I’ve spent half of my life watching reality television and pretending that it’s “research.” From Road Rules to Ladies of London, these people are my friends and if I don’t want to be them, I want to help them. But then sometimes they just go away. The show gets canceled or the season’s over and it’s time for a new cast or someone realizes they’re ruining their life and chances of ever gaining proper employment again and they just disappear. They completely abandon you and you’re supposed to be cool with that. I mean, I didn’t have a dad. You can’t do that to me.
So because I can’t afford to go to therapy as much as I’d like to, I’ve decided to make a list of the reality TV stars I’d trade one of my pinky toes to get back. Or like, my right ring finger. I can do without that finger pretty easily and it’s my fattest finger, so…
1. Chantal, Gallery Girls
Never have I had to defend a reality TV star the way I have with Chantal. To the world she was a selfish, lazy mean girl with the stature of an Olsen twin and the unwarranted arrogance of Kanye West. To me, she was everything. I understood Chantal. I wouldn’t want to be business partners with Claudia either. All that crying and finger pointing when the reality is—no Claudia, no one is going to come in and buy your hideous and overpriced modern art. Chantal got it right. Sell a slightly less hideous sweater and some hammered brass necklaces and call it a damn day. That’s what people want to give a bunch of randoms money for.
But this isn’t just about how much I hate Claudia and think she was deeply foolish to take out a 15-thousand dollar loan from her parents and then weep into an electric bill when she finally realizes that she probably should have given starting a store with a bunch of randoms maybe wasn’t the best idea. This is about Chantal and the way she had her boyfriend so pussy-whipped that any time he protested about anything she’d just say, “Shut up, Spencer,” and he would. This is about her yoga routine and perfect red lipstick and the fact that she slapped Amy across the face because, dolls, Amy needed that slap. Probably the most awake that sack of flour has been since she started mainlining Xanax. I have done some light Googling on the whereabouts of Chantal but didn’t come up with much. I heard from my boyfriend’s friend’s girlfriend that Chantal may be living in Los Angeles working as a dog walker. Bravo, are you reading this? Chantal as a dog walker. Rolling cameras and ACTION, thanks!
2. Bobby Zarin, Real Housewives of New York
Typically I am skeeved by Real Househusbands, but Bobby Zarin, husband of Jill Zarin, was/is/will always be the Best. Husband. Ever. Jill Zarin, I hate. She tries so hard to keep her “brand” alive and showing up on programs like, Oprah: Where Are They Now talking about how wronged she was by the RHONY producers and how she was so shocked that Andy Cohen fired her from the show is just pathetic. Jill, your husband’s fucking rich, go down to that fabric store, pretend to work for a couple hours, buy yourself a 16-thousand-dollar handbag and go to bed. We’re done with you, you’re done. And that’s what was so special about Bobby Zarin. Despite the fact that he was married to a shrill, traitorous c-bomb, he was always by her side, remaining loyal to her when there was just no way she was right, makes him a saint. When Jill bombarded the girls at Ramona’s renewal party in St. Bart’s, Bobby was right there to rub her back and order them a new private plane. When Jill wanted to send her 16 year old daughter to a weight loss retreat to “help her arthritis”, Bobby footed the bill without asking a question. When he bought Jill a $100,000 SUV and she immediately bitched about how it didn’t have the right iPod dock, he said, “Okay honey, I’ll get you a new one.” He never lost his cool or said anything unkind to the other women (even when provoked). He’s just fucking perfect and I need to keep studying his moves because I will never settle for anyone less than him.
3. Tonya, Real World: Chicago
I’m pretty sure that Tonya’s been out of the reality TV circuit since she was raped with a toothbrush on one of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges. Now obviously that’s about as traumatizing as it gets, but Tonya went from being the dud of her cast that was always on the phone with her gay boyfriend (legit — her boyfriend Justin came out a couple years after her first season of Real World aired) to a goddamn buckwild freak. The last Challenge I remember seeing her on, she was drunk the entire time she was there, crawling into different dudes’ beds every night and threatening to throw herself out a window if someone didn’t fuck her. She was the perfect example of what this process, when repeated over and over again, can do to a person. Take a person who’s a little bit off (they all are, no one who is completely sane goes on a reality show), stir in a taste of fame, sprinkle in some money made from nightclub appearance gigs and you’ve got yourself a deeply damaged human being. I think I heard somewhere that Tonya’s married now and has cleaned her act up. If she could do a Kendra-style show about what life is like after “fame”, I think she’d be better for it. I’ve seen her trashed, I’ve seen her whip her tits out, now I’d like to see her buy some fresh ears of corn for a summer salad and having boring conversations with her dude.
4. Matt, Real World: New Orleans
This one may not hold up, but Matt is someone that I’ll think of time-to-time and wonder why I’m not hearing updates on anymore. Because 90% of the Thought Catalog readers were an egg in your mother’s ovaries or wherever women’s bodies keep eggs when this aired, I’ll paint you a picture: Matt was emo, but not the emo you know now. Emo hadn’t gone mainstream yet. Can you imagine? Back in those days, you had to look for emo music and find the shows through word of mouth. Matt had cool blonde hair and was like, translucently pale and I was in love with him. He was a virgin which I thought was pretty cool because I was too (I hadn’t discovered yet that only nerds and crazy Christian freaks save it for marriage) and he seemed to be able to tolerate his roommate Julie, who was a Mormon that was seemingly never socialized. I was only 14 back then, and had convinced myself that one day Matt and I would meet and he would fall in love with me and we’d be together forever and ever. I know he’s super into God now (which I find nice, sue me) and married and would probably be a complete snoozefest to watch, but seeing Matt on TV again would feel like bumping into an ex at Dunkin’ Donuts when you go home for Thanksgiving. And I think shows should be made based off of my feelings, obviously.
5. Dina Manzo, Real Housewives of New Jersey
We’re just a couple of weeks from the queenly presence of Dina Manzo returning to RHONJ and my God was it a tough couple of seasons without her. She was always the classiest and most cultured of the New Jersey cast. There was just a sophistication there that didn’t exist with the pack of apes she called her co-stars. The healing crystals, the hairless cats, the décor in her massive home that looked like it came from Home Goods but like, a slightly nicer version of Home Goods but still Home Goods. And you know her elegance has skyrocketed since cutting ties with her ginger know-it-all meatball of a sister Caroline Manzo (and don’t get me wrong—the fact that I can’t stand Caroline, her former fatty husband who’s clearly sticking it to his goomas in that apartment above the Brownstone and the three flops they spawned—does not mean that I won’t be watching the shit out of Manzo’d with Children). I can’t wait to hear the subtle click her mouth makes as she slowly articulates that she has no time for foolishness, the outfits that look like they came from Macy’s but like, a slightly nicer version of Macy’s but still Macy’s and that luxurious blonde mane (that is not a weave, thank you very much).