Bravo TV, infertility, Moms, Parents, Reality TV, RHOC, Women

#RHOC: Between the Filler Scenes, Bringing Awareness to Fertility Challenges

The past few seasons of Real Housewives of Orange County have disappointed many who expect more than a montage of filler scenes, but we keep watching because storylines are there…Although it oftentimes may seem akin to separating the wheat from the chaff.

One theme this season consists of Emily Simpson, an attorney and party planner in her early 40s, desiring to have another child with her Mormon Persian husband Shane. On RHOC, Emily is clear and candid about her past emotional ordeal trying to conceive. When a viewer – who missed the explanation of why her sister became her surrogate – asked about the backstory, she responded: “I did in vitro. I was pregnant with twins and I lost them both at 4 months. I went into pre term labor and lost a lot of blood. I had to have an emergency D and C and then a blood transfusion. Because of this… my sister then was a surrogate and carried all three of my children.” When Emily lost all that blood, she was greatly at risk of losing her life. All viewers can agree that her sister must be an incredible person. Emily has said that her sister has a daughter of her own who calls Emily’s daughter her “sister cousin.”

Emily is not the first Housewife on RHOC to bring awareness to fertility challenges. Before she joined the group, there was Meghan King Edmonds who married the older, divorced Jim Edmonds, a former baseball center fielder turned sports broadcaster who had retired from babymaking – or so he thought, prior to marrying Meghan – and had gotten a vasectomy. The smart thing Jim did at the time was having sperm frozen, a “just in case” move.

Longtime RHOC viewers remember how Meghan spoke lovingly about her stepkids, arguing with the other ladies that despite not being their biological mother, she felt a strong bond as if she were.

Meghan wondered then if she would ever have kids of her own with Jim and she was anxious about the challenges. Frozen sperm doesn’t always take, but after IVF, Meghan conceived twins. Then we saw her grapple with the fact that one of the twin sacs had vanished and she cried for the early loss of that twin, but went on to have a healthy daughter.

Last year, when I interviewed Meghan, the idea of using more of the frozen sperm was not her major focus as she was pouring her daily energies into the new baby, but Meghan would go on to have twin boys –and a full term (for twins, that is 36 weeks) pregnancy, an impressive feat for multiples. (My own twin boys were born premature and spent five weeks in the NICU nine years ago.)

People have reached out to Meghan, and more recently, to Emily to thank them for their candor about fertility struggles. Hearing about the authentic hurdles that were eventually overcome instills viewers with encouragement, ideas and hope.

When I encounter folks that don’t watch reality television and feel a sense of despair, I try to share my own fertility saga. In my late teens, my hormones were entirely out of whack and my mom took me to see a pediatric endocrinologist. That visit armed me with the knowledge that I would most likely need “help” in order to conceive when the time – which seemed a long way off back then – was right and I wanted to start a family. Miraculously, I had no trouble conceiving my first child after coming off a birth control pill, but when I wanted to try for a second, the old hormonal issues reared their ugly heads.

I spent many months in a reproductive endocrinologist’s office as he scratched his head, trying to figure out why I wasn’t responding to any treatments. After my first attempt at IVF, I miscarried. Following the recovery from that devastating loss, I tried IVF again. However, this time the doctor recommended adding preimplantation genetic testing of the embryos. Out of the 18 embryos that were produced, only one, “Number 17”, was deemed healthy.

I remember saying to the doctor “Everyone always implants more than one embryo. What’s the chance of one even taking?” I expected this to result in more despair and as my doctor was mentioning the possibility of surrogacy and donor eggs, I reasoned that my son would be an only child and that was totally OK. I was ready for it and would have to figure out creative responses to “Mom, I want a brother or a sister.”

Surprisingly, “Number 17” became the boy that is my 12 year old today. We joke that he was a pain in the butt before he was even born because I was informed I was at risk of preterm labor and took progesterone shots (administered in the derrière) throughout the pregnancy as a preventative measure. He was born only 4 weeks early and was a solid 6 pounds and 11 ounces.

