#RHONY, Bravo TV, Dating, Psychology, Reality TV

#RHONY: Is There a Shortage of Men in Manhattan?!

Two decades ago, when I was a single woman living and dating in NYC, it seemed like every guy of “average” level looks, intelligence and personality had 9 incredible women in hot pursuit of him.

I was in a certain, very niche- specific dating scene because of my religious background, and once I expanded my social circles, this 9 to 1 ratio of eligible single ladies to eligible single men no longer seemed to be as much of a thing. However, I did notice that “normal” men seemed harder to find than outstanding women, and while the male population of NYC is currently at 47.38 percent versus the 52.62 percent of females (a disparity that doesn’t seem outrageous and was quite similar twenty years ago), a good man is hard to find.

It takes only a five minute conversation with a NYC single gal today to gauge this problem, while a man always seems to have more dating prospects on the horizon.

I suspect this was particularly prescient to me due to my former religious circles wherein matchmakers pounce upon a widowed man because of the devotion he had to his wife and noted past ability to commit. I realize this sounds awfully vulture-like to the reader, but it’s so hard for a religious Jewish woman to find a man who is self-assured, charismatic and committed. Matchmakers are fully aware of this. There just happen to be more marriage-minded women than men in major metropolitan cities.

This brings us to the ladies of Real Housewives of New York. They’re not in the Jewish dating scene, but are in a niche specific one of their own. It is one where men of a certain middle aged and above cohort are acclimating still to the idea of a highly successful, independent and self-sufficient, affluent woman (though some of these ladies are more modern and self sufficient than others are). The majority of these men have been indoctrinated with the notion of man as provider and, despite protest, many do feel threatened by a women of means who could be the provider herself. RHONY fans often ask “why are these woman always dating the same loser, or arguing over the same man who doesn’t seem so spectacular?”

I mention my “9 to 1” theory to Rori Sassoon, Founder of NYC matchmaking service Platinum Poire. Rori hosted the speed dating event that we recently saw on RHONY. It was where all the ladies seemed interested in the red scarf adorned Brian Krauss. “Aren’t there more men for these women to date?” viewers asked.

Rori agrees that the rationale I developed from my dating days is not off at all and adds: “It is unfortunately still the same. It’s also much harder for women because the man is the one who is doing the pursuing. I also find that if a man wants to be in a relationship, he can make that happen a lot more quickly than a woman can. Because of that, a lot of women do not choose their partner, they are chosen, which can lead to a relationship with an expiration date.”

If all of this sounds terribly antiquated in today’s 2018 culture of #MeToo, #TimesUp, Feminism and shifts from heteronormative stereotypes, we have not progressed as much as you naively thought. A certain level of traditional thinking still abounds amidst the modernity of NYC, especially when it comes to the Gen X and Boomer contingents.

For every Tom, Harry and Brian, there is a group of women hovering in the wings, trying to catch a glimpse of an extinct breed: a seemingly Ok male specimen. Due to the depressing rarity of this find, the bar is not set especially high, and disappointment in NYC dating can seem as inevitable as a streetlight on every corner.

Thinking outside of the box and beyond the city limits is a strategy some of these Housewives have employed because the pickings are slim. It is why so much is not taboo and hiring a matchmaker is not something to be shunned. It’s also why you shouldn’t be ashamed if it suddenly dawns on you that your uncle in Schenectady would be the perfect match for Ramona Singer. Hey, you never know. Vet it through Rori. Crazier things have happened in this world than Ramona becoming your aunt.

Hear Rori Sassoon discuss the RHONY speed dating event and trying to match up the ladies of the cast on the Pink Shade with Erin Martin podcast.

#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV

#RHONY: “The Guy with The Red Scarf” Sets the Record Straight

The Curious George series has the “man with the yellow hat” and recently, Real Housewives of New York introduced “the guy with the red scarf.” There was the French pirate before him, followed by zany Rey at the Madam Paulette event, and of course, that man that “it’s all about”, Tom D’Agastino.

This new neck-cessorized suitor of the season will surely also be the subject of future flashback scenes. He has already been the impetus for a car ride recap by Bethenny and a contentious dinner conversation between the ladies. Viewers observed how Ramona Singer was the first to single him out at a speed dating event, after which he focused his attention on Bethenny and declared he had been hoping to see her there.

