The Real Housewives of New York City recap: A stamp of approval
In very recent of Real Housewives of New York history, we have seen these women poop on floors… we have seen these women poop on boats. We have seen these women expose their breasts… we have seen these women expose their butts. We have seen these women drunkenly fall into bushes… we have seen these women drunkenly fall on tables… and other tables… and yet more tables.
But even with this Dr. Seuss book of debauchery that exists within our collective consciousness, of course — of course — our ladies would draw the line of acceptable behavior at having a few tattoos. Sonja insisting to Leah that, "No, nobody has tattoos," without acknowledging, or even seeming to realize that Leah is at least 20 years younger than most of them, and therefore might have slightly different standards of beauty, is just quintessential Real Housewives of New York. Which is to say, it makes me want to throw a brick at my TV, and I also deeply, deeply love it.
And speaking of quintessential RHONY, it's time for the annual ranking of the taglines, and this season, I'm pleasantly impressed. In order of worst to best:
TINSLEY: "Life isn't a fairy tale — but I'm hoping mine's the exception." The worst sin a tagline can make is being boring, but also: What exactly are we doing here, Tins? I thought we were living in reality, and past this fairy tale bit now? Is the on-again, off-again relationship with the Coupon King of Chicago not proof enough that your life is not the exception to this rule?
LUANN: "Raise the curtain, lower the lights, I'm taking center stage in my life." This tagline, in addition to being clunky and poorly attempting slant rhyme, also has the audacity to suggest that Luann has EVER not taken center stage in her own life. Sis, please!
RAMONA: "I don’t need to find love — I love myself." See, if you're going to be obsessed with yourself, at least proclaim it loud and proud like Ramona. But also flat-out lie about your increasingly alarming desire to find love, I guess.
DORINDA: "I'm not always right — but I'm never wrong." Factually inaccurate; catchy as hell.
SONJA: "I'm no one's accessory — I'm the whole lifestyle brand." Also factually inaccurate; also catchy, especially in the way that it alludes to the toaster ovens without actually invoking the toaster ovens. Always be branding.
LEAH: "I may float like a butterfly — but I sting like a bitch." That's right, I'm GIVING IT TO THE NEW GIRL! This has all the simplicity of taglines' past, with all the promise of utter chaos in the future. <Chef's kiss>
In more ways than just a perfectly silly tagline, we haven't seen a Housewives entrance as bold as Leah's in quite some time. In the second episode of the season, the thrust of the RHONY drama is already revolving around Leah, and she still manages to come out looking like she can hold her own without being overly combative. (And yes, I lavish these compliments even with the full knowledge that Leah was wearing a hat made out of a screen door for most of this episode.)
At a rooftop wine session in the city, Leah tells Tinsley and Sonja that Ramona called her earlier that day to invite her to come to the Hamptons that weekend with the rest of them. Can you imagine anything more terrifying than an unsolicited call from Ramona Singer? Leah also tells Tinsley and Sonja in what she believes will be an offhanded comment that she has a tattoo of her name on her lower back that she's in the process of getting removed. This comment will go on to define the rest of her week, and likely, the rest of her new career as a Real Housewife.
"Leah has a beautiful body, and I think that says something negative that she would get tattoos," Sonja says in her testimonial. "Because it's very self… defecating? No, that's sh—ing on yourself — well, it's sort of like sh—ing on yourself, but it’s more like… self-defaming."
Now, for clarification, we have been there when a number of these women have quite literally self-defecated. Not kind-of-like sh—ing on themselves, but actually like sh—ing on themselves. And y'know, hey — that happens sometimes. But Sonja being appalled by Leah doing something she deems "like" a thing that she has actually done is… patently absurd! Also absurd? Sonja telling Leah that she is relieved of her duty of potentially having sex with her in the future because tattoos are a "deal-breaker" for her. Sonja, who has had sex on every sink she's ever encountered and washed her panties in a bidet, would turn a man out of bed because he's, as Leah herself says, "got a f—ing anchor tattoo"???
This is not to harsh on Sonja, whose antics, both sink and sewer, I consistently enjoy and sometimes admire. And of course I lived for Sonja suggesting that Tinsley repurpose her own "RLM" tattoo to mean "really lusty moment" instead of her ex-husband's monogram… but it still feels important to note that there is a very skewed perception of what is and is not acceptable behavior in the New York franchise.
When Sonja naturally tells Dorinda about Leah's "tramp stamp" in the car out to the Hamptons, Dorinda simply says, "I'm not into tattoos." But Dorinda later comes clean to Sonja in an emotional moment once they've all arrived in the Hamptons: She's just not doing very well right now. Her house in the Berkshires flooded, and she's stuck having to do an overwhelming renovation with no one to lean on but herself. "It's like I'm doing everything and nothing well, do you know that feeling?" Damn you, Dorinda! Just when I get comfortable seeing you as a villain, you rope me back in with your humanity.
