To all the girls whose fantasies were nursed by Disney princesses and who were then summarily weaned on the '90s woman in Asics with tube socks, I present to you our newest champion: Bethenny Frankel.
Forget Aladdin, Barack or Cosby — the ABCs of what it means to live happily ever after (whether on a magic carpet ride, in the White House or in a brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y.) have met the reality of statistics. Everyone's heard them: More women are putting off marriage and babies, to the chagrin of their own mothers. The outlook seems bleak from the perspective of those on the outside looking in. Enter a 40-year-old reality-TV star.
Frankel — best-selling author, entrepreneur, chef and ice-skating savant — rose to fame as the Lenny Bruce of The Real Housewives of New York City. When her father's friend gave her black lingerie for her birthday, Frankel's version of "thank you" was a classic: "Holy inappropriateness."
Surrounded by smug marrieds, she was the single one. The one it seems the housewives (especially Bethenny's then-friend Jill Zarin) lived through vicariously. Frankel had no problems admitting her neurosis or the fact that she desperately wanted a baby. In the end she'd "resigned" herself to adoption. Then in waltzed 40-year-old businessman Jason Hoppy.
When they met at a nightclub, Hoppy didn't bother with blowing smoke up Bethenny the Star's butt. His opening line: "Are you gonna get the stick out your ass?" Not exactly the sort of pickup line a princess would expect, but then again, Frankel isn't for the faint of heart. She's the real-life gal about town. The kind of girl HBO canonized so many years ago with Sex and the City. The kind of girl "the media" would have most of us believe would never find a hitched happy ending.
Even the title of Frankel and Hoppy's Bravo spin-off series Bethenny Getting Married? was somewhat cynical. Granted, Frankel was briefly married before and has been engaged at least two other times. But the question mark said something about the audience's faith in real-life romance as much as it did about ratings and suspense.
Last month the Wall Street Journal ran a prescient excerpt of Kay S. Hymowitz's new book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys. According to Hymowitz, "grown men" (and women) are stuck in a pre-adulthood that values the individual over the family unit. "For today's pre-adults, 'what you do' is almost synonymous with ‘who you are,' and starting a family is seldom part of the picture," Hymowitz writes. In an emotional scene from last season, Frankel said much the same.
A day at the beach in St. Bart's brought the usually unflappable Frankel — shaded with a huge floppy red straw hat and exposed in a purple bikini — to tears. By then she was technically Mrs. Hoppy (although she'd decided not to change her name), seven months pregnant and on her honeymoon. The enormity of it all came crashing down when she saw a little girl playing in the sand.
"Cause I left everything until the last minute of my life," she explained to her day-old husband, with tears streaming down her face, "now we're on our honeymoon and we're having a baby in two months. It's just a big responsibility. But if I'm gonna work at the level that I worked before, then you're gonna have to take care of a lot more."
Later, Jason told the cameras, "She forgets that she's not going to have to do everything on her own anymore. We've been single for so long and we're together now."
What I love about the couple is that they're both learning how to be "together now." Jason the Bachelor was no more schooled in the art of having someone around 24-7 than Bethenny the Bachelorette was.
Their new season, Bethenny Ever After, is a reality show with hints of fantasy. Yes, as Jason pointed out in the season premiere earlier this month, Bethenny is "one of those women now." The ones you see pushing expensive strollers in stilettos.
"I love it," replied Bethenny, before adding the but that makes her my new IBF (imaginary best friend): "I really hope I can do all this and be great at everything."