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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part One

NOTE: Although I was originally planning on posting this whole review at once, I was about a third of the way through the book when I realized that I was already quickly approaching the full length of my previous posts. So, in the interest of making this a pleasant experience for us all, I'm sharing the first half now, and will follow up with the second half in a few days. And honestly, KKB's writing reminds me of Inception in that it's almost certainly hazardous to spend too much time immersed in any single sitting. So fasten your seatbelts, and enjoy the ride!
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So, a lot of you guys have been asking about Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! (wow, is this what it feels like to be an influencer?), and I am thrilled to report that my adventure through this book's 264 pages was even more confounding than I could have possibly anticipated. I have a feeling that I'll need every ounce of my strength if I want to have any shot at conveying to you all exactly how bonkers this purported self-help book is, so -- without further ado -- let's begin.
I Can Make You Hot!, subtitled The Supermodel Diet, has a fairly straightforward premise. Kelly, who "has done it all when it comes to nutrition and her body," will share her hard-earned wisdom with us, her humble readers. Or, as she says in her own words on the back cover:
In I Can Make You Hot! I'm going to clue you in to all the tricks I've learned from a variety of experts and that I now use to live my own life. I want you to be the best you -- happy, attractive, shapely, interested, interesting, and most of all, smokin' HOT!
The blurb promises that the experience of reading this book will be "like rooming with a supermodel and going on a diet together." Truly, only someone with Kelly Bensimon's tenuous grasp on reality would say this as if it were something exciting, rather than a scenario taken directly out of the third circle of hell.
But before we can truly learn what it means to be HOT!, we're treated to a foreword by none other than Russell Simmons. As he shares with us:
Kelly is a great mother and is constantly instilling strong principals [sic] in her daughters. In my opinion, that's the essence of being HOT. Kelly is smokin'.
And just like that, I Can Make You Hot! is knocked out of the running for First-Book-I've-Read-By-A-Bravolebrity-That-Is-Also-Free-From-Glaring-Typographical-Errors. Better luck next time, champ!
In case you were at all hesitant about Kelly's suitability for the job of helping the less fortunate among us reach their maximum potential, Russell clarifies:
Her beauty truly comes from within, and her clear internal compass and well-balanced lifestyle is what makes her an arbiter for what's hot. She has always had her own individual road map and is one of those people who beats to their own drum. Many are amazed by her leaps of faith and courage, which are products of her sustainable soul. And back to that energy! I used to think: If we could only package it. And now Kelly has!
I would kill to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Russell Simmons and Kelly Bensimon. But all of these endorsements are making me impatient to dig into Kelly's advice, so I skim over the next few pages and arrive at the introduction: "What's HOT and What's Not." Almost immediately, Kelly reassures us that she was not always the gorgeous, talented socialite she is today -- "No. Let's just say that I was never one of those tiny, cute blonde girls who guys named their hamsters after." Excuse you what? I literally just walked away from my laptop to go talk to my boyfriend and make sure I'm not just ignorant of some otherwise well-known traditional male courtship ritual in which young men adopt rodents and christen them after the women they love. That doesn't seem to be the case, although please reach out if you can shed any additional light on this situation.
Reasonably enough, before we can learn how to be hot, we have to know what hot is. Fortunately, Kelly wastes no time in getting us up to speed:
When I was trying to come up with a title for this book, I kept asking myself how I would define what I love. "HOT" is the word that best describes what I love, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. "HOT" is attractive, unique, and first-rate -- never mediocre. Avril Lavigne made a video called "HOT." There are "HOT" issues of all my favorite magazines. Hotmail.com was given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service, and www.urbandictionary.com, whose definitions are created by their readers, defines "hot" as (among other things) attractive, the best, and someone who makes you wish you had a pause button when they walk by because you don't want that moment to end. (I want you to feel like that "someone.") Health, wellness, and fitness are always hot topics. "HOT" may be a buzzword but it's also how I describe the best there is and the best you can be. I've used the words "smokin' hot" for everything from a killer chicken wing red sauce to a coveted couture gown.
