What kind of monster tries to stand between a 70-year-old woman and her '70s-themed birthday party?
Credit: Bravo

Is anyone else finding The Real Housewives of Atlanta kind of…relatable this season? Not like I’m relating to Cynthia’s quest for cranberry vodka-flavored love on a deep, emotional level, just in the way that these are very average scenarios that my friends and I might encounter in our own day-to-day, boring lives…

Somebody’s throwing a cute birthday party for their mom (with a Soul Train and enough synthetic wigs to legally require a fire marshal be present). One of your friends is in a dumb fight with her sister (but you’ve always liked this sister more, so you’re secretly on her side anyway). Your friend who’s clueless about men is still clueless about men (times two). Your other friend won’t stop talking about work when literally no one has ever been interested in hearing about someone else’s work (unless it’s my work as a professional Housewives recapper, duh!). And someone else’s grandpa isn’t doing so well (yes, Gregg is technically Nene’s husband, but in spirit, he is everyone in Atlanta’s PopPop).

Of course, that’s happening currently on RHOA…relatability will go right out the window the moment Kim Zolciac walks through the door next week. So enjoy — I mean, I guess enjoy? — the quaintness of grandparents and spandex bell bottoms while you can. Because in one week and counting, someone will spit out the phrase, “That’s why you pimped your daughter out for John Legend tickets!” Which, sure, one of your friends probably says to you occasionally in a fit of anger, but it’s less everyday stuff, y’know?

On tonight’s episode of Very Casual Dating With Cynthia, Cynthia goes out with a handsome man named Will who has a lot of qualities that could either make him a psychopath or a very nice man — but that’s just kind of dating these days. Cynthia rolls out her standard charming opener: “How old are you?” Will says he’s 41. “When will you be 42?” asks Cynthia, normally. Shocking that Cynthia doesn’t date much. They do a lot of flirtatious tête-à-tête that makes me highly uncomfortable, like, “Can you handle it?” “I can handle it.” “Oh can you?” “Oh I can.” What is anyone talking about???

Will has never been married, has been engaged once, had a daughter at 30 whom he gushes about, and he doesn’t bring his phone on dates (but what if he needs to go to the bathroom and Yelp the best dish at the restaurant!?). Cynthia is very impressed with all of these factors and deems him “the male version of me.” And you know what? She’s right. He is highly attractive and blandly awkward. It’s always a little disconcerting when very attractive people are socially awkward because they’re so good at being pretty you just expect them to be good at everything. I’ve always thought that about Cynthia, and now I also think it about her new phoneless lover Will. Listen, it’s not a fair judgment, but it’s also not fair that they have steak-knife cheekbones and flawless full-fat-chocolate-milk complexions, so whatever.

Speaking of awkward romances, the Emmy Award-deserving RHOA editors are giving us our Christmas gift early this year: That’s right, it’s time to listen to Kenya leave 100 voicemails for her invisible husband. You will recall that last week Kenya was distraught in her closet, sobbing to a RHOA producer, “I don’t want to get divorced” — because, as a private person, her husband has not enjoyed being thrust into the Bravo limelight. This week, Kenya says, “It’s my job now to protect my family,” and then talks about her private husband for the entirety of her segment.

Well, that’s not totally true. Some of the time is spent calling her private husband, who also likes to keep his life private from his wife by not answering her calls. Interspersed between Kenya explaining with a coy, whimsical smile that she and her husband talk day and night so they’re together even when they’re apart, we’re treated to Kenya repeatedly getting cut off by his automated voicemail. It is painfully delicious. Her messages range from telling him how her dogs peed on her wedding dress to telling him how happy she is to have a loving, caring husband — please hang up and try your message again. Later, when Cynthia and Nene come over to get ready for a party, she casually leads them by a walk-in closet with men’s clothing items hanging in it, many of which, Nene notes, still have the tags on them. The best thing about Kenya is that the commentary writes itself: Where we see a closet half empty with new cargo shorts and dry cleaner hangers, she sees a half-full story line of romance and dog pee.