However, it was Carole Radziwill who ultimately scored a post-event blind date with him, set up by the speed dating event’s matchmaker Rori Sassoon. Afterwards, while in Colombia with her cast mates, Bethenny claimed -and complained – that he was hitting her up repetitively by text.

In case you were in the dark about his identity, the red scarf belongs to Brian Krauss, a 53 year old resident of Saddle River, NJ, who tells me he had never watched RHONY until this year and was unfamiliar with all the players except Bethenny. The two had met away from the show and glitz of NYC, in Miami.

Brian Krauss’s Instagram

Brian marvels about how “the guy with the red scarf” became a character (he didn’t don the accessory to stand out, rather for practical reasons: It was freezing that winter night.) and his adamancy about not expecting to be a storyline strikes me as sincere. After all, this lawyer and entrepreneur (he founded and sold the companies IPATH Footwear and Vintage1 and is now focused on his law firms) had never watched the show until he was informed he’d be on the speed dating episode. Now, he has to tune in weekly to keep up with the narrative.

As we’re chatting by phone, Brian sends me an email comprised of what he’s written in order to set the record straight on his relationship to Bethenny:

A Tale of Two Texts

Bethenny has an odd habit of making up stories where she looks good at the expense of others. This tale is no exception. I bet those texts she was reading gave you the impression they were all from me after we re-connected at speed dating. False. They weren’t. They were cobbled together from months earlier when she first swiped right on The League, a dating app, to match with me.

She conveniently left out all her replies. There were so many. Trust me, it is unnerving to film RHONY. I agreed because I believe in my friend Rori’s matchmaking business Platinum Poire. And yes, I was happy to see Bethenny, a woman I already knew, felt comfortable with and considered a friend.

Her claim that she texted me that same night to fix me up with Carole: also false. In real life Rori arranged a dinner the next evening. Also, in real life Bethenny texted me immediately after she left speed dating to say what a great time she had had. Then she woke up at 6:01 the next morning (Feb. 1st) to set up a date for herself.

When I saw the show, I laughed at the way Bethenny turned what I thought was a flirty, fun speed dating night into a full on pursuit.

Here are screenshots of the actual texts between us. It’s kind of brilliant how this became “he won’t stop texting me.” You decide. I’m blue. Bethenny is grey. By the way, I’m out of the reality show business. It’s insane!

Then four days later:


Brian explains that when he first met Bethenny in Miami, he felt a connection to her because they both had been through difficult divorces. He is not a stranger to reality television as he had once been a part of a project with the intent of promoting a business. That reality show never aired, in large part due to his divorce and refusal to be inauthentic about his marital struggles, as well as tensions with his brothers-in-law business partners.

A client of Rori’s matchmaking business referred Brian for the speed dating event. After speaking with her at length by phone, Brian says he really liked the matchmaker and her business concept and wanted to help her promote the company. He relates that he almost backed out of filming after having second thoughts. Now, Brian is a part of the RHONY saga. He is a character that true fans of the franchise won’t forget. He is gobsmacked by the amount of friend requests he’s received on Facebook since appearing on the show and by the number of followers he has recently acquired on Instagram. He laments that it’s been hard to keep up.

“At the reunion, I think Carole will probably set the record straight about how things actually went down,” he speculates. This aligns with the rumors about the upcoming reunion. Bethenny fans will not be happy at the insinuations that she has been less than truthful. They will have to come to their own conclusions when Carole presents the “receipts.”

Brian says he remains in touch with Carole and I try to gauge if there’s romantic interest there, but I’m mainly unsuccessful. He says that he finds her fascinating, brilliant and accomplished and is still getting to know her.

As for Bethenny? “Oh no, I’m not in touch and I won’t text her. I would NOT want that to get misconstrued!”

#RHONY, Reality TV

#RHONY Ruminations & Reunion Rumblings

In my mind, Dorinda Medley is greatly ticked off, but feels partially validated at the same time. As her avid social media followers can attest, the Countess had been crapping on her, having the gall to mention HER drinking and criticize her drunken behavior. After all, Luann De Lesseps is the one who entered rehab for alcohol addiction after her Palm Beach arrest months ago. How dare she throw stones from her glass house at Dorinda?