There is…a lot to unpack here. My leading hypothesis is that Kelly must have accidentally exposed her internal circuitry to water and started shorting out while writing this passage, causing her to string together a rambling parade of incoherent sentences with no relationship to one another, save a tangential association with the amorphous concept of hotness. Also, it's factually inaccurate. A cursory Google search reveals that Hotmail.com was not "given that name to indicate that it was the best e-mail service." Rather, the service's name was selected as a reference to the use of HTML to create webpages, as is more apparent from the original stylization, HoTMaiL. I know from her savvy allusion to "www.urbandictionary.com" that Kelly is capable of navigating the Internet, so I'm disappointed that she's made such a careless oversight within the first three pages of the book proper.
Kelly next takes us through a few scenes from her past to illustrate how she has come to understand the true meaning of "HOT." Here are just a few of the assorted pearls of wisdom that Kelly is gracious enough to share with us:
Is skinny hot? Naturally skinny is hot. Starving yourself in order to change your natural body type in order to get skinny is not hot.

For me, the ultimate HOT girl is the nineteenth-century Gibson girl.

…Bethany Hamilton, the young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and didn’t let it stop her from pursuing a sport she loves. She's smokin' HOT.

pregnancy is smokin' HOT
I'm distracted from my diligent note-taking by a line that truly makes me laugh out loud.
I don't want to pretend that I'm "just like you." To do that would be disingenuous, and you wouldn't believe me anyway. But I may be more like you than you think. My hair may be ready for Victoria's Secret, but my values are still Midwestern.
I appreciate the honesty! As I continue reading, I am pleased to learn that I am, in fact, already consuming this piece of literature in the appropriate way. As Kelly says:
I urge you to make notes as you go along, either in the book itself or, if writing in a book is anathema to you, in a little notebook to use as your own personal guide. Jotting down ideas as they pop into your head is the best way to process them and be sure that they don't leave again before you've had a chance to commit them to long-term memory. Then, if you've made a mistake, when you go back and see it there on paper, you'll remind yourself not to do it again. Or, as I like to say, you'll avoid getting bitten by the same food dog twice!
Bitten…by the same….food...dog? Never change, KKB. (As an aside, what's the oveunder on Kelly having even the slightest idea what the word 'anathema' means?) If I'm being totally honest, this book is making me feel a little superfluous. What more can I add when the source material is so impenetrable to begin with? How does one parse the unparseable? Newly humbled, I suppose I'll have to be content with just gaping in confusion alongside the rest of you. And now that I think about it, what better book to build me up from these insecurities and encourage me to be my best? In the words of Kelly herself:
After all, why wouldn't you want to be HOT? What's the alternative? Being "not so hot"?
The book is organized into seven chapters, one for each day of the week, focusing on seven distinct facets of hotness. We start our journey on "Monday: Make a List -- Plan and Prepare!" and are immediately blessed with another one of Kelly's philosophical ramblings:
To me, living well is the only option. What, after all, is the only alternative? Living badly? Who aspires to live badly? I want you to live well, and that's going to take some planning.
Eager to improve myself, I read on:
What are your goals for yourself? If you're going to make changes in your life, you need to have a plan, you need to prepare, and you need to take the time to get it right -- so that you don't wind up wasting your time. This is my plan, and from now on it's going to be yours. Monday is going to be the day you make a HOT plan and prepare for the rest of your week. Let's get started together!
I can't help but feel like this is one of those answers that beauty pageant contestants give when they don't actually know how to respond to a question. Or like a motivational speech written by a rudimentary AI. I can't quite articulate exactly what it is that makes Kelly's writing seem so utterly devoid of logical coherence, but it truly falls into the literary equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.
Reminding us that "this isn't just about budgeting your food; it's about budgeting your life," Kelly peppers us with even more helpful tips -- "You don't want to be that person who is snacking while you're shopping. That's not hot -- period." and shares a stream-of-consciousness-style list of "Staples I keep in my house." Which may possibly be some kind of freeform postmodern poetry. Judge for yourself.
Kelly advises the reader to "get out your calendar or PDA" to get a sense of your schedule. "Then use your PDA to find the closest well-stocked market and go there. Making life easy for yourself is what it's all about." Now is as good a time as any to clarify that this book was published in 2012. I'd be lying if I said reading so many consecutive Housewives memoirs hasn't made my grasp on sanity a bit shaky, but I am fairly positive that 2012 was not a banner year for the Personal Digital Assistant.
