This weekend The Real Housewives of New York City celebrated the 10th anniversary of its debut. The Bravo reality series — the second in the franchise after Orange County — has given us 15 Housewives, countless catastrophic Hamptons weekends and international vacations, and three pop singles from Countess LuAnn de Lesseps in the last 10 years — and it’s just getting started. In celebration of a whole decade of the Big Apple ‘wives and in anticipation of their upcoming 10th season, here’s your RHONY primer, from A to Z.
A is for ARTIFICIAL LEG
Aviva’s single greatest contribution to RHONY was not her possibly-ghostwritten memoir or her lecherous father or that time she called Ramona and Sonja “white trash” (a term which, bless their hearts, neither woman had ever heard before). No, we are grateful for Aviva’s two-season stint on RHONY because of the fake bottom half of her left leg, and especially for that time she threw it across a table.
B is for BOOKGATE
Let’s make two things perfectly clear. One: Carole Radziwill is a professional writer who joined a reality show, not a reality star who decided to write a book. The point being, she wrote all of her book(s) herself, because why wouldn’t she. Two: Writing a book is not the same thing as writing a long email. There you go! #Bookgate has been solved!
C is for CLASS
Money can’t buy it.
D is for DORIS
Dearest Dorinda was known to all her English friends as “Doris” when she lived in London (presumably because they couldn’t pronounce “Dorinda”). When she and Carole travel to the U.K. together and bond over the shared pain of having lost their beloved husbands, Doris returns after years of being absent. Carole was very glad to meet her, and so were we.
E is for ETIQUETTE
Much more than their new-money West Coast counterparts, the Big Apple Housewives love to accuse each other of offending their Old New York sense of propriety when in the middle of a catfight (some of them more than others, and by “some of them” we mean LuAnn). As if the Class with the Countess brand of decorum weren’t enough, though, conflicts over breaches in Girl Code also began to arise in later seasons, culminating in a precious gift from the auto-tune gods — another instant-classic Countess LuAnn single.
F is for FORTUNE-TELLERS
This is New York City, okay? When it comes to the important stuff, it will not do to just flail blindly onward without any preparation for what’s to come. When things are feeling uncertain the ‘wives know to consult a psychic about whether their husbands are cheating on them, whether they’ll ever get married again after their husbands cheated on them, the health of their dogs, the future of their brownstones, ghostly balloons, devils in their inner circle, and quite literally anything else.
G is for “GET A HOBBY”
First of all, this phrase is, generally, pretty good advice that a lot of the Real Housewives could stand to take. Second of all, on a more somber note, it effectively ended one of the greatest friendships of the franchise when Bethenny said it to Jill, who absolutely could not stop repeating it to everyone as if her old pal had condemned her to hell rather than advised her to, like, take up scrapbooking.
ALSO: As long as we’re looking at Bethenny-issued directives filed under G…
H is for HOLLAAAA!
As sure as she will sing the praises of the Berkshires, address everyone as “mama,” and try to solve Bethenny’s mountains of baggage in one sitting, Heather Thomson is going to yell “Hollaaaa!” for no apparent reason at the end of her tagline, and also sometimes just in normal conversation.
I is for INTERNS
A moment of silence for Sonja’s interns.
J is for J, SEXY
Sonja Morgan does not gloss over the details so you’ll excuse her for harping on the issue that the J in SonJa is a sexy J, and that it needs to be a sexy J on her toaster oven logo, and that it’s very important to the success of the toaster oven (sigh) that the J is sexy.
K is for KELLYISMS
If you understand a word that comes out of Kelly Bensimon’s mouth, congratulations, truly.
L is for LEOPARD PRINT
“Leopard is my neutral,” Sonja purrs as she shows off her feline wardrobe. To be fair, it’s about as neutral as Sonja ever gets.