…And Dorinda wanted the world to know that Lu was still holed up in that very glass house, that she was no sobriety expert who could say “learn from my mistakes.” As it happened, Dorinda was proved right when Lu reentered rehab after a relapse. Bethenny Frankel reached out to Dave Quinn, Bravo’s People magazine pet, and issued several statements on Lu’s behalf, one being that the Countess would be skipping the reunion as she focused on rehabilitation.

This likely gave Dorinda pause. Well, after hours of putting together my receipts and going over all the pivotal points, I won’t get to lambast Lu. On the other hand, I can highlight her hypocrisy and prove the point I had all along. Of course, I’ll convey that it is my hope she gets better, and that I really sympathize with her struggle. Blah blah blah.

Last night’s episode of Real Housewives of New York hammered home some of the other wars waging between this group of women who hang out annually before a camera crew. The only “real” friendships on this show exist between Tinsley, Carole and Dorinda, and between Dorinda and Ramona. The other dynamics are those of coworkers. Bethenny’s stance communicates that she is there to do her best work, bring emotions for heightened drama and then have little to do with the ladies for the rest of the year.

Viewer response to Bethenny after last night’s episode ran the gamut. The “ride or die” Bethenny fans completely understood how personal stresses and her treatment by cast mate Carole Radziwill have combined to make her positively cuckoo, and they feel she has her right to complain. Others are exhausted by Bethenny’s overreactions, cries and snapping that creates chaos.

Personally, I admire how hardworking Bethenny is. I love her compassion for the people of Puerto Rico and her charity work where she shows nothing is below her. That’s why I was taken aback when she acted like the hotel villa was so beneath her in last night’s episode. On the other hand, who am I to criticize Bethenny when I’m sure the circumstances of her divorce, subsequent restraining order and custody arrangement, as well as the strained relationship with a former bestie are draining her emotionally? It’s definitely not easy to be Bethenny and have it hammered home that your former best friend has replaced you with a more happy-go-lucky, fairytale princess Barbie version.

When former RHONY cast mate Kelly Bensimon had her epic “mental breakdown” seasons ago, she didn’t have the backing of fans expressing compassion that Bethenny has now. She didn’t have the extensive show experience or noted business acumen and success. Her charity work was also far lesser publicized. Her personal problems were less documented and I don’t recall many “passes” being given to her. Some fans have called attention to that comparison and the fact that if Bethenny is always having a new problem with new people, perhaps Bethenny is the problem.

Viewers have expressed that she seems incapable of keeping friends and maintaining relationships. Others have added these words to that sentiment: “on TV.” It appears that Bethenny has close friends of many years who don’t seek the limelight. However, it’s getting tiresome for many to see Bethenny constantly blow up at the smallest thing with her cast mates, and to see her perpetually regard former friends as foes.

Yesterday I wrote about likely scenarios at the upcoming reunion, and now reports are surfacing that we’ll see Bethenny eviscerate Carole there. The queen of the comeback and Wonder Woman of the one-liners will likely come out as the triumphant one at this celebrated annual event. The lack of Luann will be usurped by Bethenny’s powerful presence, and the reviews will be mixed. Bethenny loyalists will cheer and feel a vicarious sense of validation for her, while detractors and the less enthused Bethenny watchers will wish for more self-awareness from Her Royal Smugness.

Until a future season when Bethenny is cast next to her perfect adversary, one who matches wits with her tit for tat, is equally savvy and can effectively captivate Andy Cohen, her monster reign will continue. The rumors circulating about Carole quitting after this season are not impossible to believe while Bethenny is the power player in this group dynamic. Because this is a fact fatiguing fans, Shed Media might do best by strategically shaking up the cast for next season.

#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, Uncategorized

#RHONY: Bethenny’s Got Your Back!

