Friday, April 30, 2010

A Cultural Lesson and Guilty Confession

We all have our vices. Some choose liquid refreshment. Others indulge in sugary treats or fried carbohydrates. Maybe it's staying up late. Or shopping for shoes, while wearing new shoes. For me - I love trashy reality television. MTV's The Real World did it for me for a while. Then I got hooked on CBS's The Amazing Race and Big Brother. And now it's Bravo's The Real Housewives series.

The show makes me laugh. The first season of California, to me, was actually a glimpse into the real lives of real women who just so happen to have excessive amounts of money, plastic surgery, and time on their hands. But it was real. You saw real interactions with their real families. We laughed. They cried. Over the top realities were peppered in to everyday, normal lives.

Then, as more seasons came about, and more notoriety, more "celebreality" statuses were attached to the show, it became less real and more dramatic. And I loved it even more. We saw that crazy little momma in New Jersey flip a table in the restaurant as things got heated with the "strongly alleged" "prostitution whore" from the drug cartels of South America. We saw overly hyper Lisa telling the craziest drag-queen-looking-racial-identity-crisis Kim that she'd "flip her over the couch" for lying about her fake illness, only to be followed by the fabulous divalicious NeNe telling Kim to "close her legs to married men" while talking about Kim participating in an affair with a married man.

It's trashy. It's sinful. Yes, there are tender, sweet moments - but we don't watch for that. We want to see drama. We want to see glitz. If there wasn't - we'd be watching less funny versions of the Golden Girls or bad soap operas and telenovelas.

But, I must thank The Real Housewives of New York and, in particular, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps. She has provided me with the perfect teaching point for today's blog entry.

It is absolutely 100% without a doubt rude to speak negatively about people in other languages. Especially when those people don't speak your language.

On last night's episode, LuAnn was visiting new housewife Sonja's house. Sonja had agreed to let LuAnn host a charity event at her home, and the scene showed the two ladies drinking, visiting, catching up, and touring the facility. LuAnn and Sonja walked to an outdoor space, and as LuAnn passed a water feature/fountain, she commented in another language that the space had a terrible odor. The whole scene lasted maybe 15 seconds, but I couldn't get it out of my mind.

Over the last few seasons, many of the women on the show have commented about LuAnn having an attitude like she was "holier than thou", above others in stature and grace, and basically better than everyone else. I brushed it off as people not really knowing her, unfair judgements, and scripted/edited drama for the television show.

But after seeing LuAnn talk negatively, in another language, in front of her gracious friend who opened her own home for the benefit of LuAnn and the charity she was coordinating with, I now see everyone's point. For someone who seems so hellbent on being Miss Manners, having the most elegant mannerisms and professional courtesy, LuAnn should have known better. It is incredibly unacceptable to speak another language negatively about people, especially when they don't speak the language. If you have something negative or disrespectful to say, at least give the person the respect and dignity to defend or explain themselves. Maybe Sonja knew the fountain stunk and had already arranged to have it cleaned. Who knows.

I took great offense to LuAnn's behaviour, especially since I speak more than one language. I know the importance of when and where it is appropriate to speak in other languages.

There is a time and place for everything. Had LuAnn been attending a luncheon at the French Embassy in New York, it would absolutely be acceptable for LuAnn to converse in the language of her hosts. If you're attending a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce meeting in Los Angeles, you should expect to hear both Spanish and English, and it would be appropriate to speak in both tongues. Should you attend a charity benefit in Tokyo, one should prepare their Japanese. My point is, if you've been invited or are attending an event in another country, or with a specific demographic, those languages are to be used. But to speak negatively about others, in another language not spoken by the subject, it is incredibly classless. Private conversations are acceptable as well - like when LuAnn and Ramona's husband were at a party and needed to remedy a former argument. They both spoke and made amends in Italian.

The situation is only more ironic since LuAnn is promoting her new book on manners and class. Maybe she should think about practicing what she preaches.

Romona's husband was only half right. (Now that LuAnn is divorced from The Count)...She's not only countLESS, she's classLESS too.

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