I sometimes watch the “Real Housewives of…” types of shows. I admit this with no small amount of shame, because certainly there are better ways to spend one’s time. Mr. Helix knows if I am guiltily watching one of these shows, because he will wander into the living room, glance at the tv and ask me, “Who are these screaming bitches?”
If you have never seen one of these shows – and they do tend to be rather indistinguishable one from another to the uninitiated – the focal point of every episode is that things degenerate into uncomfortable scenes of heavily bejeweled and expensively shod women fighting over who is the bigger phony, or who said the most wicked thing at someone’s cocktail party. There, now you never have to watch these shows, because I have summed up every single one for you – every franchise, every season, every show.
Since I know this about these shows, the obvious question is…why watch them? After pondering this for a little while, I think that there are a couple reasons for watching the shows. Certainly a little bit of wonderment at “How the other half lives” is involved. There is also a heavy dose of schadenfreude – a great word meaning “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune” – in watching these shows and their ridiculous intrigues and arguments. But the real lure for me is that most of the women have the ability to do something that I just cannot bring myself to do, and that is to be able to say the meanest thing they can think of, usually without remorse.
Now, I’m certain that our listeners have heard me let loose with a ton of catty remarks, or snappy repartee with Davin and Joe, so maybe this comes as a surprise. However, I promise you that except for a small number of times, countable on one hand, I do not say the meanest thing that comes to mind, even in the most vicious fights. Oh, there was one lunatic who was being horrible to me at a punk show years ago, and we yelled at each other, but basically I just cursed her out, and didn’t even think of the most awful things to say until later in the evening. But it really doesn’t count, because she was a complete stranger, and I didn’t have any real dirt on her – I didn’t know where the bodies were buried or what were the right trigger buttons to push. I was left to rather impotently rage about her on Craigslist Rants, and even then was flagged and my post removed. Incredibly unsatisfying!
I’m talking about when a friend completely lets you down, does something that is a friendship-breaking offense, and you are having it out. Or that moment when sibling rivalry breaks into Cain and Abel level rage. Or when your significant other crosses that last line, and you are DONE, YOU MUTHERFUCKER! That atomic level of explosiveness is when The Meanest Things are spoken, things that were always taboo up until then. Relationship-disemboweling levels of mean are unleashed, and hang in the air for a moment, like verbal scythes poised over the head of your once most beloved, and then quickly find their mark and slice the former beloved in two. At that moment, when the bombs are dropping all around, the most terrible thing to say might occur to me…but I cannot bring myself to say it.
AAAAAAGGGGHHH, the frustration of not being able to reach down through someone’s throat and take out their soul with the ONE thing that you know will do it. These horrible sea harpies on the “Real Housewives….” seem to be able to do it, and go right back to sipping their martinis like they are having a pedicure instead of dropping megaton bombs of awful on their supposed friends. Even when someone has cut me to the quick…oh, I might be mean, I might be yelling, but I still hold back on the most awful of awful. I’m sure that it would sometimes have been satisfying to let loose with the darkest, most painful truth in those moments. “Oh yeah? Well your DAD came on to me! I had to scrape your old man off of me with a shoe horn so that he couldn’t jam his tongue down my throat! How do you like them apples?” (This actually happened…but I will never reveal whose icky Dad did this.)
The problem is, I know how much The Meanest Thing can devastate. And I certainly wouldn’t want someone to use their most fearsome weapon on me, not something truly awful spoken by one who was once an intimate friend or lover. It’s a level of cruel that I just cannot go to, even when others have broken my heart to bits. Some may think that this is a virtue, and maybe it is. However, I pay a price for my silence. The resentment of not being able to unburden myself of these loathsome thoughts and feelings backs up on me, turns inward, and makes me feel bad about myself. I wonder why I let certain people hurt me without lashing back with everything in my arsenal, not holding back, like they don’t. I feel repressed, stunted, impotent with withheld rage. I want to say the meanest thing, to hurt them as bad as they hurt me, worse even, just like those raging, irresponsible, narcissistic bitches on tv.
I just can’t. I won’t. Instead, I crawl off to lick my wounds, and keep the meanest thing in the vault.