celebrity, Love & Romance, pop culture

WE DON’T HAVE THE YACHT—Luann and Tom are getting divorced

After seven months of marriage, Real Housewives of New York City’s Luann de Lesseps D’Agostino and Tom D’Agostino of the Not-The-Grocery-Store-D’Agostinos have filed for divorce. At least they’ll always have Palm Beach. Or rather, West Palm Beach.

Reality television relationships are one of those bizarre things where I don’t know these people, will never know these people, and yet I still have (and feel as if I have a right to have) opinions and emotions about the breakdown of them.

Luann’s relationship with Tom (and his former relationships with her castmates Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan, the latter of which was a FWB-sitch) were a massive part of RHONY’s last season’s drama. And honestly, it was a large crux of this season’s drama as well. It brought us such golden moments as “Don’t let it be about Tom” and “I came from Palm Beach” and my ULTIMATE FAVORITE “WE GOT THE YACHT.”

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Humor, pop culture, television

PRUSTEN (N. A NON-THREATENING VOCALIZATION) AND VANDERPUMP RULES

There’s a product on Amazon called the Baby Shusher. It’s roughly the shape of a bowling pin, bright orange and white, and—when twisting the top half—emits a loud shushing noise that’s supposed to calm down a crying baby. The loud rush of white noise counteracts their own crying and comforts them. The shushing is supposed to mimic the sound in-utero—the rushing blood of the mother’s body makes a sound louder than a vacuum cleaner—which babies have grown accustomed to in the womb.

 

Beyond the baby, various noises go so far back into the psyche that they provide instant comfort. Content tigers make the vocalization Prusten, otherwise known as chuffing, a staccato expulsion of hot air. The noise is used by mothers to calm their young, by two cats greeting each other, or in courting rituals. Trainers have found that mimicking Prusten keeps the tigers relaxed, and tigers often respond with chuffs when they see their human keepers.

For me, reality television is my Baby Shusher. It’s what I entertained myself with this past snow day. I can put on the sounds of relatively wealthy white women fighting and my anxiety goes from a boil to a simmer, my dopamine levels spike, and I become as docile as the doped-up kid from that YouTube video going, “Is this real life?”

You might think that someone with anxiety and depression would respond poorly to the sounds of people fighting. And largely, that’s true—in real life. But there’s something so deeply ingrained in my soul that reacts to people fighting that when I hear it through the computer screen, it sinks into the core of my bones like a warm bath. Likes call to likes, and external anxiety only serves to relax my internal anxiety.

 

I’ve started watching Vanderpump Rules this season. I’m a Real Housewives devotee, but Pump seemed too messy—too much drama and not even wealth—for me to engage in. And that’s true: two of the cast members live in an apartment where you can’t have the air conditioning on at the same time as the microwave because the power will go out. One person regularly has his credit card declined—though he had enough money to pay for plastic surgery to get rid of the lumps in his over-pumped pecs from “taking too many supplements” (wink, wink).

But strangely, once you get past the fact that none of them are likeable—even remotely likeable—which I previously thought was a must for watching reality television, I was irrevocably hooked. And now, I would go so far as to even say that Vanderpump Rules is possibly the greatest reality TV show…ever.

It’s six-to-eight servers (SURvers) at a popular West Hollywood bar who are all aspiring “models” or “actors” or “singers” but they’re in their mid-thirties. They get drunk and fight; get coked out and fight; fuck each other’s sig-others and fight; get engaged and fight; go to charity events and fight. And yet, they’re tied together in a Rat King-like tangle of limbs. Extricate one and they all die.

 

The editing, the tacit conversation between the producers and the audience, as we both watch these dicks drown in their own incompetence, proves more comedic than any Comedy Central special and more masterful than any Oscar nominee.

Usually there’s a Point of No Return for reality television where it gets so dark that it’s not even funny anymore. One example might be Teresa Giudice going to jail for her husband’s tax evasion. Or Kim Richards getting arrested for shoplifting at Target. These are moments so dark that they pull at the internal meat of our hearts—going beyond pathos or empathy and turning into complete, heart-rending disgust and sorrow.

