Too Girly to Be Girls?

By T Cooper

Originally published on Advocate.com March 04 2009 12:00 AM ET

When i first met my girlfriend, five years ago, I thought I had to front like I hated TV.

"I don't even have one in the house," she'd declared on one of our first dates. Of course, we were both ultimately most taken with matters of the printed word (she's an author too), so after hearing this, and seeking to impress, I offered that while I indeed owned a TV, it was really tiny and antiquated, reserved exclusively for late-night MASH reruns ( MASH being one of the most brilliant, incisive television series of all time, and my personal, un-ironic fave).

But when you fall, you fall hard: Flash forward a couple of years, and we're shacked up at my place, I'm hunched over my desk trying to work, and she's curled into the couch beside the dog, with the second season of Project Runway on our new 20-inch flat-screen. I'm desperately trying to tune out incessant fashion blather, and seriously wondering how I found myself with somebody who actually thinks designing clothing out of food is a worthy and interesting endeavor.

Flash forward another year or so, and we're both plopped on the couch with the dog, me raving on and on about how much talent and skill go into "boning" an evening gown, and the two of us refusing to pick up the phone -- in fact, wishing painful and morally questionable violence on anybody stupid enough to call -- during our shows: Gastineau Girls , House of Carters , My Fair Brady , The Two Coreys , Growing Up Gotti , and Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica .

And these days, The Real Housewives series rule the household. There are few things I'd rather be doing than watching the Orange County edition (though New York will do in a pinch). I write novels, and that is certainly a considerably staid and solitary endeavor -- arguably even "anti-reality" -- but there are also long stretches when I travel with my books, most recently for about 12 months on and off, back and forth across the country and internationally.

When I recall cities based on the type of toilet in my hotel rooms, and my brain is fried over-hard and my heart is lonely because my most meaningful human contact has been from people pressing business cards into my hand, sometimes I just need to fall into the couch and be reunited with those I know best -- and who know me best, know intrinsically how to both talk me down from tour-induced mania and coax me out of deep, alienating writing jags during which I shower only when the fumes turn visible, like Pig Pen's.

Which brings me to Rock of Love with Bret Michaels. I had assumed nothing could rival my Housewives, but this series came along and significantly upped the ante. (I see ROL as the flip side of the Housewives coin, the ROL girls just a few years -- and four-score Botox injections -- shy of themselves becoming leathery O.C. wives. Well, the lucky ones, that is.) And the newest installation of the series, Rock of Love Bus , is like a Tranny Roadshow pulling into your living room, a smell-o-vision assault of strawberry Bubble Yum, Nair, cheap leather, Jean Naté, and nonoxynol-9, with an overtone of FDS spray (and when Bret starts jamming his tongue down all the girls' throats, you can count on a healthy splash of Drakkar Noir added to the olfactory mix).

VH1's brilliant twist on the show's current season finds the girls and their accoutrements crammed into a couple of tiny bathrooms and several sandwiched bunks on two different tour buses. I love how when tempers flare and acrylics fly, the biggest insult slung by girls at other girls is "She's a man!" when the trash-talker herself would probably have a hard time being granted entry to the Michigan Womyn's Festival. I mean, sure, every rose has its thorn, but I doubt that when Bret first sang those words he was thinking of the kind of thorn that can be tightly tucked inside an Exxtreme Cleavage rhinestone thong from Frederick's of Hollywood.

I can't help but don my tranny goggles for every Sunday night show, when the girls and the bachelor alike perform femininity so hard it breaks on through to the other side, where girls will be boys, and boy will be girl. (Each successive season reveals some new juicy detail about Bret's hair extensions and degree of baldness under all those bandanas and cowboy hats -- not to mention, dude wears more eyeliner and pancake makeup than Amanda Lepore.)

It's certainly a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world in which to find a mate, so will Bret ever find his true lady (or whatever he's into) love? God, I hope so -- or I'll never get off this couch and finish another book.