I have an embarrassing secret. I watch, on occasion, episodes of any number of the franchises of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of [insert location here].” I tend to watch when my husband is away and I need to deaden my mind, yet remain alert enough to care for the children in case of an emergency. Yes, that’s my reason, and I’m sticking to it.
These shows are horrible, I am well aware of this fact. But they are so utterly ridiculous, and I convince myself that they are so perfectly staged that I write them off as a low-expenditure/high-return method for a cable network to produce unique content.
Last night I watched the “Real Housewives of New York.” Two women are at each other’s throats because one has challenged the foundation of the other’s professional life as a writer. She accused her directly and spread rumors everywhere else that she used a ghost-writer to write a New York Times best-seller. Not nice, but the accuser just wrote her first book, a memoir that she said was like “writing an email,” just “easy.” It’s a ridiculous fight, largely driven by the first-time memoirist’s desire for affirmation, validation, adulation, etc. The fight started out with just some mild snark, then outright aggressiveness, and then other people got involved… Absurd.
But it makes me forget whatever occupies my mind, for a moment.
I watched last night and laughed, comforted that none of this is “real.” That both women are complicit, enacting this drama for the benefit of ratings. That women aren’t really so weird and mean to each other.
Well, today, a woman was quite mean to me. Snarky, bi*chy, passive-aggressive, whatever word you prefer, but her behavior was such that I actually asked her “Are you being mean to me right now?” This woman was just glaring at me, and her voice was a bit off, like she was trying really hard to sound “light and breezy” but it came off more like “shrill and unstable.”
The friend she was with looked at her own feet; she couldn’t seem to look at my face.
My children looked at the mean woman. Yeah, my children. She was mean to me outside my children’s school, as I picked them up at the end of the day. And I asked her to clarify her behavior, because it’s what I tell my children to do if they’re not sure why somebody is treating them a certain way.
“Are you being mean?” (Because it feels like you are, and I want to be sure that’s your intent.) She said, “Oh, NOOOOOOO.” If you could see sarcasm and malice drip from somebody’s face, it would have been dripping from hers. I said, “Huh. Okay.” And we walked away. Just like I teach my children.
It’s a weird thing, to have somebody be mean–not accidentally, but intentionally mean–to you. It’s never really happened to me as an adult before. And for it to happen today? It was just not the right day.
I’m a nearly 44-year-old woman with two children, a part-time job, and a husband who is often not here. I’m in the midst of one of life’s most stressful events: moving. It’s public now, and today folks in my “school sphere” of life were being so kind to me and saying how much I’ll be missed, or how sad they are that I’m leaving, or congratulating us or wishing us well. It’s so much warmth and affection–it’s a bit overwhelming. No, it’s tremendously overwhelming, and I’m not easily overwhelmed. I am rarely even whelmed.
But this one woman who chose to be mean to me, over what I can assure you is an utterly baffling non-issue, she kind of killed all that, in an instant. Because I let her, and I’m so angry at myself that I did. I was just so unprepared. And admittedly, a bit weakened, given all the energy I’m expending on any number of other things.
I came home and just kind of broke. I called my friend and cried and cried to her on the phone, sounding like an utter child, being an utter fool. I cried as I scanned in a power of attorney form so that my husband can sign for me at the closing on our new home next week. I cried as I scanned in a signed addendum to agree to a credit to buyers for minor roof repairs on our current home. I cried as I finished up my work for the day. I cried as I got the kids a snack and reviewed homework.
And I’m still freaking crying. I told my kids that I was just having a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day, just like Alexander in one of their favorite books. They understood and gave me hugs. They know, from their own experience, that tomorrow will be better. I’ll stop crying soon.
My husband just called from about 7500 miles away, about another matter. I answered the phone, crying the minute I saw his name on my screen. I told him about all this. The kids were outside playing so we could use lots of really bad words. I feel better. Stronger. I stopped crying.
Everybody needs a release, I guess.
My dear friend said to me earlier on the phone, “I’ve only known you to cry twice–this is the second time. You’re human. It’s okay.”
So there’s my confession: I’m human. And I guess I’m okay with that.