The Real Housewives of New York City
Now, I really hate to tell our modern-day Bacchae that they have alcohol problems, but, man, Leah really should stop drinking. When she imbibes, she just goes Looney Tunes. By that I mean she is a combination of two specific Looney Tunes. The first is the Tasmanian Devil, the incompressible physical tornado that just grumbles, spins in circles, and pulls the swags off of beautifully adorned outdoor eating structures. The other one is Bugs Bunny when he’s dressed up like a lady to fool Elmer Fudd, and that’s only because even when Leah is acting like all the VFX from Twister she still looks hotter than five-alarm chili fresh out of the microwave.
Leah’s Rampage happens in Newport, Rhode Island, where Ramona takes the women for a few days at the Castle Hill Inn, which is a lovely and sprawling estate right on the nipple-flickingly cold Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been staring at the same walls for almost three months now or if it’s because it just seemed really nice in a patrician New England way that appeals to the Connecticutian in me, but I have never wanted to go on a Real Housewives trip more than this one. The gorgeous, wainscoted rooms. The beautiful outdoor dining area surrounded by hydrangeas. The lobster rolls and welcome drinks on arrival. I don’t care if the women went off-season and in the middle of the week, I would give both of my left nuts to be in their place right now.
That is, until Leah. When all of the women arrive, they take over the hotel’s bar for a buffet lunch and some of Leah’s screaming. She decided, once they arrived, to ask Ramona if her sister could join them for the trip. To take this request out of the show, it’s a little bit odd, as Sonja says, for a guest to invite a guest. Also, if Leah had this idea, why couldn’t she ask back in New York before they left and her sister could have stayed the whole weekend? When Ramona tells her that it would make her uncomfortable, Leah won’t let Ramona say no. She ends up running around the room, polling the women and doing everything in her power to verbally jostle Ramona into acquiescing.
To add the show back into it, the request is especially weird. We know that Ramona didn’t really “plan” this trip, but we do know this is a work trip. When Leah is trying to convince Ramona in the bar, she says, “You invited Elyse and you’re not even talking to her.” Well, that’s because Elyse, a radio left on in the next room, is boring, but it’s also because she’s on the show. The reason your sister isn’t here is because this is not Bring Your Sister to Work Day. It’s also weird for Leah to ask because she’s new to this game and should be working on her relationships within the group. Also, the women normally don’t get to bring friends and/or allies to prop them up on these confrontational occasions. When Ramona says she doesn’t want the “dynamics to go off,” maybe what she means is she doesn’t want a factor in the mix that she can’t predict or control.
Ramona eventually relents, and Leah tells her sister Sarah to join them the next day. But then Ramona changes her mind, and before dinner she enlists Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Kimberly Clarke Brand Head Napkins Morgans and Countess Crackerjacks to have her back when she tells Leah that, actually, her sister can’t come. The problem is that when Leah arrives at dinner, she has already brought some friends. They are Captain Morgan, Jack Daniels, Don Julio, Jose Cuervo, Tito the vodka guy, and just the voice of the bat on a bottle of Bacardi.
The funny thing about the dynamic between Ramona and Leah is that they really seem to get along but they have fallen into mother-daughter roles. Leah even says that she feels like she’s asking Ramona if she can go out and play, and Ramona, who is usually about as protective as a Ben Affleck–brand smoking mask, seems to be taking care of Leah. But it seems that Leah seeks attention through bad behavior and then wants to be deemed capable. When Ramona worries about her drinking, you see a whiff of what Leah’s relationship with her actual mother must be like when she says, “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Uh, Leah, you’re not fine. In about 30 minutes, you will be marauding around the table with your boot in one hand and a shattered martini glass in the other, with one free foot kicking at the camera. Sure, it’s hilarious when Sonja drags her across the lawn and she shouts, “Sonja if you try to drag me onto some Morgan yacht, I am not going to go. I don’t want to go on the yacht. It’s a shitty yacht!” But it all ends kind of quickly. When Ramona tries to talk to her about her sister, she just shouts, “OH HELL NO, BITCH!” and storms off to grab a chair and hoist it above her head like she’s Bret the Hitwoman Hart about to brain someone with a folding chair.
Leah becomes inconsolable, ripping the gorgeous centerpiece to shreds and rambling about the gorgeous outdoor dinner as some muggles stare at the spectacle in the inky darkness just beyond production’s lights. Elyse, a faint whisper of your grandmother’s perfume when you flip through a magazine, tries to calm her down, and Leah shrugs her off, returning her to the other side of the veil from which she came. Dorinda, who just previously was shouting apologies toward Tinsley, has finally become aware and tries to douse Leah in her Loewe sweater. Sonja shouts, “Maybe she has a split personality. I seen it on TV!”
