I have a confession. I am a Real Housewives junkie. It is a bit shameful, I admit. But I can not stop. It has all the sweet and salty elements I crave. But more than anything, I think I watch it because it is great for my self-confidence. Sure, they are all beautiful women living in swanky pads wearing the latest designer duds. But watching them tear each other to shreds over trivial issues that would make even a high school clique cringe with embarrassment makes me feel, well, very mature and balanced. And they certainly prove that money can not buy happiness…or class (yes, Countess LuAnn, my finger is pointing ironically at YOU. I hate to break it to you, but claiming to have class and singing a song about class does not mean you actually have it. Neither does using the word “darling” or your incredibly annoying overuse of its Arabic counterpart, “ya habibi”).
But as I watched The Real Housewives of New York City reunion special this week, I realized that this show may actually make me a better parent. And I say that with no sarcasm in my typing fingers. We’ve all heard that parents should model the behaviors they WANT to see in their children. Well, the reunion special was a wide open, freshly Windexed window into a big, giant house of crazy, full of every behavior I do NOT want my children to exhibit. Name calling, blatant disrespect, and lying, not to mention so much talking over one another that the decibel levels must reach that of a wailing siren (but more grating). And these were GROWN women! I don’t know how host and fellow St. Louis native Andy Cohen stomachs it…he must get a hefty paycheck.
But what disturbed me more than anything was the total lack of willingness to take responsibility for any slimy thing that was said or done throughout the season…despite the fact that it is ALL DOCUMENTED ON FILM! Anytime one of the women was asked about a snide remark, backstabbing action, or just plain mean intention, she would immediately blame someone else or divert attention by bringing up a time when someone else wronged her. Not that this has never happened before on one of the many Real Housewives episodes, but it just seemed that much more prevalent this time around.
Maybe that is because my daughter is getting older. She is weeks away from entering first grade, and it amazes me how already I am seeing very clear and vivid glimpses of the young woman she will become. Her wheels are turning, trying to figure out the world, where she fits into the world, what society finds acceptable, what her mother and father find acceptable. And more than ever, she is trying to discover what she can get away with and what she can’t.
I have to admit that earlier today when I caught Grace very intentionally throwing a toy at her brother and defending herself with, “It’s not my fault. Michael yelled at me, and the toy slipped, and he was just standing in the way of where I was throwing it,” (as if to cover all her bases of motive and accidental scenarios), I flipped. I suddenly saw housewife Kelly Bensimon lounging on my couch denying some catty comment she made about Sonja (again, despite just seeing the clip where she said it) then claiming it wasn’t her fault if anyone was offended by it.
“You WILL take responsibility for what you do!” I chided, as my daughter looked at me a bit bewildered. “Now say you did it. Say you threw that toy at your brother!”
Her little voice quietly parroted me. “I threw that toy at my brother.”
“Thank you,” I said. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made her take responsibility.Then I walked out of the room…completely forgetting to punish her for hurting Michael in the first place. But that is okay. I will just blame my poor parenting moment on The Real Housewives of New York.