Several weeks ago, I was privately given the heads-up that Luann De Lesseps of Real Housewives of New York was drinking again. Anyone remotely connected to Bravo franchises and their cast and crew will hear something second, third or fourth-hand. In many cases, we (bloggers, writers, podcast hosts) dismiss the gossip as speculative. If it comes from a malicious place, as I suspected with this particular rumor, many of us refrain from exploring a rather obscure “tip” further and back away, fearing a sordid backstory.

I watched as this tidbit made the rounds of Facebook postings and Instagram comments, all the while cheering Luann on for her celebrated sobriety on TV. I hoped that these nasty rumors contradicting the RHONY footage were untrue. I wanted the recently humbled (after her infamous Palm Beach arrest) Countess to thrive.

Yesterday, in a bizarre turn, former Lu frenemy Bethenny Frankel was quoted by Dave Quinn of People, as she provided the update that Lu had entered rehab for a relapse on the heels of family-related stress. Furthermore, Luann would not be at the reunion taping, which, according to Tamara Tattles is actually happening as I write this.

The People article conveys that Lu, who is not currently working with a personal publicist (where is Darren Bettencourt? Or Matthew David Byers? Or Lizzie Grubman?!!!!) had appointed Bethenny as her unofficial spokeswoman. This development attests to the authenticity of the fresh bond we see between the two costars on screen this season. Considering the fact that Luann is, allegedly, only close to two of her cast mates at present, this was a sound selection.

While Sonja Morgan would have been the only other candidate, her loose lips could sink battleships, and after the “boat ride from hell” in Colombia, the Countess likely deemed it best to avoid anything that even metaphorically has to do with sea vessels.

Bethenny’s no-nonsense, articulate and expertly crafted statements on Lu’s behalf surely has Bravo’s VP of Communications cowering about his potential replacement.

Where was Bethenny when we were all waiting for Peggy Sulahian to address the horrific homophobia rumors during last season of RHOC? Perhaps Bethenny could provide counsel to Southern Charm‘s most embattled duo? Maybe she could salvage Your Husband is Cheating on Us? Or recast Southern Charm Savannah?

Lu’s absence at the upcoming reunion has likely put a wrench in the “receipt” amassment activity of her cast mates. Dorinda Medley reportedly had axes to grind with her costar (including Luann’s harsh critique of her drinking) and now Dorinda will be forced to take the high road rather than get to say “I told you so” or underscore any hypocrisy.

Some viewers are speculating that there will be a videotaped message from Luann as the other women air grievances with one another.

Like it or not, I’m envisioning a separate unshaven Andy-Luann sit down in Sag Harbor — like the one we were treated to last year after the reunion.

Reports are now circulating that because of Lu’s absence, Ramona will be seated on a different couch than what was initially designated for her. I predict that Dorinda will go hard at Bethenny, with Carole and Tinsley as cheerleaders. Carole will also complain about Bethenny’s treatment of her. Without Luann, Bethenny will only have Sonja in her corner, and Sonja will have to deal with the other ladies’ complaints about her – particularly from Dorinda.

While the playing field seems uneven, – Bethenny and Sonja versus everybody else – we know that Bethenny is a sharp shooter and the queen of one-liners. As annoyingly predictable as this sounds, she’ll smack her attackers down and defend Sonja successfully against Dorinda, Ramona, Carole and Tinsley.

Yes, Luann may have temporarily lost control over her sobriety, but she has not lost her mind. Not. At. All. Having Bethenny be her mouthpiece is a brilliant move. At the reunion, Lu will have the authoritative and commanding voice – the one that Andy listens to most – representing her and issuing a positive message to the world.

Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Haymaker Havoc and What’s Ahead

Southern Charm Savannah returns tomorrow, Monday at 10 PM EST, and a number of its fans from last season are skeptical.

The show didn’t do spectacularly well in the ratings last season – with many complaining it lacked luster compared to the original Southern Charm.

Fans took to Twitter to say that Ashley Borders, who dealt with major life changes and adversity (especially from stodgier members of the more conservative cast), was the most interesting character on the show (definitely the bohemian and most liberal of the group) only to discover that this season she’ll appear in a few scenes. She’s an estranged “friend of” rather than a full time cast member.

According to Savannian sources, one of the other cast members had Haymaker Productions’ ear, made a big stink about Ashley’s potential return, and didn’t want to film with her. There was a bit of a tug of war behind the scenes as a fierce female Bravo executive advocated for Ashley, but ultimately was not triumphant due to the stubborn cast member.

