I must first confess that I am absolutely obsessed with each and every franchise of The Real Housewives. I tend to DVR shows during the week, and watch on weekend nights once I finally have a sliver of time, and I cannot even describe the giddy feeling I get when I see two or three episodes waiting there for me to watch. I do not, however, let my 14 year old daughter watch these shows, despite the fact that she has friends who have been watching for a few years now. And it occurred to me that the reasons why I do not let her watch would actually make a great list of teachable moments in raising girls.
Announcing that you are not jealous is the best way to show that, actually, you probably are. “Some people may like the whole palatial mansion thing, not me!” “I would never want to have so many people calling me beautiful all the time – that would just get so old!” You get the idea. It’s hard to watch sometimes, especially when new housewives meet one another and size each other up. It makes me take stock of when I’ve come off this way, and to teach my daughter that it’s normal to envy something that someone else has, and that usually acknowledging it and moving on works a lot better than pretending it really doesn’t bother you. Oh, that reminds me of the follow up: Following the I’m-not-jealous speech with an insult will completely confirm your jealousy. “I would never want a house full of staff attending to every chore, how annoying…. and did you see how ugly the clothes were that the housekeeper was hanging up?” You see what I mean.
In a similar vein to the jealousy lesson, no one believes that you aren’t aware that you are brand-name dropping as you get ready to go somewhere. “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry I’m late for lunch… I’m trying to figure out where to park the Bentley.” “I’m going to scream if I have to walk one more block in my Louboutins today!” “Okay sweetie, let’s get on your little Versace jumpsuit and head to your playdate!” I think the housewives really think we buy that they are absent-mindedly naming these items. I have never been guilty of saying “How long until the Corolla gets to the store, babe?”
My daughter used to come home from middle school irritated by a girl who constantly mentioned how many pairs of Uggs she had. We talked about how it made sense to think how cool it might be to have so many pairs (see jealousy, above), but that it’s also more important to be happy with the kind of person you are, not just what you have. On The Real Housewives, it’s amazing that you can see one lady’s amazing closet/car/house and then in the next scene see the next lady with even more. If I did let my daughter watch, I would show her that they learn just like the rest of us – someone will always have something more. You can’t control what other people have, but you can control the quality of your character.
The way you treat those who you perceive as beneath you speaks volumes. There are those housewives who seem to treat anyone who even looks like they might be in a lower tax-bracket than them as peasants. Carry this, give me that, serve me, without so much as a ‘thank you.’ I cringe when I see this, but I also assume this is their way of looking the part of higher status without much effort. And then there are those who seem to be almost friends with those who work in their homes and actually make eye-contact with those working in the service industry. I just saw an episode in which the housewife that most would agree has the most money and influence was packing her suitcases along with her housekeeper and hauling things around herself instead of just barking orders.
A similar thing happens with girls. It’s easy to look popular if you can outdo the least popular girl. If you become the meanest girl, there’s no one left to be mean to you. Developing character in girls is so hard during the time when peer acceptance is so important to them. Acknowledging the need to be liked by others and not let it be at the expense of someone else can be an uphill battle. And it isn’t often done without mistakes and clumsiness along the way, but it is a worthy goal.
If people are yelling at you – get up and leave! Okay, now I realize there would be no show if it weren’t for the drama. And some of us are grown up enough to see this for what it is. But I really think girls, and even some young adults, who are still figuring out the world, see this show and think this is normal conflict. And worse yet, they think this is how they should handle things when they have conflict. If I was at my book club meeting and some of the ladies turned on me and started screaming, guess what? I’d get up and go home! The last thing I would do is sit there taking it, screaming back, and trading insults about hair and clothes (you guys don’t like my yoga pants?). Teach your girls about effective conflict resolution and stepping away from the drama!
Did I say that the last thing I would do is sit there and take it? Actually, the last thing I would do is go on vacation with people who can’t stand me! I can’t really make a lesson out of this one, it’s simply too obvious. And again, I realize this is now part of the show. But it just cracks me up that certain housewives have huge conflict and drama with the majority of their castmates, and then they are calling each other to plan a vacation together. Oh fine, I’ll make it a teachable moment. If there are people that you don’t like, or who don’t like you, consider spending less time with them.