Because of the incredibly lengthy, time (and money) intensive, highly emotional ordeal to give my oldest son a sibling, I declared I was done after two. I gave away my baby clothes, my maternity wardrobe and other related accoutrements. So when my husband turned to me and said, “If we want to try for a third, we better get cracking now,” I gave him the side eye and looked at him as if he were a 90 Day Fiance cast member rather than the man I had married. “I thought I had retired,” I said to myself, while half entertaining the very remote possibility of trying for a third and last pregnancy.

I was technically “advanced maternal age” and my husband is six and a half years my senior. Knowing that doctors had told me it was nearly impossible for me to get pregnant any other way than IVF with PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnostics), I said “let me try one round of IUI (insemination preceded by fertility shots) which is covered by insurance. If the one round doesn’t work, WHICH IT WILL NOT, NO CHANCE OF THAT, then we are meant to only have two kids and that’s totally fine!”

Unlike my prior Manhattan fertility practice that had extra long waits and a packed waiting room area, I found a center near me in New Jersey. I thought it might be a worrisome sign to find myself as the solo patient in the waiting room and my antenna went up further when I was ushered in right away to the exam room. But, long story short: This no-frills fertility practice worked its magic. After only one completely insured round of IUI, I conceived and exceeded what the expectations were for my body. The twins are 9 years old today.

So from infertility to 4 children – actually being told at age 17 that I would have a hard time getting pregnant and hearing that so early on – my journey is one I’ve shared with others in need of encouragement. I’ve been able to relate to people who have miscarried because that, for me, was a far greater ordeal than I detailed above.

I’m not a public figure, nor will I ever be, but when I see someone who has a platform, like Emily Simpson on RHOC, use it to bring awareness to options like surrogacy and detail an emotionally fraught fertility story, I know it’s appreciated among fans going through similar experiences.

It is a natural instinct to seek people out who have already been through the journey you have only just begun. When my twins were in the Nicu as preemies, I had no frame of reference. I remember a man telling me that his daughter was born even more premature than my sons, had weighed a mere one pound at birth, and was now obtaining a degree at an Ivy League university. I cannot properly convey how reassuring that was to hear.

Conversely, when I miscarried years ago, many friends came forward to share their sad miscarriage stories, ones I had never been told despite knowing these people for years.

While we watch reality TV often to escape our lives, we also tend to admire the characters whose challenges we are facing or have faced, the ones we discover commonalities with. While many people make fun of reality TV lovers, the real components of it can provide solace to someone going through an ordeal or contemplating their options.

In many circles, people are incredibly tight-lipped and private about these matters. In the community I hailed from, I hardly ever heard anyone discuss fertility challenges when I was growing up. More people end up hearing about these things from their friends when they are the ones to initiate a discussion about their own struggles and frustrations with the challenges. So when Emily Simpson appears on our screens and discloses that her sister was her surrogate after she suffered numerous miscarriages, we’re going to look up, listen and take note.

Standard
#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV

#RHONY: Could Ramona and Mario Be Back Together Or Just Good Friends? **UPDATED**

This article has been updated — See the last paragraph.

It was more than just one Facebook post with photos that tipped me off to the notion that Ramona and Mario had been spotted together…and it appeared – to onlookers – to be more than platonic. Some are speculating that the two are back together and others say they’re just good friends who share a daughter, Avery, and will periodically reconvene to be with her at events.

Several years ago, when they split, I stated my assertion that this was probably a mid-life crisis for Mario and he would realize he should never have left the woman he loved most and had the most chemistry with (or at least, that is what I imagined to be the case). To me, it seemed that neither of them would find a greater love than the other. Something was amiss about their breakup and felt wholly unresolved.

Of course, this was just an opinion of mine and if Ramona and Mario are simply great friends, then my theory was incorrect. I am totally OK with being wrong.

My friends Donna, Karen and Greg spotted Ramona a few nights ago sharing laughs with her ex husband and then I saw a Facebook post echoing the sentiments that it APPEARS as if the two have rekindled their romance. Someone apparently mentioned “vow renewal” but maybe that was simply a reminiscence to the time the divorced couple held such an event.