Ashley Borders

In Ashley’s place, Haymaker cast a Brooklyn Decker lookalike named Hagood Coxe and made interior decorator Brandon Branch, who appeared last season, a full time cast member. Some fans regarded Brandon warily, the mean gossip who pettily maligned Ashley Borders to his good friend Catherine Cooper. We’ll get to know more about his personal life and greater insight into his character this season. I just hope he’s a tad more endearing because I wasn’t charmed by him in Season 1.

Last year, viewers saw Lyle Mackenzie propose to Catherine and she turned that down. One source says she also turned down an off-camera proposal!

In the Season 2 trailer, we see another cast member, Daniel Eichholz, plea to Lyle to rethink his relationship and question Catherine’s fidelity.

The very young Hagood, in her 20s compared to her decade-older cast mates, is said to struggle with some identity issues and is concerned about what others think. My sources say that Ashley Borders briefly spoke with Hagood during filming about being proud of who she is and not worrying so much about the rest of the cast’s judgement – which Ashley herself dealt with last season.

The offending Nelson Lewis (who threw out a Yiddish word that didn’t meet with positive response from Jews like myself and Daniel Eichholz, or black viewers) is not back at all for Season 2. Some fans regarded his faux pas of last season as falling under the Hanlon’s Razor principle – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

That said, Nelson is a smart man, but didn’t possess enough of the “Woke” World Smarts to help him outside of his select Southern circles. Daniel Eichholz was certainly offended, and he felt like the odd man out being a Jewish Savannian in this group in general. I am interested to see how that storyline plays out for Daniel sans Nelson.

I’ll be tuning in, but mainly to rage that Ashley Borders isn’t back – since she was my personal favorite – and to tune in for her select scenes.

Reality TV

#90DayFiance: Interview with Danielle Jbali

Danielle Jbali from 90 Day Fiance is one of the most talked about members of the franchise. I recently fell far down the 90 Day rabbit hole, and although I’m new to this series, it is riveting for the realness and heightened raw emotions (much more so than arguably “staged” reality shows). Always the last one to the party, I had initially resolved not to take on another addictive television program, but completely reneged. As viewers can attest, Danielle and Mohamed’s crazy journey unwittingly sucks you in.

While Mohamed later pulled the “I got a bad edit” card, most viewers felt Danielle was being taken advantage of by the man who married her in 90 days to obtain his K1 Visa. The couple’s tumultuous dynamic played out for the cameras and after filming their first season, Mohamed became quite taken with the fan adoration on social media.

From there began the demise of their already rocky union. Danielle confronted Mohamed with the infamous “binder” that held incriminating information such as correspondences with other women, and expressed her desire for him to be deported. The now-divorced couple no longer speak, and Mohamed lashed out at producers for not showing some of the good times with Danielle and making him look like a lothario.


I caught up with Danielle to ask her some of the questions viewers wanted to know. She also weighed in on the current season of 90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?

I know that you and Mohamed are divorced and have essentially moved on. Do you have any contact with him at all?

No, not at all. I tried reaching out last fall, but he quit responding to me so I gave up. We were cool before that and there was something I wanted help with – with a website. At first, he said yes and then he quit responding. He was talking to me while he was in Miami, but after he got to Texas he quit responding. He’s in Texas now.

Can you explain what it means that you are responsible for him for 10 years from him getting his K1 Visa and marrying you?

For example, if he was to go to the hospital or need federal assistance, they would come to me to collect that money.

Molly and Luis have a similar arrangement.

That’s what it would entail, the same thing.

I’m currently watching 90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After? Are there any couples on that show that you have advice for based on your own experience?

Nicole and Azan I have been in touch with. I spoke with them after their very first season and advised Nicole to go over to Morocco more than once and really familiarize herself with that culture. She’s done that. I also spoke to Azan and said ‘Don’t ever do what Mohamed did.  Stick to your culture and your roots and really make sure that Nicole is used to that.’ You see, Mohamed brought religion into our relationship and then he was not sticking to things he was taught, but would turn around and blame me for things. In his culture, men are providers and I was taking care of him by working. When he was complaining about my finances, he wasn’t working. By the way, I found a new job within a month after you saw me lose my job on the show and I’m still working at that job. I take care of mentally handicapped adults. I work as a home health aide too. I’m also in school for my RN degree to become a nurse.

