chapter of the Qur’an and the start of all prayers — and not the adhan, which is the call to prayer; she recites along, and she translates the portion she recites incorrectly (it loosely says “guide us to the straight path / The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor”). We find out she ran away from a planned wedding to her cousin to chase true love. (Islamically, cousins getting married is not forbidden, as those who have watched Ramy have probably discovered). While the planned goats and cows and rice went to waste, Chris did adhere to paying her family a dowry, a common custom in East Africa and the Swahili Coast that my family also participates in.
Next week, we have the arrival of Phaedra and the lifting of the Eileen Davidson Accords. See you then!
• The show seems to be struggling to find a proper narrative to give Caroline Brooks. We’re four episodes in and we now see Brooks on an episode of bizarro House Hunters and being a doting mom. Her remarks on making more inclusive spas ring a little confusing. I definitely understand when it comes to things like braiding down properly for a wig install or doing a proper sew-in and natural hair treatments, but is Brooks trying to say that she is struggling to find proper treatments for lasering dark and thick hair on skin that is visibly darker — or chemical peels, or whatever — in the Arab world? I need this elaborated on because maybe she means some salons are unwilling to treat Black women. Also, just a minor quibble, but if your exes are investing in your businesses or giving you seed money, you are not a self-made millionaire, and that is fine.
• I care about the status of Billy the Goat’s diet more than I care about Caroline’s eggs, but I am perplexed about her talking about Sergio fertilizing them as if they are living in sin. According to their Bravo timeline, they already legally married in Mauritius, and this ceremony is just to placate her spouse. This is probably just more of a confusing framing than anything else, but it leaves me hesitant at her framing Dubai’s changing laws regarding non-married couples as “progress” as opposed to “accommodating the caravan of Brits who have come over and engaged in endless consumerism at the expense of the indigenous community.” I should also note that while you may be able to cohabitate in the West, in most nations, legal protections and first of kin are still conferred by marriage or a legal contract conferring a union or partnership, as many dramatic funerals and will readings have come to bear fruit.
• Ayan-ism of the episode: “When I met Chris, I was supposed to marry my cousin. I was given to my cousin when I was really young. This is normal in my culture. And my cousin was hot, so there was no issue with that. But I really loved Chris.”