The only way to get Leah to calm down is for Ramona to finally relent and say her sister is welcome. The next morning, Leah doesn’t remember any of it, but she knows that her request was approved. I do think it’s weird that she asked, but I also think it was bad of Ramona to flip-flop. Either she should have stood her ground or just accepted her bad decision. As an uncircumcised man in a porn theater once told me, it’s not nice to jerk people that hard.
This is a view also espoused by Elyse, a passive-aggressive college roommate you’ve muted on Facebook. The thing about her is that she behaved exactly as I would during the whole trip, keeping quiet and appalled to the side and being the voice of reason. The problem is that she is the voice of too much reason. She is too much exactly like me, a person who wants to snipe about reality stars from the comfort of his sofa and not in front of the camera. The way she behaves is fine, but she can’t be offended when the Housewives are Housewives around her. If you’re going to enlist, Elyse, then you need to be ready to go to war.
In that vein, I do sort of agree with Leah when she says, “I saw how they behaved in the Hamptons and at the orchard. I thought I was allowed to chug ten martinis and lose my mind.” It’s especially hypocritical of the countess to say that she never behaved as badly as Leah, and then we see her falling into the bushes back in Mexico. Leah is right — all of these women have a long history of horrible drunken behavior. Just last week, Sonja was scooching her patootie on a corn cob in the middle of an open field. Why can’t Leah have a lost night in Newport?
I will admit, like the countess, I was a little horrified by Leah’s behavior in Newport in a way that I was not in the Hamptons. If she wants to get wasted, rage in Ramona’s backyard, and destroy some tiki torches, have at it. When she starts doing it in a more public sphere and possibly causing harm to another person’s property — a business, no less — that seems a little over the line for me.
Everyone has their own kind of drunk. For some people, it just exacerbates their natural personality, like how Ramona gets more self-involved and Tinsley gets needier. Luann drunk is a good time, as is Sonja until she gets so drunk that her words become a chunky porridge. Dorinda, of course, is a mean drunk to her very, very core. Leah seems like a good time when she’s wasted, until the destruction starts. After three glasses, she just wants to break things, which is a problem. The next day Leah says she wishes she was like that all the time. I don’t think she means breaking things specifically, but I do think she enjoys the anarchy. Leah seems to be a person who has a problem with structures, not just figurative ones, but actual, literal structures. Leah doesn’t want to raise the roof; she wants to tear the house down.
Speaking of the next day, some of the women are critical of her behavior, and that leads Ramona to also be upset about how Leah behaved. When they’re having Bloody Marys at some wharfside bar, Ramona literally blocks Leah from the group with her back. Then she says she blocked out the disorder of the night before because it triggered awful memories from her childhood. “I grew up in a war zone,” she tells us. “My brother is a raging alcoholic. How did I manage to not grow up to be an alcoholic and drug addict? I read my books and blocked it out.” That is some I-wear-my-sunglasses-at-night darkness right there. That is bleak and dour, and I just wrote a spec script for a six-part prestige drama based on that one sentence, called Whiskey Sick.
But no! Here comes Luann with the assist! After Ramona says she doesn’t want to be embarrassed in Newport by Leah, Countess Crackerjacks says, “You don’t mind being embarrassed anywhere else in the world.” Then she tells Leah, in the throes of a teary apology for triggering Ramona, that Ramona didn’t block it out because of trauma, she blacked out because she was drunk and now feels like she should be judgmental because her friends are. The whiplash of it all. The chaos. It’s like trying to take a shit in the ocean and being battered onto your sandy ass repeatedly.
Across a long and bending bridge and across a cruel stretch of time, it is now May and the spring light is slanting through the window of an Upper East Side high-rise. It’s picked up a few glimmers on its journey across the East River, peeking through the sides of the blinds and falling on the cozy knot of auburn hair against one woman’s pillow. She slowly opens her eyes and stares drowsily at the blinds, not moving, just wishing that the sun could somehow calm down at this hour of the morning.
As she prepares to rise, prepares to leave the comforting warmth under her duvet, she thinks that it’s all the same. Everything is the same. It’s all over. She’s done. She’s going to get to go to work and see her friends. She gets to go to a restaurant and have her roots touched up. It’s over. It never happened. This is a dream. No, wait. That was a dream. Something isn’t right, something isn’t wrong. She’s floating between two ideas like a tennis ball caught in a pool skimmer, able to see both sides at once and also none at all.
But she sits up and it sinks in. It’s the same. It’s all the bleeding same and this is just another day in her house, on her street, in her neighborhood, on this island, in this state, in this wild country in the world in the universe in the galaxy, in the big black hole of despair that she’s been orbiting for about eight weeks. It’s the same, Jill Zarin thinks, as her eyes close again for want of closure.