Nice Try, Mike Fleiss, but I’m not Buying Lerone for One Minute (The Bachelorette)

Last night, another season of The Bachelorette began with yet another recycled reject from a previous season. This time, the prize is Emily Maynard, the frail little blonde from North Carolina, who everyone may remember actually received the proposal… and then subsequently found out that Brad Womack was a damaged control freak with a wee bit of a temper.

Every season begins with controversy, but this season marks the first where the controversy was 100% off-camera—a class action lawsuit in which two African-American would-be contestants allege racism in the casting of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. DUH!

So imagine my (initial) surprise when the third Bachelor video introduction of the evening was the very handsome, very well-built, Lerone. Did I mention that Lerone is black (or possibly Blasian)? Say whaaaaaaat?

The second I saw (gorgeous) Lerone, I laughed. Then I declared, “There’s no way he goes past the first night.” And I was right. However, watching it all play out, I’ve gone a little conspiracy theorist. No, I don’t just think Lerone was added to the cast the stave off any allegations of racial bias in casting, I think he was added after taping had generally concluded in an attempt to avoid judgment in the lawsuit. Hear me out.

Sure, he had the audition tape that was aired front and center. Yes, we saw him meet Emily and stand waiting to find out if he was getting a rose (shyeah right!!); but that’s where the normal treatment ends.

1. Lerone was never seen interacting with ANY of the other Bachelors. The other Bachelors were sizing each other up and picking each other apart all night. No one had any conversations with or so much as mentions Lerone. Sure, it could have been edited out, but seeing how these edits are made shortly prior to the episodes airing, and Mike Fleiss & Co. have a lot at stake with the class action suit pending, you’re telling me they would give the first black contestant in forever zero edit time? Unlikely.

2. During the rose ceremony, you could not see anyone else’s face whenever they panned to Lerone—just shoulders. I’m calling ABC stand-ins. We already know from Reality Steve that the rose ceremony is frequently shot and edited out of sequence and sometimes even reshot over and over. Why not weeks later?

3. Lerone did not have an exit interview. They interviewed the other rejected contestants, and those guys “said their goodbyes,” but there was nothing of Lerone in that sequence. I refuse to believe the other 20-some-odd Bachelors were so racist that no one would talk to him. Those odds just don’t compute.

UPDATE: An exit interview now appears on ABC’s website, where a good-natured Lerone shrugs off his dismissal. This guy clearly didn’t believe he was going to stick around for long.

4. The numbers don’t add up. First, there is the odd number of Bachelors. Additionally, the show ran an odd one hour and six minutes last night. Shows are known for going slightly over to screw with the competition, but six minutes is a long and an unusual number. I’m willing to bet that it you add up the bit of screen time given to Lerone, it comes out to close to six minutes. Perfect if you’re adding material into a show that was already edited down to an hour or so.

5. The interaction between Emily and Lerone was weird, to say the least. Sure, it could be her surprise at seeing a black guy on The Bachelorette of all places. Hey, maybe black men make her nervous? I dunno. But it also could be because at some point long after the first night, ABC asked her to squeeze back into that little gold dress and fake it to make it (look real), so Mike Fleiss doesn’t have to cough up millions of dollars in settlement funds.

6. Also, you’re trying to tell me with this lawsuit going on, Mike Fleiss or ANYONE at ABC didn’t immediately come back with a rebuttal that there WAS a black Bachelor in the crew this season? Taping started this past March and went through April or May. The lawsuit was filed in April, looooong after Lerone said his goodbyes (allegedly). However, instead of answering back with, “We DID have a black guy in the cast this year!”, the stock answer from ABC and Mike Fleiss has been along the lines of “Finding black folks to be on this show is hard, yo!”. They have never in the past refrained from leaking details about the contestant pool when it suits their needs. And it is not like anyone was watching “just to see” if there would be a black guy this year, when everyone has already come to expect that no, there will not be.

Bottom line is, I’m not buying Lerone (if that is your real name) for one second. Maybe he’s a paid actor. Maybe he’s just some guy from the trash pile of actual applicants they decided to call back after this lawsuit came to head. Heck, maybe he was a paid actor there on the actual first day of taping (actually, they’re ALL pretty much paid actors anyway). Stranger things have happened. Whoever he is and whatever happened, you cannot convince me that anyone, including him, believed for one minute he was staying in the mansion past night one.

I’m not saying everyone or anyone involved is racist; I’m jus’ sayin’.

UPDATE: This is a tongue-in-cheek post about one woman’s conspiracy theories based on just how outlandish the behind-the-scenes events have been on this godawful show over the years (not to mention the crazy stuff allowed by the contestant contracts). If you don’t get that or appreciate that, please by all means, stay away from this site. There’s a lot of that here. And… you probably should also refrain from reading Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. That’ll just mess you up.

