"I am simple … and proud."
I was in a relationship with a man who criticized my cultural taste as too simple. "I don't understand why you see this junk," he said when I curled up on the sofa before an episode of The Real Housewives. Then he would run away angry, presumably to read Homer's Iliad in the original Greek. It was the first sign that our romantic connection was doomed to fail.
Elizabeth wears: dress, Kitri. Earrings, Ania sharks
If you've never seen The Real Housewives, you may not know that this televisual giant that started in 2006 as a fairly conventional fly-on-the-wall documentary after the life of a group of privileged, wealthy women in a gated community in Orange County , California, has spawned several spin-offs around the world. My favorite is New York (muzzled), followed by Beverly Hills (glamorous) and Atlanta (hilarious). Britain has The Real Housewives of Cheshire, which has just started its ninth season.
You are probably working under the misunderstanding that the program consists of silicone-reinforced women who yell at each other through kale salads. You may think the storylines are fake, and you may feel the need to criticize both the conspicuous consumption and the declining concept of calling a woman in the #MeToo era "housewife". And look, I realize that my cross-border obsessive worship of The Real Housewives franchise doesn't necessarily have to be listed on my resume. I am aware that the hours I spend making it more profitable, going to the theater or finally learning salsa.
But the reason I enjoy it is that women over 45 are rarely displayed on the screen in all their multi-faceted splendor. There is a plot on The Real Housewives of Cheshire dedicated to one of the actors dealing with menopause. When I went through IVF, I consoled myself in watching Meghan King Edmonds (Orange County) go through the same process and had myself filmed by giving injections and doing scans.
Housewives have dealt with dating, alcoholism, depression, aging, family alienation and messy divorces. They may be rich and privileged, but they face the same ups and downs as the rest of us. When I see how they deal with the consequences of every life crisis, I can learn from them. And even if they have more flair for drama than I do, it's obvious when the emotions are real. I don't think I've ever seen relationships between women that have been portrayed so accurately.
Women like this are not often represented in the primetime drama. The housewives have a back country of experience, which makes it interesting to watch. These women have been pushed around a bit and are not afraid to speak their minds. Plus, they're often very, very funny. Most of the time, they are not even housewives, but run their own highly profitable businesses. Bethenny Frankel (New York) sold her low-fat cocktail company for $ 100 million in 2011 and graced the cover of Forbes magazine.
The other thing that makes The Real Housewives so special is that women are defined by their friendships with other women, rather than being portrayed in terms of their romantic interests. The men in their lives are walkable, but are always seen in supporting roles.
As a writer, I am thrilled to have access to a range of interesting, powerful female voices that inspire me to create compelling fictional characters. And I tell everyone who criticizes my addiction to real housewives: "It's research, darling."
This week I'm …
Massage My face with the chlorophyll detox mask from Perricone MD, which feels like my skin is firmer and more radiant.
Eat cereal by Panzers Deli in North London. I have been looking for the perfect breakfast cereal for years and now – lo and behold! – I found it.
Listen The Longform Podcast: Interviews with feature authors about how they tackle their topics. More interesting than I just did.
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