But for some reason, because you start out hating every single character on Vanderpump Rules, there is no moment too dark to take pleasure in. It’s Schadenfreude at its finest. Not when Scheana is talking about how she and her husband went to couples’ therapy once and didn’t need it ever again—knowing that months later, he would clear out her bank account and go Zero Dark Thirty on her, ending in a nasty divorce. Not when Toms Sandoval and Schwartz are literally sobbing—in full drag—at Schwartz’s New Orleans bachelor party because he hates his fiancée so vehemently. Not when Stassi gets turned off by a guy because while he’s not “murder-y,” he’s not “manslaughter-y” enough for her.

I watch these people go from bad to worse—furthering down the path of irredeemable-ness—and instead of being turned off, it soothes me in such a deep way it’s scary. It’s the reflection and fulfillment of your own oilslick soul playing out in (relative) real time, while you can nestle into your comforter and just watch the trainwreck smolder. The sounds of their fighting—over boys and money and liquor bottles at clubs—unlocks my rigid spine and ungirds my muscles until I’m a dazed, big-eyed mess.

giphy

Source: Giphy//Note, this is the MOST normal cast member.

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pop culture, Review, television

Review of REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK FINALE: THE UNRAVELING OF LUANN

Grade: A (but not an A+ because it’s still disgusting and sad)

There are a few episodes of reality television where the “reality” and reality blur together uncomfortably and you realize that these people are, like, really fucking messed up. The episode of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami where Scott smashes a mirror is one. And the finale of this season’s Real Housewives of New York City is another. The drama was so close, so hideous, and so tangible that it almost felt scripted. But it was real in the ugliest way.

We open up back in Miami, where the producers cattle-prodded the Housewives into going because Mohegan Sun sucked and Bethenny was bleeding too profusely to go to Mexico (I never thought I would be angry at vaginas for having their own storylines in RHONY and having those storylines impede my promise at a dramatic vacay). Bethenny, whose jawline is really cute now, has just told Luann that she has a photo of Tom and some woman making out. AT THE REGENCY. WHICH I’M ASSUMING IS A BAR.

Side “bar” (ha?): These women and the inhabitants of their social spheres inhabit only, like, three places in Manhattan: Boutique the club, The Regency Bar, and Sonja’s vagina. The last one has late checkout, so it’s particularly popular for the late-risers.

Anywayanywayanyway, Luann refuses to believe Bethenny and oscillates rapidly between swooning onto the ground like a Southern Belle, fake-vomiting, and shouting, “TOM’S MADLY IN LOVE WITH ME.” Reminder: they have been dating for four weeks and engaged for one. Luann says that she “knows” he’s the one. FOUR WEEKS.

For her part, Bethenny does truly seem remorseful, which is a little too late. The entire season, Bethenny has been a raging psychopath (not a diss, just a fact) and so mean to Jules, so I find it a little weird that this is the thing that she’s in literal tears about. After she tells Lu, the camera shows her sitting in bed, lying in bed, and drinking straight from the Skinnygirl bottle. Great sutured advertising, btw Bravo!!

The entire time (all four weeks) that Luann and Tom have been together, the women have said that Luann is in love with being in love, and in love with the hype. And when she whispers to Bethenny, haggard and old and tired, “Don’t do this to me,” it’s almost as if she’s asking Bethenny, “Don’t do this to me. Don’t ruin my storyline.” I know that’s harsh, but I think it’s also true. Luann is an honestly awful person. I don’t want her to be unhappy, but I also think that this is a natural progression of her storyline.

This episode was, for the first thirty minutes, too close and ugly and weird and not-good drama. Luann’s in a tizzy, Bethenny’s inconsolable, Ramona is getting very close to people’s faces and screaming, “I FOUND OUT THAT MARIO WAS CHEATING FROM PAGE SIX.” It’s a lot.

And then, when Luann is in the bathroom after the bomb has been dropped and she’s been talking with Tom, you see the wildness recoil and something more calculated take its place. Reality TV “reality.”