Also, for what it’s worth, I have a whole range of opinions on the lack of diversity of this franchise, none of which are remotely expressed here. If you’re reading anything about my opinions on race on this show beyond “they found a token black guy for the sake of avoiding liability in a lawsuit, even though no one had any plans for him to stick around,” you’re reading too much into it.

– PCM

Image courtesy ABC.com

A Teachable Moment Missed (Real Housewives of Atlanta)

Anyone who knows me or followed my old blog on What to Expect should know that I’m a wee bit of a lactivist. I fully support a woman exercising her right to breastfeed in public or private, her baby’s right to eat, and companies making it easier for women to breastfeed and/or pump. I also know when to choose my battles. For example, as much as I loathe the idea of nursing in a sweaty locker room or bathroom, I sucked it up and did so voluntarily when at my in law’s country club over the holidays. I also would not nurse sans cover in someone else’s house without their permission.

I love breastfeeding. I think every mother should at least try it. But I understand why some don’t or can’t. This doesn’t change the fact that it is what is best for baby. And it doesn’t change the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, some people still don’t understand the concept that breastfeeding has been around for centuries and that formula is a new construct. Yes, breast milk is the default. It has always been here. Yet for some reason, we still need to “normalize” breastfeeding.

This is why an episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta I recently watched disturbed me so much.

Okay. Let’s be honest, many episodes of RHOA are disturbing for many reasons. MANY. (Um… Ridickulous, anyone? << WARNING: NSFW) But it's not often that I find on that show an actual opportunity for a teachable moment. It's sad that the one time I found it, I was let down. I guess that's what I get for actually having hopes and standards for anything that comes out of the Real Housewives franchise.

On this particular episode, a very pregnant Kim Zolciak is talking to her daughter Brielle about breastfeeding the new baby after he is born. Kim, a former L&D nurse, starts out really well by telling her daughter how she’s going to feed the baby breast milk because that’s what’s best for babies. Then her daughter, a typical ignorant teenager who hasn’t had to be exposed to babies and nursing, gives a pretty classic and expected response, “Ew, gross.” Now this would have been the perfect time for Kim to explain to her daughter that there’s nothing gross about breastfeeding at all. Instead, how does Kim react? “Yeah, I know. Right?”. Kim does make a little bit of recovery by telling her daughter how she was breastfed and so was her little sister. However, I just can’t get past the “Yeah, I know. Right?”.

Kim talks to her daughter, Brielle, about breastfeeding

That is the wrong response by any person, let alone a former nurse, in relation to breastfeeding. There is nothing gross about it. It is simply feeding your child the way nature intended. Period. I have read ignorant comments before where people have associated breastfeeding with other natural bodily functions, such as defecating, or horrible things like child molestation. It is none of these things. In reference to the comparisons of breast milk and toilet functions, would you allow someone to put a Ziploc bag of urine or BM on your dinner table? Of course not. Yet, breast milk in a bottle sitting on your table is perfectly acceptable to everyone. This alone underscores (for those too stupid or dim to see it any other way) the difference between the two functions. With respect to the disgusting and idiotic child abuse allegations, breastfeeding is not child molestation any more than changing your baby’s diaper is.

For those who have issues about nursing in public, those are truly their own issues. The primary function of breasts are to feed children. Yes, they have a secondary function related to sex; but guess what? So does your mouth. Until there’s a big push for people covering up their mouths while eating in public, lest some man conjure up inappropriate images of the things a woman could do to him with her mouth, I don’t want to hear any complaint about mothers breastfeeding in public. And until we revert to Victorian culture where women are covered up from the neck down, don’t even try to feed me lines about breastfeeding women with their breasts “hanging out” [something, BTW, I have never seen].

The bottom line is, Kim messed up big time by missing this teachable moment. As a former L&D nurse and someone who knows the importance of breast milk enough to have nursed three children [and risk the lives of her two oldest trying to pump while driving], she was in a perfect position to teach her oldest daughter that breastfeeding is not in any way, shape or form, gross. Instead, she acted pretty much how I should expect a Real Housewife. Shame.

Real Housewives Makes Me Reflect on My Trials with ADD

So the other night I was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey [goodness, is there a time when these chicks don’t inspire me to want to write something?], and Caroline was having a heart-to-heart with her son, who is coping with ADD. Albie is telling his mom how bad his law school grades are and how the school will not make any allowances for his learning disability. The administrators actually told him to consider a new career path, because if he is coping with ADD, he had no business being a lawyer. As a lawyer who is coping with ADD, this struck a nerve with me.

