I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with The Real Housewives TV series on Bravo. That’s right — The Real Housewives of New York City, Atlanta, Orange County, DC AND New Jersey.
The obsession began about a year ago when I came down with a vicious bout of the stomach flu. It hurt to listen to my iPod, to flip pages of a novel, and obviously I couldn’t eat. All I could do was writhe in my bed in front of the TV. And there on my TV was a Housewives marathon. One after the other after the other. Perfect. I thought, “WHERE have you been all my life?”
All I wanted to do was escape. Escape from how I was feeling, and any other stress that might cause my head to throb any harder. So I watched. And I watched. And then I swore I’d never get hooked on Jersey, but then I saw the table-flipping clip on youtube, and I was, like, “screw brain cells! I have to watch this!” I was hooked.
There’s something so addictive and enjoyable — especially for moms — about these shows. Something so delicious and crave-worthy, better than a grande soy no-water tazo chai latte from Starbucks (and that’s saying a lot). These women, most of whom are mothers, worry about nothing outside of their own dramas, outside of what to wear on a blind date, how many carats their new diamond ring is — the number of which their husbands never fail to repeat over and over for the cameras — or, of course, their own flawless, generally surgically-enhanced gorgeousness.
These women are polar opposites of me. Me, who worries incessantly about all sorts of rational and irrational things. It’s refreshing to see life lived so superficially. Not that I’m taking note. I’m just escaping for a while — into a world where diamonds are a girl’s best friend, a $3,576 spending spree at the shoe store is an ordinary thing, and where even salad sparkles.
Admittedly, these shows are also exercises in non-judgment. The show editors don’t hold back when it comes to controversial mommy moments. One of the women smokes in her house, pretty much in her kids’ faces, and tells them she’d planned on quitting smoking eventually “for them,” but now that she has a singing contract, and needs her voice to be perfect, she’ll quit now. (She doesn’t quit.) Another woman is so excited that her daughter’s been picked up by a top modeling agency because now she will travel to Milan, etc., and, of course, she better throw a celebratory lunch for herself. Another takes her two daughters, who are under two years old, for “mani-pedis” — oy, the PHTHALATES! — because, she says, she wants her girls to learn to look their best at a young age. And still another….. It goes on. And I’m okay with it, really. Aside from the smoking mom, I can laugh at all this. I can be nonjudgmental. I can admire these moms, at the very least, for not letting anxiety of PHTHALATES ruin a good time — even if that good time is often mostly for Mom, who really is doing her unique best.
I watch The Real Housewives and revel in the fantasy of motherhood without anxiety. Sure, there are points in the show when I’m relieved, say, that I’m not going through what Tamra of Orange County went going through: her son is going to jail and gets a fresh tattoo the size of my cat on his torso just to spite her. And poor Tamra’s (now ex) husband is controlling…. And there’s Lynn who can’t seem to set boundaries for her teenage girls, and it’s biting her in the butt. She also can’t figure out that her more rebellious daughter wants to do more than shop in order to connect with her….
It’s not all fun and games, no. But the hair, the makeup, the clothes, the CLEAVAGE! These women are single-handedly bringing big breasts back! And those of us who weren’t so lucky to shrink back to our original breast size after breastfeeding should ALL thank them for that. Thank you thank you THANK YOU.
And here I sit. A real housewife of…Toronto. I’ll turn the show on in a while. The new season of New York has finally landed in Canada. And I’ll gawk at Bethenny Frankel’s perfect post-baby body, watch the women drink and drink and drink, laugh at the petty dramas, and learn what NOT to do (and maybe even what TO do) when my kids are teenagers. And I’ll look forward, I think, to aging gracefully, with sexuality in tact (rawr), and to an escape that I can count on.