The Real Housewives: my drug of choice

    Pop Culture Confessional is a weekly column where our writers can divulge and indulge in their most deeply embarrassing cultural passion — and then tell you why it actually rocks. Everyone has a few dirty little secrets. Only the truth shall set us free.

    The cast of the fifth season of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Photo courtesy of Bravo.

    Alcoholics have AA. Smokers have hotlines. Where is the service for people addicted to Bravo’s The Real Housewives?

    As with most addictions, interest in The Real Housewives began as innocent curiosity. Its 2006 premiere was reality television’s answer to Desperate Housewives, which at the time was America’s guiltiest pleasure. But the addiction grew and took on a life of its own. The Real Housewives, which originally was confined to Orange County, spread to New York City, Atlanta and most recently, New Jersey.

    My obsession began last year during a New York City TV marathon. From the moment a feud began in the Hamptons between two of the housewives, I was hooked. Maybe it’s because each episode features the rise, eruption and aftermath of some ludicrous fight that in the grand scheme of things is pure minutia. Maybe it is the fact that the women featured on the show are of high social standing and always have some elegant gala to attend. Whatever the reason, trying to tear myself from the TV ever since that first episode last year has been about as successful as finding one of the housewives shopping at Wal-Mart. It just doesn’t happen.

    Why am I so easily sucked into the fabulous lives of these so-called housewives? Each episode offers its own unique brand of absurdity. We get to be flies on the walls of the housewives’ mansions and watch as they plan social functions, go out for a night on the town or sit in their kitchens mercilessly trashing other women. It sounds nonsensical, but any Housewives fan understands the sense of satisfaction in essentially being part of these conversations. That this pattern is seen in each of the show’s destinations is what keeps us coming back for more. Well, that and the fact that last night’s episode is a surefire conversation starter.

    Somewhere between the fights, backstabbing and absurd amounts of money lies the irony: this is not real life. But the best part? The show’s leading ladies think it is.

    Take NeNe for example. The former stripper will pick a fight with anyone. She shamelessly talks about her fellow Atlanta housewives behind their backs, then never fails to get into a screaming match to settle things. Ah, the joys of healthy relationships.

    Then there is Teresa, the stage mom who, after a heated argument on the New Jersey season finale, freaked out and flipped a table full of food and wine. And who can forget when New York City housewife Countess LuAnn gave her “friend” Bethenny a lesson on the proper way to address her? Or when Gretchen shamelessly flirted with Tamra’s much younger son on Orange County’s fifth season?

    Countless hours of my life have been lost to watching NeNe pull Kim’s weave and LuAnn call Ramona “crazy eyes,” and I can’t say I would want it any other way. It’s also difficult to avoid since Bravo’s schedule is masterfully crafted: The Real Housewives marathons are played for hours leading up to the premiere of a new episode, turning my day into a blur of catfights and extravagances.

    Occasionally it dawns on me how utterly ridiculous The Real Housewives franchise is. Essentially, the show follows a group of 40-year-old women with seemingly endless money supplies as they party and fight like high school girls. The excuse that some of the housewives have “real jobs” is weak — believe me, I’ve tried to use it. But that doesn’t stop me from turning on Bravo every Thursday night to indulge in some much-needed shallow reality television.

    I know I’m not the only one with this condition; there are other Real Housewives addicts out there who will also spend entire days physically on the couch but mentally in Orange County, Atlanta, New Jersey or New York. We revel in the lives that we know are atypical, and convince ourselves that we are on first-name bases with the leading ladies. Their fights are our fights. Their friendships are our friendships.

    So this is my addiction. I’m not ready to quit.


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