We are only at the ALLEGEDLY stage right now, but a recent gathering of the New York Housewives, swarmed by camera crew, included Mario. This means that Season Eleven should bring us answers on their status….That is, unless People magazine delivers them sooner. Note to People reporter Dave Quinn: Get on it!

(Photo Source: Bravo TV/NBC Universal)

UPDATE: A close friend of Ramona’s tells me: “No. That (rekindling their romance) would be surprising. Remember, they have a daughter.”

Standard
#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, RHONJ, Women

The Reality of Reality TV Friendships

I often marvel at how perplexed fans are by the demise of a “friendship” between women on reality television. While casting directors often choose people who are familiar with one another, they also look for personalities that are dynamic enough for on-camera clashes and fireworks.

Sometimes a televised kinship is just that, a business arrangement of sorts where the women go back to their real friends during the months of no filming. In other instances, like colleagues in various professions, true personal bonds are formed and cast members do get together when the cameras aren’t rolling.

However the fates of these reality TV friendships are always uncertain due to group dynamics ahead, seeing one another in new environments, and after being asked dozens of questions about the other person by persistent (and often meddlesome) producers.

Last season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Margaret Joseph was seen bonding with Danielle Staub and this season, according to Staub’s recent appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, the two had a massive falling out during the filming months. We also had the terse and painfully tumultuous “breakup” of Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel on Real Housewives of New York, that left the viewing audience taking sides. On this season of Real Housewives of Dallas, currently airing, Leeanne Locken And D’Andra Simmons seem to be falling apart at the seams. With the latter, as Locken explained on the podcast Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino , there had been some particularly hurtful drama when they tried to work together on a prior reality show four years ago. Until this interview, most of us were unaware of the deep wounds and buried grudges that date back to that earlier project. Having a chaotic history coated by several layers of Southern politeness may have finally brought simmering resentments to a boil.

In many of our lives – the lives of regular people who will not be featured on television – we have lifelong friends as well as people who were once friends who we’ve lost touch with. Then there are friends we’ve lost – not to death, but to life circumstances, differences in lifestyles or geographical distances.

Sometimes women become too close and confide their deepest darkest secrets and a confidence is broken. Other times, we may come to see something in a friend that compels us to pull away. We don’t have producers asking us to articulate exactly what is going on in those moments or encouraging us to hash it out. If we did, we might be able to salvage those friendships through communication we wouldn’t otherwise employ – or more likely, an all-out screaming, glass smashing row would ensue.

The point is that although we all want to be part of a Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda dynamic a la Sex in the City, the headlines about longtime colleagues SJP and Kim Catrall not being able to stand one another attest to how fraught and complicated female relationships can be when you strip away the fictional script.

As a child I always thought it would be incredible to have a huge group of friends, but today I have about 6 or 7 really close friends. According to Facebook, I have 1,361 “friends” though I think I have broken bread with about fifteen percent of that contingent.

Like Leeanne and D’Andra, Margaret and Danielle, Bethenny and Carole, I have had my own friend fallouts over the years and although they cannot compare in volatility to the televised versions, I still wish all friends and acquaintances were life-long ones.

The notion of having everybody adore you forever is a childhood fantasy. As adults, we grow and change, our priorities shift. Fallouts inevitably result from differences in politics, beliefs and the loss of commonalities we once shared.

Whether a producer is in our ear or not, intuition dictates when it is time to walk away.

(Photos courtesy of: Bravo TV/NBC Universal, Us Weekly, People)

Standard
#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV

#RHONY: ‘A Star is Born’ with Babs Kavovit? Looks Like Everyone Is Getting Along (For Now)

The ladies of Real Housewives of New York seem to turn on a dime and do astounding 180s on the regular. Everyone was feuding last we checked. Dorinda Medley and Sonja Morgan were at each other’s throats, and the Queen B (Bethenny Frankel, of course) was on the outs with everyone except Luann De Lesseps and Sonja when the RHONY reunion was filmed.

Well, that was then and this is now. Today, it seems the dysfunctional clique – sans the recently ousted Carole Radziwill- is living it up in the Berkshires and having a grand ole time filming RHONY’s upcoming season.