There are a lot of people out there who assume that Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (commonly known as ADD and ADHD, though often grouped under the acronym of one or the other) are completely made up diseases, the title of which is given to kids who have too much sugar in their diet or don’t get enough sleep. While I will concede that in some cases, ADD and ADHD are over-diagnosed, the fact is that there are also many people who go undiagnosed who should be. Although scientists aren’t entirely aware what causes it, there are many studies showing that the disease is hereditary. So parents with ADD may find themselves dealing with ADD in their children.

As someone who is coping with ADD (and, incidentally, is the child of two parents with ADD), I can say beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the disease is real. And it can be debilitating throughout your life – even as an adult. I was fortunate enough to be a smart child with coping mechanisms, so that my ADD didn’t affect me too greatly. I say this, not with conceit, but as an actual fact. The first doctor who diagnosed me thought when I came into his office that I was just fishing for medication or something, because on paper, I don’t sound like someone suffering from a learning disability. I graduated at the top of my class in high school, graduated summa cum laude from a good college in only three years, and had gone to an Ivy League law school. However, once the psychologist did my ADD/ADHD test and started delving into my history, he was surprised that no one diagnosed me when I was in elementary school.

You see, I always read at least four or five grade levels ahead of my grade, but had NO reading comprehension. I couldn’t pay attention to simple tasks – even books I enjoyed (or at least would have enjoyed if I had fully read them) – and I would hyperfocus on the most stupid, low-priority tasks. Through most of my life, I had been internally coping with ADD, which is why my marks were good enough (before law school, anyway) that I flew under the radar. However, once I started interning at law firms and having to account for what I did with every minute of my entire day, that’s when it became apparent that I had focus issues.

I spent most of my life dealing with ADD, but not knowing that’s what was going on. I never knew why I couldn’t focus on the assigned reading in classes or why it was impossible for me to stay on task. The only times I could stay on task, I would get so involved with what I was doing, that the rest of the world would disappear.

I had these odd ways of dealing with ADD, without even knowing I was coping with ADD. For example, in high school, I just couldn’t pay attention to biology class. So one day, I took the text book home, and started outlining the chapters. Keep in mind, this was pre-computer-in-every-home, so there I was on my bedroom floor with a typewriter, outlining a semester’s worth of biology. For hours and hours, I typed outlines until my mother finally made me go to bed. And the next night, and the night after that, I did the same thing. Eventually, I’d outlined the whole book. We didn’t even cover the whole book in class – probably not even half. But this was my internal way of dealing with ADD (without even knowing I was suffering from the disease). While typing that outline, I managed to memorize the book. The class I never paid attention in became one of my best classes. This happened a lot. I volleyed between hyperfocus and complete lack of focus as a way of dealing with ADD. It got me through college no problem.

However, law school wasn’t the same. Reading comprehension is actually a pretty important skill for a lawyer and for law school. That’s why the LSAT tests it. Unfortunately for me, I missed about 50% of the reading comprehension questions on the LSAT [which, incidentally, tends to be the section 95% of people excel]. This, of course, has a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t – couldn’t – read the four passages. As the clock ticked away, I ended up guessing. Fortunately, that year, three of the four sections were logic games and reasoning. Most people are horrible at these sections. Not me. I missed one question on the three sections combined – and I knew that one answer; I had just accidentally bubbled the wrong thing. The combination was good enough for me to score overall in the highest in the country, and basically (combined with my college GPA and extra curriculars) assured me I could go to pretty much any school I desired.

Once in law school, my internal ways of dealing with ADD did not work the same. Memorizing doesn’t really help you in law school. By then, I had a friend with ADD, and she recognized the symptoms in me. By our last year, she encouraged me to see a counselor. That counselor encouraged me to see a psychologist. And it was there that I was tested, diagnosed, and the world began to make sense.

Turns out, while dealing with ADD, I was doing a lot of things I didn’t even notice. For one, I misspelled a lot of words, because my mind would think that I had already written letters I hadn’t. I also missed a lot of words in sentences. This explained to me how I could compare notes with my peers after tests, have put all the same answers they did, but get lower grades in the class. In law school, half the battle is how you say things. Although I fancy myself a good writer, misspellings and partial sentences, are contrary to that skill. So while, proofread-me is a good writer, ADD-brained me is not. After I began taking medication, I started to catch these errors. Phew!

