Monday 20 November 2017

The truth about life as a Southside Housewife

OF all the reasons to look forward to the year ahead -- the Olympics, Euro 2012, the Mayan end of the world -- chief among them has to rank TV3's new reality show, Southside Housewives.

THE show, which is shrouded in such secrecy that TV3 couldn't even give me a provisional-provisional schedule date, will offer viewers a fly-on-the-wall look at the real lives of Lisa Murphy, Virginia Macari, Jo Jordan, Roz Flanagan and Dr Danielle Meagher.

BUT as reality TV goes, this one's likely to be as gritty as a bottle of Lancome exfoliator. As the advance publicity from TV3 states: "Our Southside Housewives are more Yummy Mummy than Irish Mammy, and we get a glimpse into their fabulous recession-free lives."

A glance at the Twitter feeds of some of the participants confirms the suspicion that trips to the salon, baby showers, shopping weekends in Harrods of London and sessions with the personal trainer are likely to feature heavily.

Of course, these are no ordinary housewives.

Dr Danielle Meagher has been described as Ireland's first "celebrity dentist" -- though she's now concentrating on her Botox business -- and was seen out with Katie Price's ex, Dane Bowers, last year.

And having survived being tied up during a burglary at their home last year, salon-owner Lisa Murphy is picking herself up and is due to marry "solicitor to the stars" Gerald Kean.

Meanwhile, Cork-born designer Virginia Macari, who first came to our TV screens on Podge and Rodge, has been stocking up on Gucci babygros ahead of the birth of her first son.

Yummy mummy Roz Flanagan is almost guaranteed to be on the guest list of all the biggest Dublin events and is often spotted at Krystle.

And finally, a relatively unknown businesswoman will also be joining the socialite ladies in the brand new show. Owner of JJ carpets and charity supporter Jo Jordan, who is separated from her husband, will come into the show as an outsider.

I only wish TV3 had given me a call. Since I quit my job as the editor of an online news site six months ago, I am -- though the term makes my woefully neglected toenails curl -- a Southside Housewife, of a sort.

But if I qualify on the basis of geography (South Dublin suburb), career choice (part-time job in the media) and family circumstances (married with two small children), my lifestyle, tragically, lets me down.


My typical day is lamentably free of high-level summits in pedicure salons or gathered around the Creme de la Mer counter in Harvey Nicks. Instead, I'm more likely to be found sitting at the kitchen table in my tracksuit, bashing out articles on my keyboard -- in between two sets of school runs and tackling the laundry mountain that I never seem quite able to conquer.

My usual lunch is far less likely to be an edamame salad washed down with a glass of Prosecco in one of South Dublin's lovely eateries, than a few wedges of tomato and some Cheddar cheese jammed between a couple of slices of Hovis Best of Both -- hoovered down at the kitchen counter with the help of a mug of builder's tea.

I may treat myself to the occasional soup or takeaway lasagne from the new Avoca store in Monkstown, but most of my food shopping is done in Tesco or Lidl.

And I suspect the typical life of the Southside Housewife these days has a lot more in common with mine than it does with the glamorous existences of Murphy, Macari, Flanagan et al. For me and for most of the other 'SoHos' of my acquaintance, life these days is mostly about finding ingenious ways to save money and stay afloat. It's not for nothing that we're known as the coping classes, or the 'squeezed middle'.

Five years ago, we might have had the time, inclination and spare cash to spend our mornings nibbling sushi and drinking Chablis while the kids were in school or at their private tennis lessons. A lot has changed since then.

These days, we've cut down on the after-school activities and the takeaway lattes. These days, more of us are mumpreneurs -- starting up enterprises from our kitchen tables, using our smart phones to run our miniature business empires while we stand around the school gate. And these days, in fact, more of us are men, as the recession has forced more dads to take on the bulk of the domestic duties while their wives go out to work.

And it's not all bad news. The recession has forced growing numbers of us to dig deep and rediscover the ambitious and resourceful people we were before the economic good times allowed us to take our foot off the pedal.

Once, you might have looked around at a meeting of the parents' committee and thought to yourself that, if you could harness the talent assembled there you could probably start up a corporation to rival Apple or Microsoft. These days, instead of just thinking it, you might actually do something about it.

Now that's a TV show I'd set the Sky Plus for. If TV3's Southside Housewives reflects some of the changes the past five years have brought to the lives of the coping classes, then it will be fascinating and worthwhile television. But I'm not holding my breath.

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