Posts Tagged ‘real housewives of orange county’

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.

Sexual histories: Is it lying if you don’t talk about them?

June 16, 2011

Unless you haven’t dated or ever been physical with anyone before, you undoubtedly enter new relationships with a history. Past flings, past relationships, past experiences — everyone’s history is different, from the number of people in your relation Rolodex to the extent of your relationships with those past people. But if you don’t share this history with your partner(s), are you lying to them?

That was the claim made on the reunion special of The Real Housewives of Orange County. Here’s the rundown: Alexis and Jim have been married for seven years, and Alexis and Peggy have been friends for four years. About 15 or so years ago, Jim and Peggy “hung out” (Peggy’s euphemism) but then decided they’d be better off as friends. When Peggy asked Jim if Alexis knew about their past, he said Alexis didn’t know and “would never know.” A few months ago, Alexis found out about Jim and Peggy’s fling.

The other housewives said they thought Jim had lied to Alexis, and Tamra was insistent that this constituted Jim keeping secrets from her. But Alexis said they agreed at the beginning of their relationship not to discuss their histories. They were starting a new chapter together, and they weren’t interested in the previous ones.

Rarely do I agree with anything Alexis says, but in this case, she’s right. It’s important for partners to create those boundaries when it comes to discussing their past relations, so that both parties are clear about what they do and don’t want to know. There is value to knowing — and it’s essential to ask about — whether that person is free of sexually transmitted infections in every case; the value of knowing how many partners someone has had and the explicit details of what they’ve done is on a case-by-case basis, depending on the person receiving the info.

So Jim and Alexis decide and agree that they don’t want to know about each other’s past. When Jim doesn’t tell Alexis about his fling with Peggy, that isn’t lying or keeping secrets — it’s simply keeping to the agreement because Alexis doesn’t want to know about Jim’s past. I also agree with Alexis that if Peggy thought it was important to tell, Peggy should’ve mentioned it to Alexis — Jim has no obligation to disclose that information because of the no-info-sharing agreement, but Peggy isn’t under any such contractual constraints.

Sharing info can be a slippery slope. My boyfriend and I have discussed, in relation to Real World‘s Dustin not telling Heather about his porn star past, how the line is blurry when it comes to what you have an obligation to tell your partner. Questions like, “Have you been tested for STIs?” or “How many sexual partners have you had?” or “How many long-term relationships have you had?” are easy to think of and might even come up in casual conversation. “Have you ever done gay porn?” probably isn’t.

But here, the line was drawn firmly in the sand — they don’t want to know anything, so Jim isn’t a liar. This would be much more complicated if there was no agreement in place — should Jim warn Alexis about his fling with Peggy? Is it up to Alexis to ask Jim if he’s slept with every new woman they meet? Is he a liar for not disclosing at all, even if she never asks? “Liar” isn’t accurate unless he denies a fling with Peggy, but withholding information you think your partner should or would want to know is deceptive — not to mention it puts that person in the sucky everyone-knows-about-this-but-you position.

(On a sidenote, hearing Peggy’s side of the story and how determined Jim sounded not to let Alexis find out makes me curious whether they actually did have such an agreement and/or whether he had lied about it to Alexis in the past.)

RHOC: Domestic abuse, unhappy marriages, excessive cattiness

June 1, 2011

While catching up on Real Housewives of Orange County today, I couldn’t help but notice some interesting themes: victim-blaming concerning domestic abuse, independent women and the institution of marriage, and also some of the women’s comments that make me concerned for humanity in general (I’m looking at you, Gretchen and Alexis).

1. I didn’t see any abuse, so you must be lying

Oh Jeana Keough, I loved you on this show when you were a regular cast member. You seemed down to earth, said funny things, and didn’t fit the typical blond-haired, plastic-surgery-filled mold that many cast members do. But your friendship with Tamra’s ex-husband Simon has shown a new side to you, a side that is all too common when it comes to allegations of domestic abuse: X is my friend, and I haven’t seen him act abusive toward you, so I think you’re lying.

This sentiment rings far too often when it comes to allegations of abuse. Admittedly I started watching halfway into Jeana’s sit-down talk with Tamra so I didn’t see the entire conversation, but they were discussing Tamra’s calling the police and Simon being arrested on a domestic violence charge last September. According to Radar Online, Tamra and Simon shared custody of their dog, and Simon was at the house they shared and when Tamra arrived home, Simon threw a retractable dog leash at her head.

Tamra described it to Jeana a little differently and implied that Simon was in her house, not their house, so the details there are a little hazy (maybe they were better explained in the minutes before I tuned in). But Jeana’s defense of Simon’s actions included the following:

  • Jeana said she hung out with Simon and Tamra a lot when they were married and it didn’t seem like an abusive relationship, so she doubted Simon was actually abusive;
  • Jeana doubted that Tamra actually felt threatened by Simon being in her house;
  • Jeana implied that because Tamra waited until after Simon left to call the police, this somehow makes her story less plausible;
  • Jeana noted that people often throw things to a person and the object isn’t caught, so it’s likely that he simply was tossing the dog leash to her and she didn’t catch it; and
  • Jeana thinks Tamra’s calling the police is a calculated attempt to ruin Simon’s life.