Work is 1000 times better now that I’m on medication. I am much better at staying on task or stopping myself from hyperfocusing on trivial tasks. I’ve talked to my superiors about the types of projects that work better with my disability and I’ve spoken with firm management about the type of assistants I need – yes, everyone needs a good secretary, but when you are dealing with ADD, you need someone who is good at scheduling and keeping things organized.

I won’t say that the medication and the disability concessions have made my work life perfect, but they have certainly helped. I’m never going to be a super-star biller, unless I want to live at the office [since, even with medication, it takes me more time to stay on task than it does “normal” people], but I do a darn good job.

The fact that there are law school administrators out there who would tell someone that you cannot be an attorney with a learning disability like ADD angers me. Yes, you can be an attorney with ADD… just like you can be a blind attorney… or an attorney in a wheelchair… or an attorney with dyslexia…. It’s insane that people working in a field which has made so many strides in getting access to people with disabilities would then turn a blind eye to the needs of those with a disability. Yes, you probably can’t be an attorney if you don’t know how to deal with ADHD/ADD or don’t get treatment for ADD/ADHD, but don’t tell me, or the thousands others who do it every day, that we can’t be an attorney at all.

Huge Parental Fail (Real Housewives)

Ugh! Why do I keep watching this show? Is it some subconscious need to feel better about my own parenting skills? There was a lot going on this week but the one thing that kept popping up in my head was “as a single parent mom, Danielle you fail.” Has a nice ring to it, right?

I think the single thing that annoyed me the most was Danielle’s house. She needs a course in finances for single parent moms or something. First, the camera shows her dogs using the carpet of her “$2 million home” as toilet paper. Danielle, single parent mom of the year, does nothing about it.

Then her realtor comes over to discuss the various repairs the home needs before it can be sold. Here’s where I almost lost it. Danielle is crying about what a deadbeat her ex-husband is being, then she asks the realtor if she called the ex-hubby to ask him for money for the repairs. Hold the phone! You asked your REALTOR to call your ex-husband to ask for money that YOU need? Seriously?! If you can’t handle asking your ex-husband for money or at least going through PROPER channels like, say, your lawyers or your accountants, then how are you supposed to handle the pressures of being a single parent mom?

So Danielle’s realtor wasn’t able to squeeze any money out of the guy. Shocker. Danielle then says she doesn’t want to sell the home, because even at the lower list price they are considering, her husband would end up getting $700,000 out of the sale, and that’s not fair. First, I doubt he’d “get” $700k out of the sale of their home unless there’s no mortgage — which we already know there is. Second, we know that Single Parent Mom of the Year here didn’t run out looking for mortgages for single moms with no job, no appreciable skills, no prospects, and no hopes of ever finding another rich guy dumb enough to marry her. So in all likelihood, her ex-hubby is still paying the mortgage – or at least his alimony is. Shouldn’t he, then, get half the proceeds of a home sale to pay his share of the mortgage. And finally, “not fair”?? Seriously?! How much did YOU put towards the house either financially or with sweat equity?

Her fiscal irresponsibility gives every single parent mom a bad name. There are single parent moms out there who break their backs everyday to keep their kids clothed and fed and to make a living to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Danielle Straub is the kind of single parent mom who won’t even break a nail to keep dog poo off the floor.

There are single parent moms out there who when they say their children’s fathers aren’t helping really MEAN these men aren’t helping; these ladies aren’t whining because he’s asking her to downsize from a “$2 million home” to something more reasonable for three women with zero income. The man is still offering to foot the bill – just not an outrageous one!

There are single parent moms out there who fight their own battles, not who expect to delegate the work to whomever crosses their paths while assigning blame the whole way.

These real single parent moms, these wonderful ladies, are an inspiration. They make the best of a difficult situation. Danielle, on the other hand, is just one big parental fail.

Parental Fail – It Must Be Monday (Real Housewives)

Another week, another episode of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, another huge example of parental fail! Seriously?! What is up with these chicks??