However, before we get into the whole problematic of it all, I just have one moment that is perfect. Luann, this entire time while she’s been spinning out, has been texting Tom via voice call. Meaning, she speaks into Siri and Siri types out a text message. TO REMIND US THAT THESE WOMEN ARE ELDERLY.

Luann, in her text to Tom: “How could you do this to me. Question mark.” BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO VERBALIZE PUNCTUATION. A moment of levity.

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Source: Bravo TV// “How could you do this to me. Question mark.”

After she’s freaked out, Luann does the classic horrible move of getting back together with Tom and shooting up Bethenny like a trussed-up turkey on Thanksgiving. Why is Bethenny so involved with Luann’s business? Why is she gunning for Tom? Why did she fact-check?

The last one makes me actually annoyed. Bethenny rigorously fact-checked and made sure that her information was solid before coming to Luann. LUANN SEES THAT AS SHADY. LUANN, YOUR FIANCE IS PLAYING TONSIL-HOCKEY WITH A COUGAR AT THE REGENCY. GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.

Luann’s darkest moment, when you glimpse the depths of her denial and delusion, comes when she tries to believe her own lies. She says they had a fight, he went to the Regency, and met up with a girl whom he had not seen in a while. She was, according to Luann, “of course ready, willing, and able to be there for him. And, you know, Tom fell into her clutches.”

And right there, more than any other moment in the episode, is when I decided that I hate Luann. Because someone who blames other women for the cheating of her fiance, who forgives the man but slut-shames the other women, is so beyond anti-feminist that it’s disgusting. Women like Luann are so willing to believe their own narratives, that men are gullible and fall into the traps of women, that they take back cheaters time and time again because “that’s just their nature.” Tom can’t help it. UM TOM COULD HELP IT. AND HE’LL DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Luann will keep making excuses for him because to not make excuses would be to give up the fantasy and the narrative of “Happy wife, happy life.” And that makes me so sad, that people are willing to sacrifice so much for the facade of a good life.

Luann does a bunch of shitty other stuff, but all in the haze of acting for the storyline. She’s gone and cracked, and it shows. During Bethenny’s Mexican fiesta party, appropriation to the max, the women are discussing the $10K pinata (I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN) that Bethenny got them, when Luann marches up, taps on Bethenny’s shoulder and says, “STOP TALKING ABOUT ME AND TOM.” She obviously believes in the reality tv formula that a group of women talking must be gossiping. It’s so obviously her trying to start drama and her blind belief that these women really care that I had to laugh. I didn’t want to. I HAD to.

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Source: Bravo TV// What’s sadder: Jules’ belief her marriage will succeed or her denim lewk?

This finale was one of the darkest I’ve ever seen, from the glimpses of turbulent pain in Jules’ eyes as she says that she hopes hers and Michael’s eighth anniversary will be lucky for their marriage, knowing full well that in the time of the testimonial filming, her relationship has already headed for divorce. The blind faith of Dorinda. The magic eyes of Ramona. Sonja looked amazing, but she always does. The upcoming knowledge of what Carole will wear to the Reunion. All SUPER dark stuff, you guys.

And at the center of the tornado, in a circle of belying calm, are Bethenny and Luann. Their friendship in tatters, and Bethenny’s utter disbelief that Luann could attack her for Bethenny’s probably first, and last, attempt at benevolent, no-strings-attached do-gooding. Luann will choose her LuMan every time, and the rest of the girls are just collateral damage.

I typed this all on my new LAPTOP, so I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet, but I wanted to put up content. Also my BIRTHDAY IS TOMORROW #TWENTYFUN. Ugh I hate myself for that hashtag, but I won’t delete it. I need to learn from my shame.

Favorite Moments:

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  • Bethenny screaming at a waiter to never serve vegetarian ceviche in her presence again.
  • Luann: “Me and Tom are doing our own therapy. People tell us to go to a therapist, I say, Why?”
  • Everyone loving Adam’s new haircut. It’s cute. It’s not that cute.
  • Sonja being confused by food and reminding us, yet again, that she and Tom were lovers and that her current boyfriend gets his rocks off to antique napkins.
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