I am in Idaho this week, far from New York in every way - physically and mentally. It’s nice to get out of New York. But of course there is the show!
Let me say one thing that I’ve seen on social media that is disturbing. This show is not about skinny- shaming. Anorexia and bulimia are serious illnesses. I am naturally underweight my entire life. I eat often and a lot -- as many of you have pointed out -- my mouth is always full on camera. Sorry about that. Jules, on the other hand, has an eating disorder. She would agree it is a very dangerous message to send to girls that an eating disorder and just being skinny are the same. They are not. Let’s be responsible.
Weeks earlier, at Jules' home, when she tells me about her eating disorder, I am compassionate. I tell her she should articulate her suffering to help herself, and the many other women who suffer. It is a noble thing to do.
Until the pizza dinner, I assumed Jules' eating thing, as Dorinda calls it, was something she dealt with in rehab, 13 years earlier. Jules says she wants to tell her story. I assume that is in partly why she came on a reality show that exposes your most private moments. You can’t be on a reality show to tell your story then be shocked that someone asks you about your story. That is how you get your story out, people ask you about it. When someone wants to tell a story, they sometimes come to me because they know I will ask them about it and follow up with questions that will draw out the story.
If I’ve learned anything in four years it's that hell will freeze over before when anyone will sit down at dinner and say, “So Carole, tell me what’s going on in your life?” Jules is no exception. Luckily I spent 15 years interviewing for ABCNews stories, and I have a naturally curiosity about people. Plus I’d like to understand Jules better since we are new friends and on a TV show together. So getting to know one another is the order of the day. One way to get to know someone is to ask about their lives, their struggles, and their relationships.
Luckily Jules seems open about her eating disorder. This is a chance for her to talk about how her eating disorder has affected her life. I explained to her that while I never suffered from eating disorders, I have a lifetime of what I call disordered eating. I eat breakfast sometimes for dinner. I eat a lot of junkie food and mostly carbs – even though it is not the healthiest diet. I have a lifetime of eating anything I want, at any time, which is not necessarily a good thing. I try to eat salads, but I prefer pizza. What can I say, I'm half-Italian. And although you didn’t hear me say any of that at the dinner, Jules heard it.
So I ask her about her food rituals – including the separating out of food on her plate - and if those rituals are a part of recovery. In this way she can explain what it is like to live with an eating disorder. She can articulate her suffering and help herself and others.
She focuses on her food rituals often, including this dinner. It is evident to all of us. She draws attention to them to make a point. This is why she often takes food “to go.” And why she seems to bring the conversation to her favorite food, or her midnight eating habit, or why she routinely orders tuna tartare and lets me eat all of it. I assume she hopes someone raises it in conversation, and then she can tell her story. That makes sense. This doesn’t make sense:
She has a prescription bottle full of Percocet, she is taking Adderall, she is drinking wine, she is telling me she has nothing to talk to her team of therapists about while putting silverware and a butter dish in her food for fun.
Wouldn’t it be alarming to anyone? Yes, it is “weird.” Am I judging her? I am judging the fact that she seems to be having a lapse in good judgment. I start to think this isn’t something that she dealt with in the past. It’s incredibly uncomfortable, because at this very moment I am concerned for her. I think she is in denial. A place I, as well as many others, have been before. Is her behavior strange? Yes. Is it funny? I don’t think so. I wanted to get up and leave, but again it's Housewives and strange is our business. I stayed. My bad.
Instead, Jules decided to deflect her own behavior by pointing to my behavior – something I am, by now, used to. She decides she would rather make a drama out of it with Dorinda. And instead of asking Jules what precipitated our conversation leading to the silverware incident, Dorinda piles on and says not only do I talk badly about her “eating thing” behind her back I also talk badly about her marriage – oh, and guess what, so does Bethenny! Which by the way, you will not see on the show, because it is not true. Then Jules, feeling emboldened, re-casts my very direct, in-front-of-her-back questions, as “beating around the bush.” And Dorinda makes a snide comment about my relationship. Matching insult with insult. And so it goes…How sad I felt for both of them at that moment that they would rather make a dumb drama then talk about the real struggles of recovery.
Sometimes I feel like I am in the twilight zone on this show. Where my name is pronounced strangely, and where every interaction is viewed with suspicion. Sometimes a question is just that – a question.