With them to liven up the party is new “Housewife” Barbara Kovovit, a construction CEO who was caught on camera disparaging Lu and Tom’s ill-fated union two seasons ago. Her predictions were proven to be correct, but now it seems all is forgiven from that awkward hot mic moment.

I am always curious as to how producers determine who will make a great “Real Housewife” and there must be something particularly alluring about Barbara when it comes to Shed Media and Bravo’s standards.

I think one major draw is that she is someone who is greatly committed to her work, has made a name for herself professionally, and because of that, can confidently go toe to toe (and tit for tat) with Bethenny.

Expect that duo to get along impressively for at least Babs’s initial season, giving new meaning to the phrase “A Star is Born.”

In the meantime, check out Bethenny’s Instagram stories from the Berkshires. The notorious love-hate dynamic between her and Ramona is currently set to “love.”

…Or at least that’s how things appear on social media – for today.

This goes without saying, but I’ll utter the terribly banal phrase anyway: STAY TUNED.

Standard
Bravo TV

#BravoTV: Women Supporting Women? Maybe Not…in This Case

Southern Charm got a little too dark and convoluted behind the scenes several months ago. At that point in time, I decided I would write about other shows and take a hiatus from a subject that provoked far too much ire on social media. (I mean, hey, that’s what politics is for and I don’t intend to stop tweeting about national developments.) With Reality TV and the myriad of fantastic blogs devoted to Bravo TV shows, I felt I could pick and choose what to write about versus what to read about. I would refer friends to my favorite websites when there was something I didn’t want to touch. I intended to adhere to my resolution about Southern Charm, but a recent development now compels me to weigh in:

Months ago, I interviewed TRav accusers Ashley Perkins and Nanny Dawn. After a lengthy police investigation, an arrest was made earlier this week. What some are not aware of is that investigators had unbricked Dawn’s old cell phone as part of their investigation. (Police actually use the word “dumped” rather than unbricked. The latter is modern slang.) The discovery was that it contained incriminating data against Nanny Dawn’s former employer.

Fans of Southern Charm who thought nothing would ever come of the reported “ongoing investigation” were shocked by news of the arrest, but apparently one shouldn’t underestimate an old cell phone’s prowess. After sifting through messages, there was sufficient evidence to make an arrest.

Now, in a strange twist, accuser Ashley Perkins is turning on accuser Nanny Dawn (Dawn requested that her last name be withheld from all media reports).

Perkins claims that after speaking to Dawn for several hours months ago, she doubted the other woman’s credibility and the consistency of Dawn’s details.

Interestingly, in her interview with me, Nanny Dawn credited Ashley Perkins as the inspiration for coming out and disclosing her own experience. Since both had seemingly taken a stand against sexual assault, it is odd that one would now, seemingly, turn against the other.

Fans of the show are questioning Ashley Perkins’ motives from the very beginning, wrestling with her credibility and whether this about-face is the result of a monetary settlement reached with TRav.

This story is still developing….

Standard
Bravo TV, Psychology, Reality TV, RHOC

#RHOC: How would YOUR Husband Fare on a Show Like This One?

As a lawyer and party planner, new “Housewife” Emily Simpson thought her unique dual careers would provide ample fodder for reality TV…Along with the fact that her sister surrogated her kids following her own fertility struggles. There was also the interesting family she had married into of Persian Mormons.

But what Emily did not expect was for her husband Shane to be attacked so viciously by show fans on social media.

That’s the risk you take when embarking on a project like RHOC: One should expect anything, everything…everyone to be brutally dissected in the public arena. In general today, even people who aren’t famous can be torn apart for writing something divisive, or uttering a phrase without significant forethought. Of course, this only intensifies for individuals starring on reality television shows.

I hate to highlight certain gender stereotypes, but unfortunately some do exist. There are men out there who act as if they’re allergic to arguments women have. I’m married to a man who will take a pass when it comes to my recaps of PTA drama (and yes, there are some men on the PTA…lest you think I’m singling women out too severely) or the cliquish chaos that transpires between parents on the playground. I frequently want to share the deets of a hard day with interpersonal dynamics gone awry…and he’ll suggest I complain about it to my (other) BFF. I hate that and I’ll tell him so in no uncertain terms. I’m not always successful in this regard. It’s as if these accounts are too migraine-inducing for him to endure.

