The Lost Child
In this continuing series of profiles, we identify and document the seven prototypical species of the Real Housewives, their habitats, evolutionary roles, range, nesting characteristics, and behaviors.
Our first portrait in the Smart Woman’s Guide to the Real Housewives focused on The Queen Bee. Our second flashed the spotlight on The Enabler. Our third profiled The Scapegoat. Now it is time to turn our attention to The Lost Child.
The Lost Child
The Lost Child supports the group’s core value enough to avoid being the primary target of the cast’s ridicule, but she is never taken seriously by the Queen Bee because she neither personifies the message like the Enabler, nor threatens it like the Scapegoat. Mostly ignored by the other housewives, the only times she receives any attention is when she is hushed like a child and told to mind her own business or when the other ladies giggle about how out of touch she is from reality. As a result, the Lost Child is marginalized like a wallflower at a school dance. To break out from her fringe role, occasionally the Lost Child lashes out with highly quotable statements that serve to shock the other housewives.
- Alex McCord is a great example of the Lost Child. An original cast member from the Real Housewives of New York, Alex is true to Queen Bee Jill Zarin’s message that women gain their identity and social status through marriage. After all from day one, she and Simon van Kempen have been glued at the hip and relate to the world and the other housewives as team. However, she does not perfectly personify this core value, as LuAnn does, because Simon is not particularly wealthy, does not hold any title (phony or otherwise), and he is a recent immigrant with no family ties to New York City. For those reasons Alex cannot be Jill’s Enabler. And Alex is not her Scapegoat because she does not threaten the legitimacy of the Queen Bee’s core belief that a woman’s status is defined by her husband, as Ramona does when she tells anyone who listens that she is an independent business woman. As a result, Alex is mostly ignored by the cast’s core group, unless she has the audacity to speak up. In those instances, Alex is repeatedly told to zip it and mind her own business. Relegated to the housewives naughty chair, Alex sometimes tries to change her station in life, but reacts volatility like a neglected child with zingers on the order of “You’re a thug in a cocktail dress!”
- Although she is no longer an official cast member of the Real Housewives of Orange County, Lynne Curtin did reappear often enough last season to retain her Lost Child position. Posing no threat to the Queen Bee’s insistence that all women should be financially independent of their husbands, Lynne cannot be Vicki’s Enabler because she is not actually independent at all, despite her claims that she is supporting her family of four with a jewelry line. Plus she has not instilled in her two slacker daughters any work ethic whatsoever. But unlike Gretchen, who willfully ignores Vicki’s general disgust for those who do not work by never having a “real job” in her three seasons and by specifically dating Slade the Parasite, Lynne cannot be Vicki’s Scapegoat either. Instead Lynne resides in that murky housewife purgatory where all the lost children hide comfortably as long as they do not open their mouths. On those rare occasions when Lynne has questioned the Queen Bee’s absolute authority, Vicki punished Lynne severely with public humiliation on national television. A good example is when Vicki was advising Gretchen to talk to her dying fiance about whether she would receive any money in his will. Lynne objected saying it is inappropriate to focus on money with someone who is ill. Determined to silence Lynne and her audacity to contradict her opinion, Vicki acted like she was having a migraine and scolded: “‘Wait a second. Why are you being confrontational with me?”
- In the changing dynamics over in Franklin Lakes, now that Danielle Staub is no longer capable of riling up the cast, Kathy Wakile is settling in nicely as the Lost Child of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Devoted to her husband Rich and her two children, Kathy does not question Caroline Manzo’s mandate that the highest value of the New Jersey cast is family. But she doesn’t personify it, as Melissa Gorga does and she does not threaten it as Teresa does. Instead she rides the middle ground, almost unnoticed, just as a Lost Child is required to do. Sure she tried to jump into the action and resolve her conflict with Teresa at Melissa’s Christmas party, but Teresa could not be bothered to listen to her long enough to say more than, “Now it’s nice to see me? Right!” before walking away. We look forward to watching Kathy’s on-personality develop further as the season 3 continues to evolve.
- Thanks to her sister Kyle, our beloved Kim Richards was the Lost Child of the premier season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Like all of our forgotten housewives, Kim definitely did not threaten her cast’s central message, in the case of the Rodeo Drive crowd, that proximity to fame is the most direct route to self-esteem. But because Kim was famous in her own right during her childhood, she cannot service the Queen Bee as well as sycophant Enabler Taylor Armstrong affirmed Camille Grammer’s superior status. And while Kyle could have been the Lost Child of this cast, she successfully pushed Kim into the role by continuously positioning her older sister as a divorced drunken loser who needs all the help she and Maurizio can give her. As a result Kim was relegated to a meaningless role as the harmless housewife when in reality, without question Kim Richards was FAR more successful in her own right than most of the other housewives. And as long as Kim does what Kyle wants her do, Kyle is only mildly nasty to her. But God forbid when Kim does what she wants to do! She suffers the wrath of her little sister who talks down to her and scolds her unmercifully. As season 2 unfolds we suspect Kim will become far more lippy than she was in season 1 when her only outburst was to Taylor Armstrong when she blurted out, “Why don’t you go blow up your lips some more!” at the infamous Dinner Party from Hell.
- Without a doubt Cynthia Baily is the very sad Lost Child of the Real Housewives of Orange County. Supermodel pretty and a very nice lady, Cynthia definitely supports Nene’s message that Atlanta is the mecca for African-American self-reinvention. And Cynthia tries to overcome her runaway bride past by reinventing herself with her marriage to Peter in Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History. But the problem is that she only seems to be succeeding in recreating herself into something less than she was when we first met her at the beginning of season 3. Tragically, we watch as Peter’s nightclub eats up all of Cynthia’s savings and her mother and sister scheme to try to prevent the wedding from occurring. And horribly, when Cynthia tries to discuss their financial health, Peter refuses to discuss things with her and more or less silences her by stating that he is no longer willing to discuss reality with her because he says Cynthia cannot handle it. Because we like Cynthia we sincerely hope her fortunes take a turn during season 4. Otherwise she will suffer horribly when the cast will undoubtedly feel free to attack her, unless she puts a stop to it asap.
Coming soon… The Clown
© The Smart Woman’s Field Guide to the Real Housewives was compiled by a panel of esteemed psychologists, social workers, society columnists, lawyers, publicists, fashion editors, party planners, comedians, respected gays, television critics, bloggers and successful wives.