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Cathy Alter

Cathy Alter

Posted: December 6, 2010 09:53 AM

A Real Housewives Dream Come True

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When I lived in Manhattan, I saw celebrities all the time. I drank vodka gimlets next to Harvey Keitel at a bar on Columbus, stood next to Matt Dillon at party for "Dazed and Confused," grabbed for the same pair of shoes as Uma Thurman did at the Kenneth Cole store, and, as a manager at Bloomingdale's, instructed a pre-SATC SJP to extinguish the cigarette she was smoking, and flicking, on the store's carpeted main floor. Oh sure, I lost my cool at times, practically terrorizing Woody Allen on a street corner and hiding behind a stack of panties in order to spy on Joan Collins as she picked out a nightgown, but I mostly worked hard to cultivate a blasé attitude toward famous people.

Now living in DC, I hardly ever see anyone of note. I once saw Ted Danson in line at Borders and walked by Candice Bergen, looking stunning, on my way to the metro. Most recently, I came face-to-faces with Bradley Cooper and Renée Zellweger as they exited my neighborhood coffee shop. It was such a brief, out-of-context sighting, like spotting a pair of peacocks at Filene's Basement, that I had a delayed reaction, only realizing we had all shared the same air space a good 15 minutes later.

But, in all my years, I've never actually interacted with a legend for any meaningful or extended period of time (unlike my friend Billy who always comes back from NYC bragging about impromptu pub crawls with Mike Myers or dancing on furniture with Catherine Keener). Until Saturday night when, at my friend's 40th birthday bash, I found myself at a downtown DC hotspot, at a long table of women, seated next to Mary Amons.

What's that? You say you don't know of whom I speak? Then I guess you weren't glued to your set watching the inaugural season of "The Real Housewives of DC" like I was. Mary, with her golden handfuls of hair, her five Ralph Lauren-fed children, and husband who was once voted one of Washingtonian magazine's most beautiful people, was cast as the sweet innocent, the guileless interpreter of all the nastiness found in the DC social climbing scene and inhabited in the form of the abominable Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

"Hello," she said, looking me directly in the eye and holding out her right hand. "I'm Mary."

For someone who's been a devoted fan of not only the DC installment of the Bravo series but EVERY geographical installment, this dining arrangement (at the last minute, my friend had decided to seat us all alphabetically) was like winning the Powerball. I looked around the table. Did anyone else see what was going on?! With so many women decked out in feathers and sequins and a restaurant that looked professionally scouted for its trend factor, it was like I had broken through the fourth wall and was finally appearing in my favorite show. I eventually caught the eye of my friend Abby, who was seated a few people down and across from me. OMG, I mouthed. Hi, she mouthed back and waved. (Later, she warmly hugged Mary like they were regular lunch buddies and I realized that she hadn't read my amazement as anything other than pure pleasure at being out on a Saturday night.)

I tried to play it cool. I didn't want to admit that I was a rabid fan of the show, had seen and dissected every episode, had felt my pulse quicken every time the Salahi's mangled another truth and wept grateful tears when Stacie finally found her birth father. But at the same time, I sort of had to acknowledge Mary's familiarity. After all, we shared some mutual friends and it's not like, as a local writer, I wouldn't be watching what was going on in my own backyard with pen in hand. Ignoring the Housewife in the room would be like sitting next to a dentist and not acknowledging you posses the one thing (okay, 32 things) that directly relates to his job.

So when she said, with exasperation, that her daughter had recently rampaged through her closet and swiped her shoes, on the inside I was yelling, I know! I saw the episode where you showed off your biometrically locked closet and complained of your daughter's sticky fingers. And when Mary explained that she gave birth to this daughter when she was only 20, my insides screamed, I know! I saw that episode where you talked about marrying your husband at 19 and having a daughter who was so close in age to your younger sister! And when Mary recounted her "You sabotaged our show" speech to the Salahi's during the reunion show, I acted like it was the first time I was hearing about the debacle ("We don't have cable," I told her at one point, conveniently leaving out the fact that I had forced my husband to subscribe to the series on iTunes so I wouldn't miss an episode - including the reunion.)

The truth is, Mary was comfortable talking about the show, her love of being on camera, and probably wouldn't have batted an eye if I had admitted right from the start that I knew exactly who she was and that tonight was the most exciting night I had had in a long time. That more than anything else, I wanted a photo of the two of us to post on Facebook. And that the only thing I wanted to know was if Linda and Ebong were still going strong.

We talked about more than the show, of course, the usual girl talk: shopping, marriage, Ambien. For the life of me, I don't know why I didn't come clean about my Housewife habit. It probably would have led to an authentic conversation on my part--after all, a conversation that begins with a lie is a lie. But instead, I pretended. I danced around the truth. I was afraid of looking like a 12-year old girl at her first Justin Bieber concert. Critics accuse the Housewives of being phony and superficial and here I was, playing it up for my audience when Mary was, for lack of a better word, entirely real.