But that's the thing about Dorinda. She can be entirely self-aware and learn absolutely nothing from it. "There's nothing carefree about me anymore," she cries to Sonja. "I'm not nice to anybody."
I don't feel that's entirely true, because even now Dorinda is capable of having really warm moments — like giving Ramona a frosé machine. But this season, it does feel like she's looking for opportunities to be mean to people she thinks she can take down. For example, when everyone is sitting around the table after Dorinda's breakdown, and Leah's tattoos come up again. Ramona and Leah have just had a weird/nice moment inside where they bond over tough childhoods that inspired them to start their own businesses. So when Ramona's bucket hat is called upon for judgement by Ramona, Ramona actually isn't awful and simply says "touché" in response to Leah saying that she only cares if people criticize her character, not her fashion.
Well, get ready, rookie, because these women are about to judge you to hell for having "BE YOURSELF" penciled on your wrist or whatever!
Sonja says Ramona is using the word "touché" wrong, but Ramona insists she's not because "No one would believe that I agree with her — how am I going to agree with a woman who has tattoos?" Seeming to not believe that this is coming up again, Leah says that everybody has tattoos, it's not that weird. "No, nobody has tattoos," Sonja scoffs. And you have to wonder, before she got cast on this show, how many friends Leah had in the 50-60 range…
"I don’t talk to people with tattoos," Ramona continues. "But see, I talked to her, that's why I said 'touché.'"
I think people often see Ramona as harmless because it's clear she doesn’t know any better. Leah doesn’t really get annoyed until Sonja says that Ramona even knowing her name is a good sign, and Dorinda chimes in: "And if she forgets it, you can just turn around and bend over."
Okay, now… that's a little funny. Y'know, if you were joshing your friend that you had a solid relationship with and a clear understanding of how they feel about their tattoos. We know that Leah is getting the tattoo of her name removed because she find it embarrassing, and we also know that the first time Leah met Dorinda, she was hissing at her friend Tinsley, calling her an escort. As Leah says in her testimonial: "We just met, that is rude — do you ever leave your 1 percent Upper East Side bubble?" To be fair, Dorinda lives in Midtown. But she also then retires for her daily afternoon nap, so that should probably answer Leah's question.
When they're getting ready for dinner later, Leah makes the mistake of expressing her annoyance about Dorinda's comment to Sonja. Sonja says that Dorinda is going through a hard time right now, so she wants to protect her… and her way of protecting Dorinda is by running directly to her, telling her a butchered version of what Leah said, and getting her all riled up for dinner.
So when Dorinda descends the stairs, she immediately grabs Leah's arm and says, "I didn't say anything —" and then cuts herself off before she can say something that might accidentally resemble an apology. If Dorinda could just say, "I didn't mean to offend you," I guarantee you this is all over. But no! Dorinda continues: "I understand you told Sonja you have a short fuse; you can have a short fuse all you want, it's just a fact, none of us have tattoos." Leah — standing very still while Dorinda continues to gesture wildly — says that her annoyance was more about the "bending over" comment.
"You have a tramp stamp so when people are f—ing you, they know who you are, that's what Sonja said," Dorinda replies, waving her hands around and getting right up in Tinsley's face to shush her when she tries to speak up for Leah. It's just… nuts! And Leah probably senses that Dorinda isn't suddenly going to start being rational once she starts bellowing that she couldn't "pick [Leah] out in a lineup." Judging by Dorinda's earlier comments on her own mental state, it feels like Dorinda is angry that she's angry — and that's only making her angrier. It's a pretty toxic recipe. Leah ends it by simply saying, "I don't feel like you would like to get to know me, but I hope I'm wrong," suggesting that they start over as they finally head out to dinner.
And Dorinda must like that approach combined with Leah's calm performance at dinner, because later she says that she was unfair in her judgment of Leah: "She seems to be able to hold her own, which I like — tattoos and all." But lest you think all problems were resolved, some have simply been set to simmer for this episode. See, before they headed out to the Hamptons, Ramona told Luann that she was going to give her the bedroom that had its own private bathroom and living area so that she could have some privacy if the other women were staying up late and being rowdy over the weekend…
That bedroom and private bathroom wind up being on the lower level of Ramona's house, which Luann is led down to upon arrival with growing disgust. "Give me a break, a basement is a basement," she tells the camera. "It's like putting me in the attic and calling it the penthouse." Well, Luann, if the attic had a bedroom, a living room, and a bathroom — sure! Ramona put her in what she deemed to be the most private, exclusive area of her house because she didn't want to have another "fish room" incident on her hands. But as Luann hisses in a stage whisper, "What happened to how I was going to be so happy, and have the nicest room in the house, what happened to that?"
Ramona surely realizes she made a grave miscalculation. But no matter, I'm sure everything will work out fine, and everyone involved will remain calm and rational — see you next week!
Ramona, LuAnn, Sonja, Carole, Heather, Kristen, and Dorinda — and oh, yes, Bethenny — are in a New York state of mind.