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The first time I went to PUMP, Lisa Vanderpump’s glamorously gaudy gazebo of a restaurant in West Hollywood, her husband, Ken Todd, was sitting at a table near the entrance. He was holding the couple’s Pomeranian, Giggy, while Lisa dutifully made the rounds, posing for photographs with fans and dishing instructions to the serving staff, whose eraser-pink uniforms vaguely matched the shade of lipstick on Lisa’s lips.
Though a few diners approached him for pictures, Ken was content to let his wife be the star of the show (and the restaurant), dutifully watching Giggy and helping to keep the aisles clear as gaggles of guests arrived. When it came to being a good husband, Ken knew that standing up for his wife sometimes meant staying seated, at least until the flashbulbs fluttered out of sight.
Last year, Ken once again held his ground—this time on an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where Lisa had been a main cast member since season one. After Lisa and longtime friend Kyle Richards became embroiled in a heated argument over leaked information to the press, Ken got up from his seat and ushered Kyle out the door with two pointed words: “Goodbye Kyle.”
The kiss-off immediately became a meme (circulated among even the housewives themselves), with many mocking Ken for doing his wife’s dirty work. Yet others rushed to Ken’s defense, praising him for being a loyal husband, who will do whatever it takes to maintain order in the Todd-Vanderpump household.
In the 14 years since the Real Housewives franchise first debuted with Orange County, the show has spun off nine different franchises (with seven still active and one more, Salt Lake City, on the way) and has inspired as many memes as it has think pieces, with fans and critics debating the merits of a show in which women are often pitted against each other in dramatic, often over-the-top scenarios.
But the debate recently took a new turn after feminist author Roxane Gay declared the housewives as “good for feminism.” In her view, the franchises “allow women to be their truest selves. And when women are allowed to be their fullest selves that’s the most feminist thing we can do.” (It should also be noted that the Housewives franchise is one of the only shows on TV where men don’t get top billing—or any billing for that matter).
Curtis Giddings is a model and actor from Vancouver who says he’s gleaned his fair share of tips from sitting through multiple seasons of Housewives with his girlfriend. He’s learned about everything from entertaining (“Dinner parties can turn ugly real quick”) to how not to act in front of the camera. The 33-year-old also maintains the Housewives franchise has been more eye-opening and life-affirming that he thought, when he first unwittingly sat down to watch the show years ago. “These ladies stop at nothing to get what they want in life and that really inspires me,” Giddings says. “And seeing how their personal lives and careers flourish as time moves on gives me hope for my future too.”
The continued popularity and success of the franchise only furthers this point: If a group of women can rise up from their husbands’ shadows to find wealth and power on their own, it’s time for men to start paying attention.
From saving relationships to saving receipts, here are 10 lessons the Real Housewives can teach us about being a better friend, a better husband and a better man.
1. Accept Who They Are, Not Who You Want Them to Be
When Beverly Hills housewife Lisa Vanderpump goes looking for a birthday gift for her husband, Ken, in season 6, she somehow decides on a pair of miniature horses. Lisa is unmistakably giddy presenting the not-ponies to Ken, while his reaction is a little more…subdued. He sort of smiles, musters just enough enthusiasm and thanks his wife with a kiss for the lovely gesture. It’s obvious the gift is more for her than him. She is, after all, the woman who named her dog “Giggy” (short for “Gigolo”) and parades him around like a GLAAD Award—but Ken understands that his significant other’s eccentricities are necessary to keep a relationship interesting.
Would he prefer a quiet night in the ‘manse drinking scotch in the hot tub? Sure, but when you see Ken carrying Giggy with one arm while serving rosé to drag queens at PUMP, you can’t help but admire just how much he embraces Lisa’s lifestyle—and how much he loves her just the way she is.
2. Shout Out Your Successes to Shut Down Your Haters
Season 4 of the Real Housewives of Atlanta gave us one of the most memorable catchphrases in recent pop culture memory. Nene and Sheree are fighting over something (A party? A mutual friend? A club appearance?), but the details don’t really matter. What matters is the absolutely crushing blow that Nene delivers in five, pointed words: “I am very rich, bitch.” Sheree immediately shuts up, and never recovers to deliver a comeback. Sheree also disappears from the cast after this season. Coincidence?
3. Don’t Start a Fight You Can’t Win
By now, you’ve probably heard of Bethenny Frankel’s “Skinnygirl” line of alcoholic drinks and mixers (hint: it’s usually the main ingredient in the margarita your friends claim to have “made from scratch”). Bethenny launched Skinnygirl in 2009 and documented it ad nauseam on the Real Housewives of New York, so it was super suspicious when Luann de Lesseps claimed she had helped create the brand. Not only was the timing uber shady, but trying to claim a share of a multi-million dollar empire seven years after its launch is not exactly a smart business move.
4. Never Mix Parties and Politics (and Pills)
The best moments in the Housewives franchise come when the women are living large and carefree, partying their adult fears away on some tropical island or fancy yacht. Which is why The Real Housewives of D.C. never quite took off. Who wants to hear about congressional dinners and lobbyists when you can be detoxing poolside in Manilla (RHOA, season 7) or slinging back Pinot Grigio on the Venice canals (RHONJ, season 2)?