Let me address these things in order. Firstly, not seeing someone physically abuse their partner is not concrete evidence that abuse doesn’t happen. It’s difficult to consider that your friends might have sides to themselves that they don’t show to you, but you can’t assume an accuser is lying simply because you personally didn’t see abuse happen. Abusers — like most criminals — aren’t usually interested in committing their crimes in front of an audience of friends and witnesses.

So when Jeana says she didn’t see it so it didn’t happen, or Bernard-Henri Levy says Dominique Strauss-Kahn is his friend and he doesn’t seem like a rapist, those bits of anecdotal evidence don’t really prove anything except that their respective friends weren’t abusive to them or in front of them. One in four women — 25 percent of women —
experiences domestic violence in her life; I wonder how many of these women’s abusers’ seemed perfectly fine to their friends?

Secondly, Jeana’s idea of abuse follows a stereotypical — and inaccurate — portrayal of how “real abuse” looks. Because Simon didn’t leave a physical mark on her, Jeana assumes that he wasn’t a threat to Tamra. But it’s up to Tamra to determine whether she feels threatened, not Jeana. And does it make more sense to call the police before abuse escalates to the point of serious violent behavior or after? In a perfect scenario, you call the police when a crime happens — when you’re faced with a person who you feel threatened by, you might feel safer waiting (if the person is leaving) so that the phone call doesn’t provoke more violence.

And the most problematic excuse of all? That calling the police can ruin someone’s life. This mentality is one reason a lot of domestic violence goes unreported — you have feelings for the person who is abusive, you care for them, and you don’t want to give them or add to a criminal record. These are often women’s husbands, people they are legally tied to, committed to, living with, the fathers of their children, and having them hauled off in handcuffs and a police car is seen as a very last resort because of these close relationships. Finally calling the cops? That could ruin someone’s life; but then again, so could constant abuse.

Jeana’s defense really pissed me off, because she threw around the classic arguments that merely blame the victims of domestic violence for the abuse they endure. You should’ve called the police sooner, you shouldn’t have acted like everything was fine, XYZ action really isn’t abuse, you’re just trying to tarnish his reputation or ruin his life — all statements commonly thrown at women who accuse men of domestic abuse, and all statements that don’t at all consider the complexity and the danger that comes with abuse.

2. All you women who independent 

Vicki is this show’s independent woman — she is the breadwinner of the family, she works long hours and prides herself on building her own business from the ground up, and she doesn’t rely on her husband Donn for anything. But this independent exterior broke into pieces as she confessed to Tamra that she was convinced she should stay in a loveless, passionless marriage with Donn.

“I believe in my commitment to him as a wife,” Vicki told Tamra. It is a bit surprising that she holds traditional values inside the home when it comes to gender roles, considering how outside the home she doesn’t follow these gender roles. She believes in the institution of marriage (though she has been married once before), and she believes as a woman that she should honor the commitment she made to Donn under any and all circumstances.

She goes so far as to acknowledge to Tamra that continuing her marriage would be out of obligation and not desire. “I can exist in this,” she tells Tamra. “If I have to, I will.” This is what I find so remarkable about the idea of marriage as an institution, and the disdain many people have toward divorce. Everyone gets married with the intent to stay together forever, but the reality is that people change and become incompatible. Or the marriage becomes unhealthy. Or both parties are just miserable. Should people be forced to stay legally bound to each other to satisfy some social institution’s expectations?

Personally, I think not. Divorce is very sad and shouldn’t be taken lightly (I don’t think marriage should be taken lightly, either), but people shouldn’t stay in unhealthy marriages simply because they feel obligated by the pressures of society. Vicki feels that her obligation as a wife is to stay committed to Donn even when they are both unhappy, don’t communicate, and don’t even hug each other. Vicki’s views on marriage are also based on her faith, and I can’t really speak to the religious background of how extensively the Bible promotes marriage and/or condemns divorce.

3. Things people say that make me bang my head against my desk 

Gretchen is sometimes annoying, but she really took the cake when she insisted that Vicki’s absence at Alexis’s fashion show was rude. Oh, by the way, Vicki was being rushed to the hospital because she was hemorrhaging out of somewhere in her body (Tamra implied it was her ass?) and bleeding internally, but Gretchen thought it was “ironic” that Vicki was hospitalized at the exact time of Alexis’s photo shoot.

First of all, “ironic” doesn’t mean “suspiciously coincidental” or “weird” so stop repeatedly saying it’s “ironic” because it’s not. Secondly, shit happens. Thirdly, as someone who does start drama at events that are going peacefully, Gretchen should not be making accusations that Vicki and Tamra are always trying to rain on everybody’s parade. Who’s first inclination when someone is claiming they are hemorrhaging is to think that’s just an elaborate excuse??

Fourthly, Alexis, why on earth are you more concerned with how “rude” it is for someone to keep leaving their seat at your faux fashion show to check on a friend who is in the hospital than that person actually being OK? You are promoting a fashion line that isn’t even out yet and is already being criticized by your guests, and Vicki is potentially bleeding to death. If she wanted to skip your event, I think she would’ve just skipped it instead of claiming she was on the operating table. Gretchen and Alexis: currently making me question humanity.