“Ugh can we not talk about those Housewives?!” he’ll ask as I start to divulge a fascinating development regarding Bethenny Frankel. At least he’s consistent: “Ugh, can we NOT talk about reality stars?!” he exclaims, when I bring up anything related to Donald J. Trump.

Emily Simpson’s husband Shane seems to be afflicted with that same malady. Knowing my own husband, and how he would NEVER sign release forms for a reality show, it boggles my mind that Shane somehow agreed to take part in this season of Real Housewives of Orange County.

When Emily hosted a poker party in their home, Shane told her friend Gina Kirschenheiter (the other RHOC newbie) at the end of the night, that she was incredibly loud and needed to leave.

This made no sense to viewers since the party was obviously planned beforehand and slated to be filmed. My guess is that Shane never thoroughly thought things through. Had he done so, he would have either sent the children to sleep elsewhere, where they’d be undisturbed by raucous partiers, or requested that Emily find a special venue for the poker event.

So now, of course, Shane, who is diminutive in stature, is being lambasted publicly as the “little dictator” married to Emily Simpson. Some have questioned whether or not he’s “controlling”. This past episode, we saw him sparring somewhat with Kelly Dodd at Tamra Judge’s party. This was after Kelly confronted Vicki Gunvalson’s boyfriend Steve Lodge (while he was busy chatting with Shane) about statements Steve made to Page Six.

Shane has made it known that he has very little tolerance for “loud women” and drama…..I have to admit to being utterly baffled by this on-camera revelation. Had he never watched the show he’s now on?!

I can tell you that my own husband has walked in on scenes featuring Vicki Gunvalson (RHOC) and Ramona Singer (RHONY), and scurried out of our bedroom faster than a mouse chased by a broomstick. For him, the interactions are stressfully jarring. These are the aunts at bar mitzvahs cornering you about finding a spouse…when you’re only 13. This isn’t something he wants to watch in his leisure time.

It is convenient that we have more than one television in our home so he can find solace in some other program. It doesn’t matter that he has the entire series of MASH memorized and can quote each episode verbatim. If Klinger is on, he’s elated. It’s the same deal with Cheers and Seinfeld.

Try as I may, I’m unable to persuade him to join me for some Vanderpump Rules…or EVEN an episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen when one of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tending bar!

This will bug me at times, though I’ve come to know my mate: I wish we could jointly revel in the hilarity of those harried Housewives, the Ramona eyes, the drunken Dorinda slurs about Lu’s alcohol issues, Bethenny telling Carole to act her age and not her shoe size (or whatever the hell she said – I have PTSD from that), the infamous incident of a prosthetic leg thrown across a dinner table….

I wish that together we could analyze bizarre interactions between ladies whose problems pertain to the one percent. In my fantasies of such spousal interactions, we easily share the same anthropological viewpoints and are able to wax philosophical about Bravo shows….

As one does.

Alas, there are trade-offs in life and in marriages, and I should be thankful that he keeps things tidy (more so than I do), is an excellent cook and baker and most importantly, hands-on dad.

Although my husband isn’t Persian or Mormon, and he’s more likely to come up with an excuse for a trip to Costco rather than confronting my loudest girlfriend from Long Island, there’s no way he’d be able to film a scene that requires listening to recaps of frenzied fighting between filming friends and foes.

We see time and again with each of the Housewives franchises, that the husbands are obligated to listen and weigh in. To his credit, Joe Gorga of Real Housewives of New Jersey has mastered the art. He will, at the very least, act as if he’s listening and then offer some type of solution to his wife Melissa (she seldom takes his “advice”, but let’s grant Joe an “E” for effort). Jim Marchese of the same franchise overstepped his bounds in bellicose fashion and lasted a mere season.

I realize this is a highly unpopular opinion, but I have to give props to Shane Simpson for simply showing up…thus far. I know several husbands who would have found the largest plants or palm trees to hide behind at Tamra’s party before cameras surrounded them, catching instinctive eye-rolls and frantic – but flailing – signals for rescue.

