Before watching The Real Housewives of Potomac, my only knowledge of the place was the river. But thanks to the magic of reality TV I'm now aware that the place is home to a group of self-important, self-absorbed, self-righteous, vain women who glory in excess.
Bravo's latest domestic-diva themed reality series is an illustration of pretentious extravagance. I didn’t think it was possible, but the producers found women with egos larger than the cable network's unofficial hall-of-fame-housewives. When someone has the chutzpah to say out loud, "If I don't know who you are then you're not worth knowing," one thing we all know is that, that woman requires an enormous hat (to fit on her big head).
A Privileged Class
The premiere episode opens with scenes of the country-club set. Some of the women are playing golf with their husbands while others are taking a tennis lesson. The first woman we meet is Gizelle, a strikingly beautiful Vanessa Williams (circa the 1990s) look-a-like. Gizelle's father was a Representative in the Texas House of Legislature during the 1960s. She is very proud that he worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young in the fight for civil rights. Gizelle is a divorced single mother of three young daughters. She was married to a "well-known national pastor and civil rights leader" whom she divorced when she discovered he was cheating. She called him a "cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater," and said, "he loved to hide his salami." The attractive young woman claims to live by her own rules now, and says she does it "quite well."
The second "well-to-do" woman is Katie, a former model who once dated hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Another single mother of three children, Katie's taste in men has changed; she claims that she loves the "white" and Jewish "boys." Her current boyfriend, Andrew, is Jewish, and Katie appears to be pushing for marriage. She can’t understand why he wouldn't want to marry her because according to her she's "such a catch."
Next, there's Robyn, a publicist with a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Maryland. She is the former wife of pro basketball player Juan Dixon and claims the couple divorced because of Juan’s infidelity. "I guess that’s what happens when you marry someone in the NBA instead of with an MBA," she jokes. Robyn and Juan have two young boys and an "unconventional relationship." Although divorced, the couple lives together and even sleep in the same bed.
The self-appointed matriarch of the group is Karen, referred to as a "diva extraordinaire" by one of the women; she epitomizes the idea of the phrase "ladies who lunch." Karen grew up on a farm and says she never wants to live there again. She is a tad bit long-in-the-tooth, and her wealth and social status appear to be the result of her husband, Ray (president and CEO of an IT company), whom she refers to as "the black Bill Gates," (really, she does). Karen agrees with the motto "It is just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor man." She adds, ". . . Not that money is everything, but I have not met a very happy 'poor' man—ever." She also believes that old money is preferable to new. As far as her marriage, Karen says she keeps the passion "on point," as she believes it would be very naïve of her to think that other women would not find her man attractive, "because he is, and they do." Karen has made her way into the leisured class, and she's not leaving . . . at least not anytime soon, anyway.
The final housewife introduced in the premier episode is Charrisse. She has been married for over eighteen years to Eddie Jordan, Rutgers University Head Football Coach. He lives in New Jersey, she lives in Potomac—and she claims she's not only okay with the situation, she actually likes it (the other ladies don't believe that and think there's more to the story). Charrisse is big on class and proper etiquette. When one of the women does something that she disagrees with she musters up her righteous indignation and says, "That's why I don't go to the ghetto."
The audience will meet the sixth and final woman in the next episode—wonder what she'll be like—just kidding, I've got a very good idea.
Birthday Musical Chairs
The five ladies got together for a birthday dinner in honor of Karen. On one side of the table sat Katie and Robyn, on the other Karen and Charrisse, and Gizelle sat in the middle. The evening seemed to go well. All of the ladies were playing nice and minding their manners, well, sort of, as we learned later. (On a side note, Karen declined to reveal her age—I guess a true lady really doesn't reveal her age—uh-huh, sure, that's it.)
A few days after the dinner, the women all attended a clam boil at Charrisse's home, and Karen had a few choice words for Gizelle. Karen was miffed because Gizelle sat in the middle of the five ladies during dinner. She got on her soapbox and lectured the misguided woman on proper etiquette when attending a birthday dinner party, and apparently a big no-no is sitting in the seat reserved for the guest of honor. And, if the high-and-mighty speech wasn't enough, Karen gave Gizelle a list of the proper etiquette for a guest when attending a birthday party, as a gift. This issue may sound trivial (and it is), but the two women had a heated discussion over it, with Karen offended over the seat and Gizelle offended over the list. Unable to resolve the conflict, Karen walked away in a huff and with attitude.
The premier episode of The Real Housewives of Potomac flaunts the wealth of its cast. These upper-class socialites have large homes in upscale neighborhoods, drive luxury cars, and wear expensive shoes/clothing/jewelry. From the outside, they appear to have it "all." The five (soon six) beautiful women live in a fashionable society and flock with the elite. They are living the high life with the rest of the in-crowd. But beware; when something seems to good to be true, it's usually not. The façade will crumble within the next few weeks (it's already started to crack), and this country-club set of ladies will show us the type of "chicks" they really are— imperfect (just like the rest of us).
The moneyed class likes to show off their shiny new things and young beautiful trophies. They have wealth, but more importantly, they claim to have class. The word "etiquette" is used quite a bit, mostly in terms of putting others down for not having it. But, if you have to remind folks constantly that you have class and they don't, maybe it's you who needs to open an Emily Post book and take a refresher course. After all, how much social grace can a woman have if she doesn't see anything wrong with quarreling in public?
So, is this reality show about catty women arguing over a seat at a dinner table really a picture of high society? Perhaps. Maybe folks with money don't have to think about things that average folks do, and thus they fight about trivial issues such as seats and etiquette rules. How sad. These women have an opportunity to show true class but instead they choose to be a stereotype of the spoiled-rotten privileged class, wallowing in their riches and vanity—and that’s just the way Bravo wants it.