TV Talk: Real Housewives of…Everywhere

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If you follow me on Twitter (come on, I know you want to) you’ve been subjected to my barrage of Real Housewives tweets. Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC); Real Housewives of New York (RHONY) and Real Housewives of Melbourne (RHOMelbourne) are currently on rotation. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills joins in when there are new episodes.

Recently, someone I follow (I can’t find the tweet or I’d post it, so if it was you, please let me know so I can edit this and add it) asked what I thought was a really good question: Why do women watch the Real Housewives when it depicts women so poorly?

I definitely didn’t have an immediate answer. As a feminist, it made me stop and wonder at myself. What am I getting out of these shows?

More than you’d think. And a lot of that stems from the audience watching with me.

First, though, I think it’s pretty clear that the Housewives, as a whole, don’t represent women, let alone all women. They live in a world of fantasy and casual inch-thick makeup, where real is a word that always has implied quotes.

They’re pushed together under artificial circumstances for which they’re perpetually overdressed, where glances from amused, regular guests shatter any illusion of normalcy. I’ve yet to meet someone who knows someone like a “Real” Housewife in real life. They have a job, and they do it.

There’s a reason they feel so familiar from franchise to franchise. They are meant to entertain, and they do.

Which brings me to the best part of these shows. The audience.

While the Housewives can embody the worst stereotypes about women, together we get to dismantle them in delicious, technicolor snark. Take Countess Luann, for example, who, like quick-dry crazy glue, stuck to a man who’d “dated” several of her friends, even after seeing photographic proof of him kissing another woman after their engagement.

Who does she blame? The woman who told her — who cultivates her own nest of mean girl stereotypes — and the “clutches” of the woman he kissed. Not the rather aptly-named “Tom,” who left her after an evening together to meet this other woman.

Yep.

But the beauty of it? The number of viewers, men and women alike, pointing out the ridiculousness of that route to denial. It’s the opportunity, publicly, to smash that idea of convenience that it’s man-grabbing women, and not wandering men, who deserve the scorn.

Is now a good time to mention that Luann and Tom were on dates with other people when they met? Hmm. Moving on.

And then there’s the flip side to the show, the opportunity for women who are eternally the objects of other people’s gossip to show their genuine selves, like RHOMelbourne’s Gamble Breaux (Wolfe). A woman who enjoys gilding herself in full high-glamour glitz and married to a much older man, Gamble’s been a target of all of the possible permutations of rumors.

And she’s shed them with grace and humor. She seems to be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get person, faithfully interacting on Twitter week-to-week without any negativity toward her costars. Rather than reinforcing stereotypes, she crushes ideas we might have had about “someone like her.”

Is Real Housewives harmful to the perception of women? I doubt it, frankly. I think the depictions of women as window-dressing and little more than accessories is far worse. With the Housewives, the women are entire people, some good, some kinda unbearable. But people.

And that’s all feminism is about at its most fundamental level. Women being seen and treated as people.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Failure is Always an Option

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IMG_0071Yesterday I tried to bake a cake. Not for any particular reason; just because I don’t think I’ve ever baked a layer cake before.

It did not go well.

Both layers were gently slanted, as I placed them too close to the front of the oven. When the toothpick (bamboo skewer) came out clean, I let them cool for a bit, and when it came time to turn them out on my makeshift cooling rack, one of the layers stuck to the pan, leaving a chocolate crater. I patted the hunk back into place, and hoped for the best.

I left the other in the pan longer, and it came out, a little begrudgingly, but it came out.

Ah, but that first layer. It then stuck to the rack, falling apart into boulders of, I’m honest, not terribly good cake.

For that I blame the recipe. I followed it exactly. I’m pretty sure.

I thought I could make cake pops, which I see all the time as recipe suggestions, as the frosting turned out well. And then I figured, ah, to heck with it.

Into the trash it went.

It was, in all, a rather spectacular failure. Would it have worked if I’d just made cupcakes? Probably, though I still wouldn’t have loved the cake itself.

But the point was the trying. It’s OK to fail, even if it means digging chocolate crumbs out of the burners of you stove. It’s OK to fail, even if it means laughing at yourself as you carry handfuls of broken cake across the kitchen.

It’s OK to fail.

The point is the trying.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Back to School for the Brain

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IMG_8756Well, I managed to avoid the Chicago Air & Water Show this weekend. Mostly. I heard a few planes, but with the gloomy rain on Saturday, I think they had to cut things short. And then Sunday was beautiful, but I didn’t hang around for the show.

Eh.

Now things are back to their usual, non-war-machine quiet. It’s a beautiful day, just in time for the first day of school for some kids. Others, luckily, get one more week of summer before it’s back to notebooks and pens and classrooms with chairs that scrape against the floor.

Sometimes I miss that back-to-school season.

Mostly, I suspect, for the school supplies. I love a new notebook.

But I think it ingrains in all of us that sense that it’s time to bring our focus back to this side of the window. It’s time that the lazy dreamings of summer get packed away with the shorts and tank tops, and now we don our serious thoughts like that comfortable cardigan that’s been hanging on the back of the chair.

