Each Wednesday, intrepid pop culture crushmaster Andrea Seigel spotlights a different one of her fake TV boyfriends.
When Brent and I first moved in together, I brought a lot of things into his life. These things include my habit of making him stare into my hair part to tell me if it’s getting wider, as well as weekly depressive breakdowns in the grocery store over the fact that we’ll just be back there again next week.
But mostly what I’ve brought into his life is more reality television show watching than he ever wanted. Before me, Brent watched a shitload of History Channel programming and old movies, maybe the odd episode of a science show. (Before writing the prior sentence, I got up and went to ask him, “What’s that really boring show you made me watch when we first were dating that showed a pencil and how it’s made?” “How It’s Made,” he said.)
But Hitler died a second death as our love blossomed, and I was the only tyrant left standing. Since then, Brent has been forcibly educated about the Teen Moms, the Survivors, the Jersey Shore roommates, all the Bachelors and Bachelorettes, the American Idol kids, and of course, The Real Housewives. Courtesy of the Housewives, he became extremely familiar with one Bethenny Frankel.
“Why are we watching this? I thought you were done with her,” Brent yelled when I tuned over to the season opener of Bethenny Ever After a few months back; he was obviously having a traumatic flashback to what we’d seen of Bethenny during her last season on the Real Housewives. “No, you’ll see, baby. It’s a whole new day,” I said. “She’s a completely different person now that she’s under the balancing influence of her amazing, genuine husband Jason Hoppy.”
And for his incredible patience, support, and appreciation, her husband Jason Hoppy is my Boyfriend Of The Week.
You know how you need a little bit of salt around the rim of your glass to really bring out the flavor in a Skinnygirl™ Margarita? Well, Jason Hoppy is that salt to Bethenny’s intensely neurotic drink. She always had a strong wit and a fun dryness about her, but in the midst of the other New York Housewives, she eventually lost sight of herself, veering quickly into shrillness. Enter the majestic Jason Hoppy, a man so grounded that he not only stabilized some of Bethenny’s worst tendencies, but more than that, he has actually returned the best of who she is to her. When she is in his presence, she is smarter, she is funnier, she is a star who carries her own series.
Because what’s clear to me, watching them from my couch, is that Jason loves Bethenny for who she is— he loves her fiercely— and although she is not an easy person to love, he is not the least bit interested in changing her. He wants to understand her. He wants to understand how to bring her back when she’s in danger of cheating herself. He wants to understand why it freaks her out to receive too much direct attention at her birthday party (Brent put his book down in recognition during this episode because I’ll even lose my shit at someone else’s birthday party) so that he can help her find her way back to equilibrium again. And above all this, there is the definite sense that he even loves and appreciates her difficulty. It is the source of her humor, and he bounces off it all the more impressively in his sincere enjoyment of her rougher edges.
Brent rolls his eyes when I watch the show and say things like, “Jason Hoppy is SOLID” and “What a great guy” because the truth of the matter is that Brent possesses the very same traits that I’m applauding in Jason. And on the other side of the relationship, I’m at least as much of a headcase as Bethenny, although in different ways because my dad was a warm, great dad and not a distant, toxic horse trainer.
But here’s what keeps me from being able to appreciate fully the balance that Brent has brought into my life: we’re living our dynamic instead of watching a reality show about it on TV. Bearing witness to selfless emotional support in a relationship is very, very moving on basic cable! Very moving. If I had to explain it in Brent’s own televisual leanings, then it’s the equivalent of being suddenly taken with the majesty of a pencil as you’re watching a show about how pencils are made, even though you’ve written with a pencil every day. You need a little help in creating that distance, and only from that distance it hits you.