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I have to get this off my chest. I love "The Real Housewives" franchise. I'm talking every episode, every city, and every cast member. I've been a loyal, if not ecstatic fan since the first episode aired in 2006, and over the almost-decade since they've been on the air, I've had the opportunity to not only be entertained by their catty, often pretentious drama, but to learn some rather deep, unexpected life lessons.
Like an anthropologist studying a foreign tribal culture, I've observed the following pivotal truths that resonate with all of us, whether we have a Bravo TV camera crew in our face, or not.
1. "Hard work" is subjective. In my household, hard work means you get your hands dirty, use your muscles, break a sweat and don't quit when things get difficult. After watching countless episodes of "The Real Housewives," I've learned that shopping for your dog's outfits, planning house parties, managing your maids and packing suitcases can also be called "hard work." Apparently, word meanings can change based on your income level.
2. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. I no longer feel insecure about my own flawed marriage. Why? "The Real Housewives" has shown me, over the past nine years that every single couple has issues, whether we can see them or not. Some of the most fairy-tale relationships have ended in divorce because lo and behold, there were deep crevices hiding underneath that wrinkle-free surface.
3. Rich people are just like not-rich people, but with more money. It's easy to forget that celebrities are people, too. Watching "The Real Housewives" taught me that wealthy families deal with many of the same issues I deal with, such as a messy home, kids who take our things without asking, hurt feelings, dog poop and even (see No. 2) marriage problems. While they have more resources and lavish lifestyles, at their core, they're just as human as you and I, but with more Botox.
4. Luxury travel limits one's ability to actually see the world. Yes, it seems amazing to travel around the Mediterranean on a yacht, have spa services in Bali, or visit Paris while staying in a four-star hotel, but every trip the housewives have taken has been less about exploring or understanding the world than it has been about enjoying lavish comfort. While it's certainly relaxing, it does little to change their perspective on life or to remind them of how truly lucky they are. Mark Twain once wrote: "travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts." Unfortunately, when people travel inside a bubble of luxury, they miss out on those opportunities for growth.
5. There is such a thing as "pretty ugly." In college I learned that using adjectives to describe nouns in writing was "amateur" and to embody the likes of Ernest Hemingway by using descriptive language. However, "The Real Housewives" taught me that "pretty ugly" wasn't a bad word choice, especially when talking about beautiful people with cold, dark souls. Over the years, I've seen the shimmer of prettiness fade against the bleakness of an ugly personality. In fact, I've also learned that the opposite is true – some of the least physically attractive people can shine with splendor when they have good, kind hearts.
6. Don't be "tardy for the party" or any other planned event. This basic life lesson seems to have evaded so many, especially the Housewives. When we make plans with people, we should honor those plans because it shows 1) we are people who keep our word and 2) we respect and value other people's time. When someone traipses in an hour late to a luncheon or no-shows at a party, it sends the clear message that they are selfish, unfeeling assholes. While that's great for a dramatic storyline, it's not very flattering for your reputation.
7. Reality TV isn't real. Think of reality TV like your last holiday photo. More than likely, that photo was staged, people were told to smile and hold the pose. While the picture may show a smiling happy family – what is missing is the argument that happened 10 minutes before it, the full, stinky diaper the baby is wearing and the panicked search for grandma's missing teeth. Reality TV is similar. It's meant to show the real, true lives of wealthy families, but instead it's staged for drama, edited for storyline continuity and everyone always looks so put-together. It's more like an Instagram selfie with a great filter. Kinda real, but not really.
8. If we want our children to be grounded, we have to say "no." When children are given everything they want, they often fail to distinguish between their desires and their needs. They also lose sight of their ability to practice humility, kindness and respect for others. The children on "The Real Housewives" are indeed privileged, but they also are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding self-motivation and feeling genuine gratitude.
9. Mistakes in the digital age last forever, and ever, and ever. The Housewives have taught me that it's really important to be careful about what we say and do, because there will most likely be a record of it, somewhere. No one can escape the affair, the arrest when they were 18, or that side job they had as a stripper. And forget throwing shade on someone you don't like – because everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion. Behave like everyone's watching, because these days, they are.