The Washington franchise tried to mix current events with cavorting and it was a recipe for disaster. You already know about cast members Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who caused a stir after showing up to a White House dinner uninvited. It was at once the most interesting and most boring thing to happen on the show.
5. Keep Your Friends Close and Your Accountants Closer
The one thing every man must know is how to do his taxes. When Joe and Teresa Giudice were sentenced to almost five years of combined jail time in 2014, it was not, as they claimed, “a misunderstanding.” A judge ruled that the Real Housewives of New Jersey stars had failed to file tax returns for several years, while also concealing their income and lying during bankruptcy proceedings. The Giudices’ defense attorney argued that the couple had “no idea how much things cost,” which probably works if you’re defending a 6-year-old, but not a married working couple in their 40s.
If Joe and Teresa had paid for a better accountant, they could have avoided all this trouble. While we’re at it, they probably should’ve hired a better defense attorney as well.
6. Save Paper and Say No To Receipts
At this point, the housewives should really be shilling sponsored posts for CVS because they always bring the receipts. Whether they’re sparring over text messages, like Kandi and Porsha on Atlanta, or ACTUALLY PRINTING THEM OUT like Lisa and Ken did on RHOBH, the housewives know that accusations quickly become facts when you’ve got the proof to back them up.
If you want to avoid landing in hot water with your partner or friends, heed these words of wisdom from Dorinda, who shares a memorable motto with Ramona in season 10 of RHONY, after Ramona reveals that Sonja sent a text message calling her a bitch. The plum proverb: “Say it, forget it; write it, regret it.” In other words: Save the trees (and yourself) and don’t get dragged down by receipts.
7. Know When It’s Time To Go (and Let Go)
Tinsley Mortimer has developed a reputation as an “ice queen” of sorts on RHONY, but even her cold heart was close to breaking in season 11, after her boyfriend Scott ended their relationship for what seemed like the umpteenth time, leaving Tinsley to cry into her mother’s arms at the Big Apple Circus. Even fulfilling her childhood dream of descending into the Big Top as Ringmaster for the night wasn’t enough to keep her from wondering what went wrong—again—with Scott. But to paraphrase another set of fashionable ladies from Manhattan, it’s not her—it’s him.
Whether he was talking to Tinsley about having kids or toying around with an engagement, the CouponCabin CEO has strung his girlfriend along with more offers than a Macy’s One-Day Sale. And though they’re apparently back together now (and engaged!), it’s never a good feeling to feel like the relationship rug could be pulled out from under you at any time. Scott should know that, like an expired promo code, sometimes things are too good to be true. Being a man means being able to recognize when a situation or relationship won’t work out, and having the ability to let your partner down gently. And if you truly believe you’ve found your life partner, take it from another queen and put a ring on it. Here’s hoping the Scott and Tinsley soundtrack is less “Single Ladies” and more “Crazy in Love.”
8. Knock Me Down Nine Times, But I Get Up 10
The Real Housewives of Dallas haven’t delivered a ton of memorable moments, though Leeanne Locken’s declaration that her “weave is exhausted” in season 3 basically sums up how we feel after every single Southern accent-filled argument on the show. But while the infighting had her tresses in a metaphorical knot, Leeanne wasn’t about to let the girls stop her shine. She swapped her dark locks for a new sun-kissed ‘do, landed a rock from her longtime partner and walked down the aisle with him this year. Leeanne knows that success is always the best form of revenge.
Need more proof that you can rise up from your circumstances? In Season 10 of Real Housewives of Atlanta, Sheree is literally DATING A MAN IN PRISON who somehow manages to convince her to wait for him so they can start a relationship IRL. If a man who’s locked up can land a date, there’s hope for the rest of us yet.
9. Set Realistic Expectations
Look, we can all find ways to improve ourselves and our current situations, but you need to rein in those expectations. On the cancelled-too-soon Real Housewives of Miami, blonde bombshell Joanna Krupa took her spouse to sex therapy, after openly complaining that he wasn’t putting out enough. While he was happy to oblige in carnal activities once a week, Joanna wanted sex on the schedule every single day. The problem with this was…well, we’re not quite sure actually. The girl literally looks like she walked out of Madame Tussauds’ House of (Hot) Wax. Forget setting realistic expectations. You’ve earned your right to daydream.
10. Know When to Say Sorry
We still don’t quite understand the whole “Brooks Fakes Cancer” storyline on Real Housewives of Orange County. Did Brooks lie about having cancer? Did Vicki know about his forged medical records? Why would anyone even do something like this? The whole thing smells fishier than the Newport Beach pier. For what it’s worth, Brooks later released a statement apologizing for his actions, saying, “I have made my share of mistakes which I regret. I pride myself in apologizing when I am wrong or have wronged others either intentionally or unintentionally.”
No one should fake having cancer. But if you are going to concoct a fake storyline (or hide the real story from your girlfriend), it’s nice to own up to your actions and say you’re sorry. All’s fair in love and war, but even in Housewives land, it’s important to know when to step out of the battleground and head back to reality.