I have a confession to make. I love The Real Housewives of New York City. While they’ve been derided as everything from anti-feminist to blatantly consumerist, Luann, Bethenny, Sonja, Ramona, Dorinda and Carole are my kind of gals.
I live deep in the heart of real housewife country. After-school pickup here has started to look like a go-see for a Fabletics ad. Unlike the Real Housewives, many of the real housewives I know pretend their lives are as perfect as they look. There is little general discussion of aging, marriage struggles, the trials of parenting or financial stress. Women mainly talk about kitchen remodels, vacation properties and the accomplishments of their kids. Were it not for a handful of honest friends I’ve made, it would be a depressing place to live. Thankfully, every once in a while, you get a glimpse of what’s really going on, like when hackers revealed that our sleepy little town logged the fourth highest Ashley Madison credit card charges in the country.
The sometimes brutal honesty draws me to the women of RHONY. Over the years the Housewives have discussed the breakdown of their marriages, health crises and widowhood. They talk about how hard they work and the importance of financial stability. No subject is considered taboo.
It’s ironic that women known for breast implants, hair extensions and eye lifts keep it more real than women wearing mom jeans at book club.
Each of these women are survivors. Carole and Dorinda were widowed young; Ramona was recently left by her husband; the others are divorced. Jules, at 34, is the youngest of the lot and going through a divorce that promises to teach a lot of life lessons. I wonder if the producers could foresee this when they cast her on the show.
In spite of having endured so much – or perhaps because they’ve endured so much – these women like to have a lot of fun. In the words of their Orange County cast-mate, Vicki Gunvalson, they love to whoop it up. In the midst of the series finale drama Bethenny hosted a party–featuring a piñata stuffed with jewelry–because she knows there are days when all you want to do is hit something and wear diamonds. You have to love that.
The best thing is that in spite of it all, these women are there for each other. As Bethenny said in her toast, capping off another drama-filled season, “We have had men die on us, cheat on us, steal from us, and we’re still standing. Here’s to the empowerment of women. I love you all.”
We should all have a tribe like that.