Friday, June 12, 2009

"Real Housewives of Orange County" We're Not

Full disclosure: I do not watch "The Real Housewives of Orange County." Likewise, I've missed out on the accompanying phenomenon of "The Real Housewives of New York," "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," and the newest (I think) incantation "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." These shows make me roll my eyes in exasperation. Real people cannot possibly act the way the commercials portray them. So I've mostly ignored these shows, which I feel actually do more harm than good to the area they purport to represent. 

That being said, I am not a reality TV snob--one of my guilty (and I do mean guilty!) pleasures in life  is watching aging rocker Brett Michaels in "Rock of Love." In that case, I am the gawker on the freeway, hoping that a body will be pulled out of the twisted mass of smoking metal at the side of the road. And in the case of "Rock of Love" the show always delivers.

So moving on...two of my best friends, Jeanette and Jackie love the"The Real Housewives of Orange County." A morning coffee with the girls invariably leads to a discussion of the previous episode. So I (albeit rather unwillingly) know more about the shows than the average avowed non "Housewives" watcher. 

So last night I was channel checking and came across the "Real Housewives of Orange County" reunion show. After watching for a brief two or three minutes, I just had to turn the channel. These women were just so damn mean to each other. It was like watching "Mean Girls: The Middle Aged Years." But "Mean Girls" the movie is a hilarious send-up of high school cliches (think "Heathers" altho not quite as dark--or, hate to say it, as good). "Housewives" is supposed to be "real."

Yeah, yeah. I know. Mean makes for good television. If the housewives sat around telling each other how terrific the others are, no one would watch. What fun is there in hearing, "I really admire you for overcoming that terrible situation with your values still intact."?? But please--at what cost just to be on TV? For god's sake, isn't life difficult enough without actively trying to emotionally injure another person?

And yes, I realize I'm being a bit hypocritical. If you've seen "Rock of Love" (and it's okay to admit it, you can be anonymous here) you know that those girls can be both mean and physically violent. But the difference is between the two is that in ROL, the girls are forced to live in close quarters and  are given incredibly stupid "challenges" to win the love of a possibly-bald (why, oh why, does he wear that bandana all the time??) and undeniably over-the-hill ex glam rocker whose hey-day was a decade before these girls were even born. It's a total set up, obviously intended to create as much friction and drama as humanly possible. "Housewives" is pitched as "real" women, living their "real" lives. 

From the episode re-hashes I've heard over cafe mochas with Jeanette and Jackie, the "housewives" actively dislike each other. And make no bones about it. They set out not just to hurt each other, but leave deep emotional scars that won't heal without extensive surgery. But, Jeanette and Jackie insist, the women are friends. 

What the old saw? With friends like these who needs enemies? The phrase made flesh, truly.

So I don't watch the show. My choice. Gotta love the remote control! I'm sure there are plenty out there who feel the same about Keith Olbermann -- whom I love and would have hot, sweaty, (if imaginary) sex with in less time than in takes him to choke out: "Rush Limbaugh is the devil." (Reference the never-ending and rather hilarious battle between Olbermann and the right-wing radio personality)

Geez! I can really go off on a tangent, can't I? It's a gift. Actually, I really only do this in writing--I'm a total goober on the phone, rarely able to think of a thing to say. I'm  not even that good in person unless I feel very comfortable (or I've had copious amounts of alcohol, and then I mostly talk about how much I love you.) 

So anyway! What I intended this post to be about--and the topic I will now get around to--is my own friendships. Real housewives of Orange County we're not. A TV audience watching us would more definitely yawn, because we really are more likely to give each other compliments than sling insults. We don't even do those passive aggressive slams like, "Wow, that's a daring outfit." We all genuinely like each other. 

I mean, duh. Of course we like each other. But what is so truly special about my close friends is how much they inspire me.  As broadly different as my friends are--different income levels, political persuasions, career paths, personal situations, life outlooks--they all share that commonality. Every single one of my closest friends--without exception--has a specific trait that I want to emulate: among them, determination, intelligence, grace, patience, creativity, open-mindedness, empathy, persistence. While I have these traits to a certain degree, being with my friends helps draw them out, hone them, sharpen them, perfect them. 

And another wonderful thing about my friends just occurred to me as I sit here on a Friday night, alternately watching the Tivo'd season finale of "Supernatural" and writing this post: we all support each other. We genuinely celebrate each other's successes. We are mercifully free of "frenvy." 

Oh, sure, I joke that I want Larissa's art career or Jackie's fabulous legs. And it's an open secret that Jeanette's gorgeous Villa Park home is the home of my dreams (I'd buy it and everything in it if I only had the $3 mill or so it's worth!) My bf/sister seems to have found the secret to keeping her man desperately in love with her--yeah, I'd love to know how she's managed that! Is it a special perfume?? Mel's laugh and blond hair can stop the conversation in a room.  Mo's self-confidence is impressive--as is her knowledge of most any subject you talk to her about, from politics to baseball to babies. And Bev has overcome a nightmare past to be one of the most genuine people I know. Give me free reign and I'd fill the page with the traits I admire about my best friends. But the point is, rather than feel envious of my friends, I strive to be like them--and I hope, in some small way, they feel the same about me. 

I would challenge a camera crew to follow us around for a while. Sure, they won't get the back-stabbing (we have an unwritten rule in our group about gossip--nobody does it) but they will get real people facing real situations. Supporting each other, and loving each other. You want drama? Two years ago I had to wean myself off a three-year Paxil prescription--a month of my life that I wouldn't have gotten through without daily, near-hysterical calls to my friends. Marriage ups and downs and ups--from "He's amazing!" to "We got in a fight" to  "I can't spend another day with that a--hole" to "Maybe it will work out" to "He's really trying" and back around again and again...anyone who has been married more than 5 minutes understands those!

And they'll get the fun stuff, too--like our summertime Pink Flamingos, a traveling party hosted by a different friend each month. Weekend get-aways--Jackie, Jeanette & my trip to Chicago two years ago--who knew a city could be so exciting?? My 40th birthday party. It was the best birthday of my life--what I remember of it, that is (wink, wink)--when we all jumped in a limo and went down to Laguna, had a great dinner, met cute boys (men, actually!) but still managed to behave (well, in my case, it was only thanks to my somewhat sober sister, who kept an annoyingly close eye on me so I wouldn't make a complete jack ass of myself around said cute men). Or hanging out at Jackie's 'till 2:00am, sitting in the jacuzzi and having extremely serious discussions over nothing in particular.  

In thinking about it, maybe that's why I find shows like "Real Housewives of (name your city)" kinda sad and why I don't watch them. The idea of women who are supposed to be friends (aren't they? Or am I missing the point entirely?) going out of their way to tear each other down. But then, they're the ones on TV and I'm not, so what do I know?

All I know for sure is that I'm lucky to have the friends I do. Now I want to know, when are we gonna get our own show?

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