Fall is a good time for new challenges, new horizons. We think of spring as a rebirth, but autumn is its own kind of renewal, one of pairing down, rethinking, and preparing for the seasons ahead.

But not just yet.

I think I have one more week of summer left.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Memories of Rain

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20160819_104703I used to love the rain. But that was many years ago, you see, before the skies stayed dark.

Before.

The knocking of the drops against the window wasn’t yet a constant patter, a patter we don’t even hear anymore. Well, a patter you probably don’t hear anymore, but I do, I do because I remember a time when a sunny day was just as likely as a rainy one.

Or even more so.

As I said, that was long, long ago.

There came about The Change, and though you know it, so convenient from your side of history, packaged and neat with a beginning and an end, we didn’t see it looming over us, inevitable, a hulking arbiter of what would never be again.

Maybe I’m lucky to be old. To have had my youth when there were birds and bright flowers, and the sun was as certain as your galoshes. I wonder, sometimes, if it misses us, up there, on the other side of these endless clouds.

That’s silly, isn’t it?

The sun? Missing specks like us? Because what are we but the dust of the universe, floating on all this water, awash in all this water. Around us, only the water.

I can see I’ve lost you, that look in your eye, that quick glance to your phone. And you’re right, I’m nothing but an old woman, plopped here by the one on the shift before you, left to stare at the drops rolling down. Always the drops rolling down.

If we knew, we could have stopped it, The Change. We could have handed you something else entirely. Instead we’ve given you mud and muck and gray skies.

What’s that? Oh yes, I understand, you have to finish your rounds. You’ve been very patient and kind, listening to me. You’re right, of course.

You can never miss what you never had.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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TV Talk: Guilt

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If you’ve never heard of “Guilt,” here’s all I need to say: Giles from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with an American accent. You in?

I thought so.

A summer offering from Freeform TV — once rather inappropriately known as ABC Family, given other shows like “Pretty Little Liars,” — “Guilt” is loaded with the technicolor soapy unreality that’s all Freeform. Only set in London.

In this kinda Amanda Knoxian drama, British police accuse American Grace of the murder of her Irish flatmate, Molly. As has become standard, the mystery spins its tangled tendrils over the course of the season.

And if you feel like there’s something strangely familiar about the young actress playing Grace, you should: She’s Daisy Head, Anthony Stewart Head’s daughter. I can’t help but imagine them practicing their American accents together, maybe over tea and crumpets. Because that is all that British people are allowed to eat. And tea sandwiches. That’s why they don’t have the same obesity problems. Tea sandwiches are very small.

But I digress.

One of the things I enjoy about true British television is the diversity of appearance. Everyone is not smoothed and sanded down to a uniform look; they don’t seem like they’d lined up at the plastic surgeon to be given the #7.

Apparently Freeform TV felt that needed to change, and “Guilt” has that same air as their other shows, that insistent emphasis on attractiveness, so much so that it can distract from the story line.

But I’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty good story line. I binged it OnDemand and caught up to real time pretty quickly. Given that the season finale airs next week, that’s some binging.

Will “Guilt” change your life? Unless you’re one of the characters in this glossy mystery, I’d say not. But it’s definitely makes the list of a worthwhile summer “Guilt”y (see what I did there?!) pleasures.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Where I’ve Been or Revenge of the Sketch Comedy

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IMG_8798You might have noticed I’ve been a little absent this week. Or maybe you didn’t notice, in which case feel free to carry on carrying on. Either way, my mind’s been on other writing endeavors.

And the dentist, but that’s over and whew to that.

In any case, we now have dates for our next yet-to-be-titled sketch comedy show! We’ll be running October 1, 8, 22, and 29 (we’re off October 15) in Donny’s Skybox Theater at Second City. And this week is a flurry of putting together the final script, as we start rehearsals next week.

Next week, people. That’s crazy. And we all know October will be here so much faster than it has any right to be.

So I’ve been revising my material, and I have some more revisions to get out. And if there’s anything new — I don’t think I have anything new, but if there is — I’ve got to get it done today.

And that sums me up for the moment. Wearing different writer’s hats can prove pretty challenging, as it requires the abrupt changing of gears, which are sometimes locked in a different position, and sometimes kinda in need of oil.

Meanwhile, if you need a fix, go ahead and grab a free copy of Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Odditieswhich you may enjoy if you liked my recent short story Sell Me Another One.

Otherwise, mark your calendars, because October is coming up fast!

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

Sell Me Another One

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By Jeffrey Beall from Denver, Colorado, USA (White Paper Bag) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jeffrey Beall from Denver, Colorado, USA (White Paper Bag) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Psst. Psssssst. Over here.”

“Huh?” She glanced over her right shoulder, and then her left. “Huh?”

“You,” he said. She pointed to herself, her forehead awash in wrinkles. “Yeah. You over there. You a—”

“Watch it, buddy,” she said, scanning her surroundings for the nearest blue uniform. “I’m definitely not what you’re implying.”