Once again, Jackie is sitting in her kitchen having another uncomfortable chat with her 18-year old daughter. Her daughter accidentally admits that she’s going to 21+ clubs and drinking with her too-old boyfriend and his too-old friends. As Jackie attempts to correct last week’s parental fail and have a mature discussion about responsible drinking, her teenage daughter stands up and turns her back on Jackie. Jackie continues to talk to her, and for a minute there, I thought I was going to have to reverse everything I said last week about Jackie’s poor parenting skills. For a minute. pretty soon, Jackie was yelling/whining at her daughter, her daughter is yelling back, and no one is accomplishing anything. Finally, Jackie stomps out of her own kitchen—acting like a teenager herself – and tells her daughter to take her laundry with her. HUGE parental fail.
The rest of the episode could have easily been called “pageant moms go wild.” First Danielle gets a call that her daughter is going to be a model for some “totally famous” photographer that “every body in the industry” allegedly knows “makes supermodels.” Sure, lady, whatever. As her daughter models for this “totally famous” photographer, Danielle, an alleged former model, barks orders from the side like a momager from hell. Then we cut to Danielle’s post-shoot interview where she reveals two thoughts in parental fail: (1) she’s “all over” her daughter’s career,and is going to go everywhere her daughter goes; and (2) the “totally famous” photographer who no one’s ever heard of (I guess because we’re not “in the industry?”) wants to photographer her tightly pulled, burnt orange, overly botoxed face. Not only am I calling parental fail on that one, I’m going to call “photographer fail’” as well. Then Danielle’s daughter gets the “cover” of whatever magazine she supposedly did this shoot for [I’m sure it had nothing to do with her mom’s reality show star status], and Danielle decides to throw “her daughter” a party to celebrate. Of course, none of her daughter’s actual friends are invited – just a slew of women Danielle wants to brag to who will “share her joy, her pride” and also bring a curse upon her enemies (namely, one of the other housewives). Danielle’s daughter wasn’t remotely fooled by this “party in her honor.” In her confessional, she outright says that her mom insisted it was a party for her, but really it was a brag party for her mom. Nice.

And lastly, we have a new entrant into the Real Housewife of New Jersey competition for biggest parental fail – Theresa. Theresa already established herself as the consummate stage mom in season one, and the hits just keep on coming. Yes, her daughter Gia is absolutely beautiful. You could fall into those big green eyes of hers. But does Theresa really need to push this child into becoming supermodel of the world at age six (or whatever she is)? I will say this much for Theresa, the effect of parental fail is slightly minimized with her, because her daughter does truly seem to enjoy being the center of attention. But it’s hard to watch Theresa shuffle Gia from interview to interview without thinking that she’s living out her own childhood fantasies through poor little Gia.

Overall, the award for biggest parental fail is a toss up between Danielle and Jackie, and from the previews we’ve seen for the entire season, it looks like these “ladies” (I use that term very loosely) will continue to run a neck-and-neck race. I’m very entertained by watching their examples of bad parenting, but I at the same time can’t help but feel utterly awful for their children.

How Not To Raise Your Teenage Daughter (Parenting Teen Girls Reality TV Style)

Monday was the season opener of the New Jersey franchise — the guiltiest of pleasures. One of the moms, Jackie, has an 18-year old daughter. As I watched one particular uncomfortable exchange about sex, I realized this woman has executed a huge parental fail. Jackie kept repeating over and over – while discussing her daughter’s way-too-old boyfriend, that she assumed they were having sex and hoped they were being safe, but she didn’t want to know. You don’t want to know?? Look, I get that you don’t want to know all the gritty details of your kid’s sex life, but shouldn’t responsible parenting involve, oh, I don’t know, a mature discussion about going on birth control or using condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies or disease? How about you discuss how abstinence is preferred, but failing that, the health and safety of your child is your primary concern? Surely, have “the talk” with your kid should involve more than “I don’t want to know” and “I don’t really care.” I thought it was teenage girls who were supposed to be apathetic, not their parents!

This display of parental fail continued throughout this horrible exchange. Jackie’s daughter barely graduated high school and has now moved out of her parents’ house, but hasn’t attempted to enroll in college or get a job. “Shouldn’t you, like, do something?” Jackie asks her daughter. Her daughter responds that she’d love a paycheck. Jackie does not inform her daughter that usually, unless one’s occupation is Real Housewife of [random locale], one generally needs a job to receive a paycheck. There is no discussion of career options. In fact, there’s no further discussion, period. Is this what we call good parenting these days? Seriously?!

Another example of stellar parenting on this premiere episode of New Jersey’s sophomore season is Danielle. She loaded her kids in the car in the middle of the night to circle the Jersey highways, verging on stalking another housewife’s $1000 per plate party, all the while proclaiming, “I don’t care that they didn’t invite me. But I just want to go see.” The crazy behavior didn’t stop until her daughters had pled with her for what felt like forever to just please go back home. So instead of parenting her girls, Danielle’s teenagers are parenting her?? I’d say HUGE parent fail… The first of many, I’m sure.

Look, I get it, my child is nowhere close to being a teen, so I have not yet had to deal with the discomfort of having “the talk” or getting to that oint where my child is truly leeching off me. But I hope when we do get to that age, we can have a mature and honest discussion, which doesn’t sound like two teens each trying to whine louder than the other; and I’m certain I would never as Pop Culture Teen to be an accomplice in childish and possibly illegal behavior. /rant