No one appreciates a pair of crisp, boxy cargos quite like Gregg Leakes, and I could have watched him roll around on that lounge chair making old man zingers while Nene said she was dying of heat in a head-to-toe caftan and gold regalia forever. Gregg and Nene are apparently now the symbol of matrimony, and they pal around with not-so-little Brentt as a montage of him when he was once a preteen nugget plays across the screen. Now Brentt wants to try out comedy and since Nene “has [her] own comedy show” they can go into business together. I would personally prefer to watch Gregg try to cut the grass or skim the pool, or any of the things Nene said he does for her, than watch any of the Leakes do comedy, but sure, whatever it takes. (Recap continues on page 2)

I don’t know why I’ve never noticed that the Kandi Factory looks like a Chinese food buffet that was converted into an artisanal prison, but I’ve noticed now, so it’s no wonder that they’re in search of an overhaul of new employees. Carmon is returning to her former career in insurance, so Kandi is in search of both a personal assistant and a general manager for OLG who won’t do her like thirsty-ass Johnnie did. Sadly, Don Juan will soon be the only one who remains for quippy Recappin’ in Kitchens.

These things are important when planning a business, as Porsha is figuring out while trying to start a hair salon with her sister Lauren. I want to roll my eyes at her when she tells her business consultant, “What’s going to set [the hair salon] apart is that it’s my salon.” But yeah…SUR is in business because it’s Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant, OLG has waits around the door because patrons hope to catch a glimpse of Kandi, and Porsha’s hair salon would do just fine because it would be Porsha’s hair salon. AND FOR NO OTHER REASON.

That’s a good thing, because when Porsha and Lauren meet with their business and real estate consultants, they have no business plan or understanding of how they should manage this hair salon. The real estate consultant, Dale, endears himself to me forever when Porsha says she wants to open the salon in three months, and he looks her dead in the eyes and says, “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” with the tone of a real estate consultant who is not to be trifled with.

But real estate is the least of Porsha and Lauren’s worries when they can’t even agree on how they’re going to run their joint business. Lauren is feeling underappreciated and didn’t like the way Porsha was referring to “her company.” Lauren says that she does “literally everything,” but Porsha reminds her that she gets paid for that. Lauren responds, “Yeah but not what a normal person would get paid — I get paid what your little sister would get paid if she was doing it.” And I believe every second of that because Lauren has always seemed level headed, and Porsha seems like she would take advantage of a hide-a-key rock if she could figure out a way to do so. The sisters argue about who’s putting how much money in the business, and who’s putting how much work in, and that’s not looking good for Porsha considering how much she’s been citing family as her main source of happiness these days.

Luckily, Sheree is still in good standing with her familial crew: She and all of her gorgeous children are coming together to throw her gorgeous mom a ’70s-themed 70th birthday party. The moment Sheree says, “I’ve even hit up a party planner to help coordinate,” as she spends upward of $300 on wigs, you know things are about to go south. Sheree has hired a woman named Tiffany to coordinate her precious mom Thelma’s first ever birthday party, and you know what, I am perhaps as invested in this shindig as Sheree is. Her mother seems absolutely lovely and she deserves a wonderful birthday party…

For some reason, Tiffany does not agree. As Sheree stands with a 24-inch disco ball in one arm and an industrial-size bug zapper in the other, three hours before her mother’s birthday party at Chateau Sheree, Tiffany texts her, “There seems to be some tension and this has turned into a situation that does not align with my business practices.” She gives an address where Sheree can find the linens and peaces out of her party-planning commitment. Listen, I don’t often relate to the way a Real Housewife behaves, but if someone came between me and throwing my precious, beautiful, kind mother the birthday party she deserved, I would scorch the voicemail earth with even more fire than Sheree did when she told Tiffany’s inbox, “I’m about to tear the f— up because I’m not happy — I’M NOT HAPPY — that you would do this to my mother!”

And y’all. I nearly teared up when Sheree managed to pull off a lovely ’70s-themed birthday party for her cute mom. There were wigs galore, there was a three-tier cake, there was Kenya doing a vertical split during the Soul Train line. It seemed like an actual, bona fide good time for a woman who deserved a fun 70th birthday party. I don’t know if it was just the fact that I recently threw my own mom an important birthday soiree — sure, there were more petit fours than afro wigs — but I was a little emotional watching Sheree pull this off. It’s nice to see your friends succeed…

Do you look forward to seeing your friends call your other friends’ children mean names next week? Are you concerned about your other friend’s PopPop’s health? How many voicemails do you leave on your husband’s mailbox before giving up and letting him lead his own private life? Sound off in the comments, and I’ll see you here next week for our annual giving of Bravo thanks.

Episode Recaps

The Real Housewives of Atlanta
NeNe, Kandi, Cynthia, Phaedra, Kenya, and Claudia keep the ATL just peachy.
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