I was watching the scene in which you spoke with him about losing your job. He responded that he wouldn’t leave you because you lost your job, he would only leave if you weren’t telling him things. Did you trust what he was saying then?

I truly feel – I don’t care if my friend Beth gets mad – I know our relationship from the very beginning. I feel Mohamed came here for the right reasons…BUT after the financial trouble, losing my job, issues with my son and him not working, he started getting depressed. Part of the K1 process is that you’re not allowed to work until you get a work permit. When the show came out, he suddenly got messages from women all over the world and I think the fame went to his head. He was never that arrogant until after the show started airing.

When he was receiving all of those messages and responding to them, were you two separated or fully together?

This was while we were fully together. It was almost a year after we were fully together that he finally left because we had a big blow up. I found a receipt from a woman from Canada sending him money.

Were there moments you wish had been captured by the 90 Day crew that weren’t?

They didn’t show a lot of our happy moments. They showed him getting along with my girls and could’ve showed some more of that positive stuff. There was more than just the drama. There was some good stuff.

Can you address the things you heard Mohamed say that you feel were untrue?

I never screamed at him for sex. This is the thing: I’m open with my girls and will talk about sex in front of them and he was appalled by that. I know what my kids do and don’t do because I’m honest and open with them. I think that was shocking to Mohamed because of his culture. He didn’t agree with me being so open because in Tunisia they’re not open.

When he said I needed to see a doctor, it was a big lie to make me look bad. I was having medical issues with my period and I had a surgical procedure to have my uterus removed and he actually took me to that. He said I had an odor and peed on him. That was actually orgasm and he wasn’t experienced with sexual things. In the culture that he’s from, they don’t have sex until marriage. He was a virgin until I came over to see him.

I know it struck viewers as strange when he said at the wedding that it was Ramadan and so he couldn’t kiss his new bride.

That was edited a certain way! We actually had talked about it before the wedding but it was made to look like he sprung that on me. I already knew about Ramadan and when I went over to see him, we were conscious about not touching in public.

How is your relationship with your kids now and did Mohamed end up apologizing wholeheartedly to them as he promised he would?

Over in their culture, they do a lot of things with their family, but there was tension for a while between my kids and I when it was hard for Mohamed to understand that we are more open in our culture. I would talk with my family and friends. He doesn’t open up to family and friends from back home. He could’ve stopped talking to people online and just talked to his family if that were the case! I didn’t appreciate him getting on Reddit forums and things like that to discuss me and the relationship. He did end up apologizing to my kids. It’s not tense anymore for me and my kids. We’ve really moved past it.

When was the last time you saw Mohamed?

March of 2017, in court. Well, I did see him at the Tell-All but he wouldn’t talk to me there!

Do you have any other thoughts about the 90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After? couples?

I think that Anfisa has been honest with Jorge from the get-go so I don’t hold that against her. The only thing I might hold against her is keying the car and stuff like that…but in some relationships, one person gets more hotheaded than the other person! I mean, hey, I threw a book at Mohamed in Miami. When you’re caught up in this crazy drama, you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

A fan named Jessica Mirmak told me to ask if you still have the binder. She added ‘Please, I need to know!’


What is your relationship status now?

I’m dating someone, but he doesn’t want to be in the public eye at all, so I don’t put anything out there with him. That means no pictures on social media or anything like that. He likes his privacy. If I put it out there, some of these fans go crazy looking things up on the Internet. I do love to interact with my fans though and have met up with some and chatted with others. When they ask me questions, I try to answer them.

Should we expect to see you in a follow up show on TLC?

Possibly because I know they’ve extended my contract. I did the update for What Now? but I’m not sure what’s ahead! Stay tuned.

The rest of these questions are from a fan named Eunyoung Lee: 

Do your kids live with you?

My three daughters live with me. My son lives with his fiancé and their kids.

Where do you reside now?