Standard
Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#FlippingOut: Jenni Pulos is Staying Mum, Not Taking the “Radziwillian Route”

Last Friday, Jeff Lewis took to his eponymous SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live to address the People report about a rift between him and his Flipping Out costar and longtime pal Jenni Pulos. It turns out, the former besties haven’t had a simple “falling out”: This was a breakup and it looks like there will be no reconciliation any time soon…if ever.

Why? Because Pulos – according to Lewis – reported him for verbal abuse and harassment to the production company and network (Bravo, of course) behind Flipping Out.

In a follow up article in People, reporter Dave Quinn writes:

Lewis, 48, addressed PEOPLE’s report that he and Pulos had gone their separate ways Friday on an emotional episode of his SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live. “It’s true,” the house flipper and designer said. “Jenni and I did have a fight which then resulted in a rift. … I haven’t spoken to her in three months.”

Quinn later adds:

According to Lewis, there’s more to their fallout. He said that Pulos allegedly reported him to Bravo and the show’s production company, Authentic Entertainment, for “abuse and victimization.”

Fans of Flipping Out can fully acknowledge that what makes Jeff Lewis fun to watch is how he balances work with his unpredictable temperament,and how, as hilarious and entertaining as he is to observe on TV, he probably “isn’t the easiest person to work with in real life.” Many would label that as an Understatement.

In past seasons, Pulos seemed to be the one to roll with the punches and cheer while riding the roller coaster of Lewis’s erratic moods. Her brand of humor struck many as ideally suited to his obsessive compulsions, idiosyncrasies and meltdowns…So now fans are wondering how things got this bad between them.

From the account Lewis provided on his Radio Andy show, one can surmise that Pulos was unhappy for quite some time, but did not effectively communicate her issues directly to Lewis. In turn, this resulted in Lewis feeling completely blindsided by the ensuing complaints.

Last year, I interviewed Lewis and Pulos within the same week. It was prior to the 2017 season premiere of Flipping Out. I found each of them to be quick-witted, charming, charismatic and surprisingly down to earth in our conversations. Since Lewis has now had the chance to share his side of the story about their breakup, I recently reached out to Pulos to see if she would share hers.

As I write this, I’ve received no response (and candidly, as well as humbly, given the extinction of Huffington Post’s Contributor Platform which afforded me the opportunity to interview her last year, I don’t expect to hear back). Another reason we should not expect to hear from her side right now: LAWYERS. This whole shebang is a developing story, but what makes it most interesting is that we’ll see the demise of the Jeff-Jenni friendship play out this season of Flipping Out — which has just begun airing.

Pulos has been active on social media posting about events like the recent deaths of John McCain and Burt Reynolds, as well as happy occasions, including time spent with children and extended family. There have been no instagram posts pertaining to Flipping Out in recent days, nor is Pulos going the Radziwillian Route of bashing her former cast mate on Twitter.

Interestingly, Pulos issued a benign promotional tweet for Flipping Out three days before Lewis revealed this bombshell: Pulos hasn’t been an employee of Jeff Lewis Designs in ages (Rather, she’s an employee of Bravo).

Lewis shared with listeners that it had bothered him for quite some time that this was the one insincere and not true-to-life aspect of their “reality show.”

Despite nasty missives hurled her way, Pulos has been staying mum, resisting the urge to reply to mean tweets from Lewis stans.

In time and as things calm down, we may hear her side of the story.

For now, silence is the smarter option. It is also likely to be the route advised by a legal team. Regardless, Pulos must sense that she’s taking the high road by resisting any urge to address reports.

We recently witnessed how Carole Radziwill struggled to get a word in edgewise next to her adversary Bethenny Frankel on the Real Housewives of New York reunion. If you check out Radziwill’s Twitter timeline, it seems she is carrying on an argument with Frankel post-show that Frankel has backed away from. After years of working with Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos knows that his powerful voice will drown hers out in a similar fashion to Frankel’s over Radziwill’s.

Independent of any legal protocol, Pulos appears more dignified by remaining mum, admirably swallowing her pride and letting Jeff Lewis have his say….for now.

(Photo Source: Us Weekly)

Standard