The first thing I did when I got to my sister’s house for a night of cat-sitting was watch Filthy Rich Cattle Drive, E!’s new Simple Life rip-off. It was a good thing, too, because the second thing I did was feed Madeline (Cathy’s cat, who reminds me of a pair of black silk pajamas). I reached my hand into the bag of cat food on top the washing machine, and when I pulled it out, it was covered in ants.
Now, my first instinct was to drop the handful of infested cat food, run screaming to the sink, plunge my arm into a stream of water and go buy Madeline a new bag of food, leaving the mess for Cathy. But I had just watched a bunch of spoiled children of CEOs stick gloved hands into cows’ rectums to determine whether they were pregnant. (I think Paris and Nicole did this too—I suspect that real ranches use ultrasounds when the cameras are off and have a good laugh convincing city folk that fisting is the bovine EPT.) A few of them were good sports about it, but most squealed and whimpered, and one girl chartered a helicopter to Aspen.
I had to prove that I wasn’t like them, and just in case my lack of a $4,000 a month allowance wasn’t proof enough, I tackled the creepy-crawly zone like a good lower-upper-middle-class kid. I wiped, I Raided (not near the actual food), I sealed the paper food bag inside a plastic trash bag. I even went around the outside of the house, Raiding the window ledges and doorways. Poisonous, but empowering.
Then Madeline and I settled in to watch The Girls Next Door, E!’s fascinating new series about life inside the Playboy mansion—fascinating because it turns the basic premise of reality TV (stoking confrontation among otherwise ordinary people) on its head. Hef’s girlfriends maintain their girlfriend status not just by being slim, blonde and busty (qualities reality TV has proved are in wide supply) but by being exceptionally well behaved.
Forget cat fights—it’s a really big deal when Kendra, the youngest girlfriend, is just late to dinner. You can see how much Holly, the head girlfriend, wants to complain about it, since Hef blames her for any girlfriend’s misbehavior, but she just good-naturedly suggests that “Kendra needs a secretary.” These women are so unspoiled that they’ve completely suppressed any need that doesn’t revolve around Hef: their boyfriend, father figure, boss and—especially—gatekeeper to the brand they’ve been taught to worship. They are sweet, reasonably smart women who wear Playboy bunny logo T-shirts and Playboy bunny logo necklaces and ride around in a Playboy bunny logo stretch Hummer, and weep because they’ve never been centerfolds themselves.