He sidled over furtively, talking only out of the corner of his mouth closest to him. “So you’re not—”

“I most certainly am not!” she said, spinning on the heel of her sneaker, awkwardly as it happens, as rubber soles aren’t terribly spinny.

“—a writer?” he finished.

She stopped and turned back. “Well, yes, I am that. How did you know?”

“You people are always pretty obvious. That look like you have pencils stuck into your hair even when you don’t; the unfocused eyes with your brain obviously on another planet; and the shoes.”

She stared down at her feet, clad in shoes that, admittedly, had seen a few miles. “My shoes? What about my shoes?”

“Only a writer would be out in those shoes.” He leaned against the building, one foot flat against the brick, and stuck a toothpick between his lips, letting it dangle.

“Hey, I like my shoes.”

“My point exactly.”

“Well, if you’re finished insulting me, strange man on the street, I’m going to get on with my day.”

“You could do that,” he said, taking the toothpick out again, languidly, unhurriedly, and twirling it between his fingers, his eyes on it as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. “But you probably don’t want to.”

“OK, buddy,” she said, hand on her purse, her mind on the errand at hand. “Whatever. What. Ever.”

“You know, for a writer, you sure have a limited range of words.”

“How would you even know? It’s not as though you’ve read anything I’ve written.”

“Well, I just used ‘know’ in a sentence, and you used it again right after me, so…”

“This is a conversation, not writing, a conversation. Sheesh. Why are you even talking to me, anyway? I’ve got stuff to do.” She flicked her hand at him and headed in the direction of the store. Pushing himself away from the wall, he followed.

“You’re here because you’re not writing, am I right?”

“Obviously I’m not writing. I’m going to grocery store.” The left side of her mouth and her left eyebrow went up as she gave a sharp shrug of her shoulder at him. She sped up.

So did he.

“What are you getting from the store?”

“How is that your business? You need to leave me alone.”

“Humor me. What are you getting?”

“I’m going to have you arrested if you don’t get away from me.”

“Let me guess,” he said, “you’re going the store for bananas and maybe a pint of ice cream. And you’re only telling yourself it’s maybe a pint of ice cream so that you feel better about it when you get it. Even if it’s not on sale.”

She stopped where she was. “How did you know that?”

He gave her a smile that could promise a sunrise in the middle of the Arctic winter. “I know writers. And let me ask you this: Do you need bananas right now?”

“Obviously,” she said, trying to regain her confident stride but stumbling over a bit of raised, cracked sidewalk.

“Right now. During your prime writing hours?”

“Well…” she said uncertainly. “It’s 89 degrees so the ice cream—”

“I’ve seen it a million times.” He flashed his snowy white teeth. “But I can help.”

“By harassing me on the street?”

“Oh no,” he said. “How would you like to buy…” he dropped his voice and came in close, his breath a breeze against her cheek, “some words?”

“Words?”

“2000 words, all ready for you. Just the thing you need to crash through that writer’s block.”

“I don’t have writer’s block,” she said, trying to keep the curiosity from her voice.

“How many words did you write today?”

“How many words are there in a tweet?”

He said nothing, he only nodded his head slowly. “Exactly,” he said eventually.

“Fine,” she said, “let’s say I was interested in said words – which I’m not – but let’s say I was. How much?”

“Twenty bucks.”

“Twenty dollars! I’m a writer, not a dog walker. Twenty dollars to just fling around. Twenty dollars. Really.” Shaking her head, she checked the alley for cars and then crossed the asphalt parking lot of the store. “I have access to words,” she said as he kept up with her. “I don’t need your pricey ones.”

“Fifteen,” he said.

She stopped on the narrow apron of concrete that ran next to the grocery store. “Ten.”

“Done,” he said, holding out a long, flat palm. She dug through her purse, finally finding the rumpled $10 bill crammed at the bottom.

“Not so fast,” she said, “Let me see ‘em.” He pulled a small paper bag, folded at the top, from his pocket. “Really? There are 2000 words in there?”

“They’re surprisingly…compact,” he said. “Money, please.”

She looked from the bill to the bag to the bill again. She took a deep breath, held it, and let it out in a rush. “Fine.” Gingerly, she held out the money, and when the bag was in reach, she grabbed it, letting go of the ten.

“Pleasure doing business,” he said, already nearly across the lot. She couldn’t help herself. She peeked into the bag.

“Hey!” she called after him, “These are mostly contractions and conjunctions! All I see are can’ts, ifs ands and buts! I have these!”

“No backsies!” he said as he walked away, without so much as a glance back.

She pawed through the bag, hoping for the something useful. Nope, even at the bottom, where the more substantial words had settled, were “cheated,” “scammed,” “foiled,” and “swindled,” repeated over and over in quantity. She let the purchased words scatter to the sidewalk until there was one left in the farthest corner of the bag.

Maybe she’d been foolish, she thought. But a writer who is low on words is as useless as a baker low on flour. Maybe, just maybe this last word would be the thing that got her past the hump. Maybe. She pulled it out.

“Darn it,” she said aloud to no one in particular. “Foiled again.”

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!