I’ll never forget a moment that happened at the office of my old job. Our team was chit-chatting one morning as we normally did, and when we randomly got on the topic of TV shows, I revealed that I love watching reality TV.
The quietest dude on our team – a real starched shirt, Bud Light Lime, never-needed-to-develop-a-personality-because-my-parents-have-money kind of guy – whipped his head around to stare at me. “You watch reality TV?” I calmly explained, yes, resident Average Joe, the egghead and well-known bibliophile on your team also gets down with some “real” TV drama.
Maybe I should be ashamed of that, but I’m not. I find reality shows to be both mindless, relaxing binge-fodder, but also mini psychological studies. To even agree to be on a reality show establishes a ground level of narcissism, and when you as a viewer spend enough seasons with a group of people (not even mentioning rewatches), you start to get to know them well. Real well.
One of the shows (and the casts) I know best is Vanderpump Rules. Originally a spin off of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (let that fact sink in), the cast was sourced from “housewife” Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant, SUR. She pitched the show to Bravo since her employees were a natural well of drama; six of them – three girls, three guys – were all best friends and had all paired up with one another. They also took turns hating and betraying one another and used the restaurant as the arena for their (literal and figurative) boxing matches. Lisa figured it would be reality show gold and, per usual, she was right.
The ever-expanding cast has long since abandoned pretending they actually work at the restaurant (with the exception of the newbies) since they’re now famous for being on the show, a detail that Bravo seems hellbent on not disclosing. Andy Cohen must believe that viewers will implode if that fourth wall breaks.
But since they are so famous, a few of them have snagged book deals. Stassi Schroeder released one last spring and is reportedly working on a second one, bartender pair Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix put out a cocktail book just in time for Christmas last year, and now, Kristen Doute, the ex-girlfriend feared around all around the Bravo-sphere, has just dropped a book all about, wait for it, relationships. It’s called “He’s Making You Crazy,” proving that Kristen will take her responsibility-shirking as far as the title of her debut book.
He even took my shirt. Can you believe him?
Vanderpump Rules has featured some seriously toxic relationships (season one Stassi and Jax, anyone?), but no one has been in as many on the show as Kristen Doute. She started off the show in a long-term relationship with the above-mentioned Tom Sandoval, then she moved onto the pipsqueak DJ James Kennedy. She only recently ended things with the alleged sponger Brian Carter. Pretty much all of her relationships featured on the show started messy, stayed messy, and ended messy. It is the kind of thing that makes you wonder, good lord, if she’s like this in her 30s, what were her relationships like when she was younger?!
Well, in this book, Doute will tell you. She teamed up with the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” author Michele Alexander to adapt her past exploits into a rom-com-style, do-as-I-say-not-what-I-do kind of tell-all. Kristen goes as far back as her childhood crushes, then takes us through the conveyor belt of attractive, yet slow on the up-take guys she’s gone for over the years. The guys made some serious mistakes in these relationships, as did Kristen, and, props to her, she almost takes responsibility for them in this book.
I know you can probably almost taste the shade I’m throwing, so let me state outright: I don’t hate Kristen. Certainly, she’s one of the best things that ever happened to the show because she cannot control herself. But on the other hand, she’s incredibly frustrating. Because she cannot control herself.
There are patterns in her behavior and in her relationships. I’ll give it to her – she’s certainly more self-aware than she’s ever been before, but on the first part of the season eight reunion that aired last week, it was revealed that Kristen hooked up with Max, the ex of not one, but two of her friends, one of whom was still interested in getting back together with him. It’s a situation uncomfortably reminiscent of her hookups with Jax Taylor when Stassi, her best friend, was entertaining a reunion with him. It’s hard to buy into her “I’ve changed so much” brand when her behavior as of last fall was merely a slightly toned-down version of what she was doing seven years ago.
Also, for as much as Kristen says she spills in this book, there’s something I really noticed the absence of: the story of how she and Tom Sandoval really got together. Kristen is happy to give stories of how she found out men were cheating on her (and then gives you, the reader, step-by-step instructions on how to double down on a cheating man’s error by egregiously invading his privacy), but she doesn’t admit that she and Sandoval started their relationship off by cheating.
This isn’t a conspiracy theory: when the show starts, she says the two had been dating for four years, sleeping together for five, and later, when Tom gets with Ariana, Kristen says something to Tom along the lines of “we know how things go when they don’t start honestly.” (I feel like they’ve alluded to this elsewhere as well, but the examples aren’t coming to mind.) Yet, there’s not mention of this in the book. Nor does she talk about the numerous physical and emotional affairs she’s admitted to having with other guys while she was with Tom.
Basically, the point I’m getting at is two-fold: Kristen is repeating past behavior as early as this past fall, so the “this is what I used to be like” tone is blatantly false, and she leaves out stories that viewers know exist, probably because they are highly unflattering. It makes me wonder what she’s left out of the stories she does include.
But let’s get to the real question here: is this book worth reading?
As a self-help book? No. It’s not written like one (someone put some white out over the words “how to” on the cover – they don’t belong there) and shouldn’t be taken as one.
If you’re not a fan of the show? No. She leaves out names (for legal reasons, I’m sure), so only viewers of the show will fully know who and what she’s talking about. She’s a little too vague for non-viewers to understand; she’s assuming you’re a viewer. (That makes the “how-to” marketing on the cover that’s clearly looking to extend this book’s audience beyond viewers of the show pretty dang gross, but that complaint I’ll direct at the publisher).
If you love the show and want to read about Doute being Doute before she became famous? Oh yeah. You’ll get some gloriously messy stories, even if they are, as I suspect, incomplete.