Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lessons from the Real Housewives

I ignored Bravo's Real Housewives series for the first few years. Then, well, you know how it is. You want something mindless on a Saturday, and there they are! So it was my solitary guilty pleasure for a while, but soon enough, Sylvia saw a moment or two, and then got sucked in.

I'm sure this will horrify many that I actually let my 13-year-old watch it with me, but it's turned into an opportunity for us to have some pretty great conversations.

As anyone who's watched even 5 minutes of any of these shows knows, these women act like Mean Girls. While they're not role models, Sylvia has already seen and experienced some of this type of appalling behavior just by surviving middle school! So when we watch, it's a perfect chance to see what not to do, and discuss other options.

Recently, during one of the squabbles, it became clear that one woman (for anyone who watches, Jill in NYC) was "dealing" with all her pain about losing a friendship (Bethenny) by getting angry at another HW (Ramona). Jill, of course, didn't say that, but that's the conclusion Sylvia and I reached from watching the argument between Jill and Ramona.

We don't necessarily choose sides. Sylvia once asked me who my favorite housewife was, and I said none, because they've all exhibited deplorable behavior...although we did acknowledge that some do so more often.

After most of the fights, we talk about how one or both (or more) could have handled the situation more effectively. We talk about their demeanor, how "in your face" some of them get, and how to communicate one's feelings in a way that the other person might actually hear and understand what you're trying to say. And also, how some people, no matter how hard you try, will simply never see the other side.

We've also talked about the women that seem to be completely ignorant of what their financial situation really is, and you better believe I took advantage of that opportunity to tell the girls that they must always know what's going on with their money. There's also an interesting story going on between Jacqueline and her 19-year-old daughter Ashley (New Jersey) about how independent Ashley should be.  (And yeah, I'm mostly taking Jacqueline's side on that one...but Sylvia hasn't tried to defend Ashley, either.)

While reality shows are often doubted for how "real" they are, they seem to mirror middle school incredibly well! And while it could never be confused for a show on PBS, there are a surprising amount of educational conversations that can be had from watching these women that know full well they're being filmed. Better get Riley sucked in as her preparation for starting middle school this fall!


jenn said...

I've never watched Housewives, but I have heard of it. I love that you are watching it with Riley and talking because of it. You're right, some people would be shocked, but you (unfortunately) can't hide your kids from the world and I think it's better that they are prepared at home. That's one of the things that makes you such a good mom.

BigLittleWolf said...

Just chuckling at this, April. I do admit to a guilty pleasure when it comes to watching the various Housewives franchises. Not all of them, but I have a particular fondness for NY. OC grew on me.

And yes, middle school comes to mind, with all the life lessons that are involved. And maybe that's part of the good in these shows. How not to behave, if you want to become a mature adult. But also, how vulnerable we all are to esteem issues as women. And doesn't that sit at the core of much of this bad behavior?

Tara R. said...

I watch the different Houseswives series with my daughter, who just earned her BS in Sociology. We have some very interesting discussions. The middle school analogy is one we've made too.

Anonymous said...

Great post, April. I like how you have used this mindless show as a chance to communicate with your daughter. It's unfortunate though that this show has produced mature (by age) women to mimic them. I see it all the time - either in dress attire, attitude, or whatever else.