I still live in Sandusky in the double wide mobile home I bought.

If it’s not too awkward, can you address what was discussed about your past criminal record?

I do have a couple of things on my record. Passing a bad check from 15 years ago and a misdemeanor theft from 13 years ago.

How has your life changed since being on TV and any regrets?

My life has changed from people digging for info and posting it online. I don’t think of myself as being famous. My family is very supportive. There’s nothing I regret, but I do wish they had showed more of the happy times that viewers didn’t get to see.

Parents, Psychology

My Interview with Dr. Phil: #Bullying & Anti-Bullying Awareness

He’s roused millions to “Get Real!” and has tackled the topic on his hit TV talk show — Dr. Phil took time to chat with me about bullying and answer some questions:

Jill Zarin once suggested that parents break into their kids’ Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly to monitor and be on the lookout for signs of bullying. In your expert opinion, how invasive should a parent be and what should they do to keep an eye out for bullying?

There are different ways for a parent to be actively involved. Parents have to educate themselves about the warning signs (check out Dr. Phil’s warning signs of bullying).

They need to know for both sides what the signs are that their child is being bullied or if their child is a bully.

Kids don’t often come home and tell their parents they’re being bullied because they’re ashamed. They may show signs of withdrawal. They may want to avoid going to school beyond the normal “I don’t want to go to school” and exhibit a chronic pattern.

If you see bruises, scratches or that some of their possessions have been damaged or missing, those are all warning signs. They may also start to show signs of depression, crying, aggression, mood changes and lifestyle changes if they’re being bullied.

In terms of whether your child is a bully, watch to see if there’s a really strong clique. Are they gossiping about someone or making fun of them? Are they excluding some child in some way? Telling jokes about or laughing at a particular child? Exploiting some other child in some way?

Before invading their privacy, determine whether or not the warning signs are there. Then you need to follow your instincts

— A child’s trust is earned.

As far as social networking sites (like Twitter and Facebook), those are fertile ground for bullying. Your kid is going to have more knowledge than you do about the Internet, but not the insight on how to deal with it.

When a child/teen first complains of being bullied in school, what are the key first steps a parent/adult should take?

The first thing a parent needs to do is make sure they don’t fall victim to “Hey, kids are kids, let them be kids.” That’s not true.

When a child is bullied it’s one of the loneliest times in his or her life. The most important thing for parent to do is sit with the child and talk with them and find out what’s going on.

If the child says “Oh Mom, don’t say anything. That will just make it worse,” know it’s not true. The child should know that telling is not tattling — Let your child know that telling someone in a position to help the facts that they need to know to help is the right thing to do. In terms of how the child handles bullies on his or her own, it’s a case by case scenario.

The biggest mistake parents make is telling kids “You just need to confront the bully.” Bullies specifically choose kids that can’t do that. You can advise them to stay with a friend, not be alone, to not place themselves in situations where they’re sure to get bullied (like hanging out in a spot where the bully typically hangs out).

The next thing is to get the school involved. Teachers and administrators don’t get into education for the money. They get into it because they care what they’re doing. They don’t want your child to be victimized. They’re on your side. Ask for their help and alert the teachers involved. Ask for the adults in the school to watch and intervene and become your eyes and ears.

What can schools across the country do to prevent and tackle the bullying problem?

I am very passionate about this issue and I need to emphasize this: We need to amend the secondary and elementary education act to include funding and language that specifically refers to bullying and online bullying. Until we put our money where our mouth is, this problem isn’t going to get better. We have to do this across the board and it is absolutely doable. This is something that needs to be funded and we need to make sure all the schools are not only required, but actively engaged in anti-bullying efforts.

Lady Gaga has discussed being bullied as has Anne Hathaway, Eva Mendes, Tim Gunn and other celebrities. How important are famous voices with regard to anti-bullying awareness?

They are necessary but not sufficient. When folks that young people look up to take a strong position that it’s not cool to bully it has a positive affect. I think it’s terrific but it’s got to go further than that and that’s what I mean about having it as part of the curriculum in schools.

This interview of mine with Dr. Phil originally ran a few years ago on Huffington Post. The message, however, is a timeless one.

(Photo source: DrPhil.com)