What I Wish I’d Said to the Desperate Housewife

The redheaded woman with eyes as green as a Jesus Christ lizard called to me from the back of the tourist bus. “Pssst, Michele,” she said. I wasn’t sure I heard it the first time, however, the second time she uttered my name, I knew I had to turn around.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a desperate housewife?”

“Excuse me?”

“On the TV show. You look just like one of the women on Desperate Housewives.”

Self-consciously, I smoothed my coiling, rain forest-infused hair and furrowed my brow. “Which one?” was all I could think to ask. The redhead didn’t know any of their names—the characters or the actresses who played them—so she used description, assuming I was familiar with the show and could figure it out. Not an invalid assumption.

Let’s see. I live in America. I watch television and read a couple newspapers per day. I’m a white, middle-aged wife and mother, and I reside in an affluent, suburban community. It’s virtually impossible for me NOT to know many details about the women of Wisteria Lane. The redhead, by the way, was a beautiful woman from Seattle who, in a soft-spoken manner, took every opportunity on the guided nature tour we had just completed to cut down her fat, sweaty and smoking husband. She looked more like a television star than I could ever hope to.

As she configured her description, I sat up a little straighter and my imagination put me into red carpet evening gowns and Emmy Award show glamour. Did she mean the tall and regal redhead who could whip together a gift basket faster than Martha Stewart? The cute, doe-eyed klutz who looks better in T-shirts and blue jeans than any other woman in America? The sexy-little nymph who turns the heads of teenage gardeners?

“It’s the one with the kids,” said the redhead. “The haggard one.”

“Yes, she does look like her,” chimed in a squat woman with corkscrew curls and an Olivia Newton-John 1970s workout outfit. “She’s the slender blonde who can never quite handle what’s going on around her.” This woman looked to her traveling companion, her thirty-something, bookish and humorless daughter, for confirmation. The daughter only frowned, clearly unwilling to admit she knew anything about some silly television program depicting women who had absolutely nothing in common with her.

“The haggard one?” I asked, no doubt slouching back into my tourist seat.

“Well,” said the redhead, “she cleans up nicely.”

Not knowing whether to be flattered or insulted, I simply answered her question. “No,” I said. “No one has ever told me I look like a desperate housewife.”

As she followed her enormous, wet and smelly husband off the bus and into the lobby of her hotel, the redhead didn’t turn to say “good-bye.” Before the door of the van slid shut, I felt like calling out to her, “Hey Red! Has anyone ever told you that you act like a desperate housewife?”

But, of course, I didn’t say that. I just turned to my handsome husband, saw my content reflection in his eyes and smiled as if posing for a camera.

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