M is for MADONNA
The Material Girl was unwittingly dragged into the drama in season 2 when the Bethenny-Kelly conflict officially kicked off after the mogul responded to the model’s self-important charity meeting behavior with the sarcastic remark, “Who are you, Madonna?” Throw in Sonja’s drunken season seven claim that “I party with John-John Kennedy and Madonna all the time” and it’s clear that the Queen of Pop has had more of an impact on RHONY than Cindy Barshop ever did.
N is for NYFW
The New York Housewives would rather die than miss Fashion Week, and they’ve had some memorable ones — especially when they’ve taken part themselves, and especially when Ramona made her catwalk debut in season 3. There are no words to adequately describe her crazed expression or her stiff gait, but Jill did her best: “She looked like an alien invaded her body. She walks like a robot, with her neck sticking out like a giraffe, and her eyes bulging,” Jill observed. “She looked like an idiot.”
O is for ONE-SHOULDER TOPS
Most of the New York Housewives have, at some point, rocked a nice one-shoulder dress, but nobody is as committed to the neckline as LuAnn.
P is for PINOT GRIGIO
If you think you can invite Ramona Singer to your Upper East Side apartment or your charity gala planning party or your small-dog wedding without having at least six bottles of Pinot Grigio stocked and designated for her personal use, you have another think coming, my friend.
Q is for QUEENS
This stands for the New York borough whence Dorinda’s boyfriend John hails but also for the ladies themselves. From the Countess LuAnn to Princess Carole to Sonja with her little tiara, they’re absolute Bravo royalty, all of them, and we bow down to the realest Housewives of them all.
R is for ROOM ASSIGNMENTS
No RHONY getaway is complete with a merciless battle to the death over who gets a private bath.
S is for SKINNYGIRL
Over the last decade we’ve watched Bethenny Frankel turn a cocktail recipe into an empire. While at the beginning she couldn’t get anyone to take her free samples in a grocery store, in recent years she’s had to reclaim the very name (the very, very valuable name) of her brand from LuAnn, Sonja, and even Dorinda’s boyfriend John. But all of that is tequila under the bridge at this point; Bethenny hasn’t moved this far forward by obsessing over the past, and her business is still growing. We’ll drink (a Skinnygirl margarita, naturally) to that.
T is for TURTLE TIME
There is not enough room here to fully unpack the reality TV perfection that was season 3’s trip to “Scary Island.” But rather than exhaust ourselves by debating what was the matter with Kelly, or whether Alex is actually a vampire, or how on earth a pregnant Bethenny survived that whole ordeal without having a drop of pinot grigio, let us just remember the best of it: Turtle time. Tuuuurtle. Tiiiiiime.
U is for UNCOOL
“Be cool,” said LuAnn, arguably the least cool Real Housewife in the entire franchise, one dramatic morning in Turks and Caicos. “Don’t be all, like, uncool.” Iconic.
V is for VAGINAL TRAUMA
Try as we might, we’ll never forget that brief period when Bethenny and Jules both had some kind of nightmarish health issue down there, and neither could stop talking about how her vagina was broken (or, in Jules’ case, showing everyone a photo of the horrific injury she sustained). On the flip side, at least Sonja’s vaginal rejuvenation was a triumph.
W is for WEARABLE ART
The silly pretentiousness of Alex and Simon was perhaps best displayed when they made a big show of shopping for “wearable art” (i.e. clothing), because they are cultured and artistic rich people, not tacky rich people.
X is for XANAX
When Pinot Grigio just isn’t going to cut it, Ramona’s got another cure-all.
Y is for YOUNGER MEN
The RHONY ladies’ penchant for much-younger men is matched only by their horror when they observe each other going after much-younger men, but alas, such is the way of a pack of cougars.
Z is for ZARIN FABRICS
Jill was the original queen bee of the New York ‘wives, and Zarin Fabrics, even more than her palatial apartment, was the true seat of her power. She’ll be back in a recurring capacity in season 10; maybe, hopefully, someone will need something upholstered.