Kelly has taken the time to pluck out a few particularly incisive pearls of wisdom throughout the book to highlight as "Kelly's Cardinal Rules." I would love to help clarify exactly what this one means, but I'm afraid I'm utterly clueless. One thing I do know for certain, however, as the chapter comes to a close, is that "human contact is HOT; texting is not!"
The week continues with "Tuesday: A Little Ohm and a Little Oh Yeah! -- It's All About Balance." It is imperative that you work out, says Kelly, adding, "I've never met a smokin' hot couch potato and I bet you haven't either." Her personal exercise routine, as she shares, combines aerobics and yoga "because life is all about balance." As she quips, "I'm sure even Gandhi cracked a smile from time to time." A panel titled "HOT Tip" admonishes the reader: "Don't call it working out because exercise shouldn't be work!"
If you'd like to spend a morning in the style of Kelly Bensimon, it's as easy as eating "a couple of oranges" and drinking coffee -- "I love coffee; I would probably marry coffee if it proposed." She also lets us in on some of her secret, highly advanced workout routines designed to maximize your time in the gym and propel you towards your full potential. Such as the "Happy Twenty," in which you run for 18 minutes and then do 2 minutes of squats.
We get further instruction on the hottest ways to run on the following page, where a two-page spread advertises "a few of my HOT tips for having a fun run." To ensure that you're able to start your journey to HOT as quickly as possible, I've taken the liberty of transcribing one of her most valuable nuggets below:
Run in the street instead of on the sidewalk. I took a lot of flack for this when they filmed me on Season 2 of the Real Housewives of New York City. The thing is, I think that people walking down the street while texting are a lot more dangerous than a car. Drivers will go out of their way to avoid you (accidents are too much paperwork, and they really mess up a day), but strolling texters will walk right into you without even seeing you. You could also get smacked by a shopping bag, a stroller, or even an oversized purse. Sidewalks are really obstacle courses. Beware!
Kelly shares some standout tracks from her workout playlist ("It's much more fun exercising to music!"), including the perennial pump-up-the-jam classic, "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. With no regard for thematic continuity or overarching structure, the next page is dominated by the header "Get Leggier Legs."
An April 10, 2009, article about me in Harper's Bazaar captioned one of the photos "She's got legs." I was born blessed with long lean legs, but I work very hard to keep them looking the way they do. I'm tall, but I could just as easily have long, large legs. And long and large is not hot. Unfortunately I can't give you my legs. But I can help you to be the best you can be.
Truly inspirational. I think.
We continue on with Kelly's advice for "how to avoid the 'freshman fifteen," accompanied by a list of what she refers to as "Kelly rules." These run the gamut from near-sinister
Get rid of any negative thoughts. Negative-town isn't Fun-town.
to nonsensical
For every cheeseburger and fries, you owe me 12 cartwheels on the quad with your friends.
to bizarrely specific and also racially insensitive.
If you starve yourself for a day because you want to lose weight for Homecoming, you owe me 5 minutes of sitting Indian style in a corner and meditating on why you thought that was a good option.
Upon further reflection, I think I would actually be extremely motivated to stick to a diet if the alternative was being reprimanded by Kelly and forced to think about my poor life choices.
As a scientist myself, I was ecstatic to see that Kelly has drawn from a diverse array of scientific disciplines to develop her HOT tips and tricks. Physics, for example:
From Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion
A body in motion stays in motion. The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. So if you want to step up your exercise routine, try running in sand instead of on the pavement, or bike through gravel. That way your body will have to work harder in order to stay in motion.
Even biology has something to teach us about how to be HOT:
You are a living organism; life is an organic process. You need to be up and active, ready to enjoy the process. Be open and available and ready to do fun stuff. Participating in what you love is HOT.
I'm truly impressed by Kelly Bensimon's unparalleled ability to reframe the most basic common sense as divinely inspired wisdom. We see this in lines like
If you're feeling a bit frazzled and you need to calm down, you might want to take a yoga class.
or, as we read in another "HOT Tip" panel
Don't be afraid to drink water while working out.
I refuse to believe that this is a problem any person has ever faced. Even Aviva Drescher is not afraid of drinking water while working out (although, for the record, she is afraid of aluminum foil). Kelly closes out this chapter by encouraging the reader to "do one thing every day that takes you out of your comfort zone." If you find yourself lacking inspiration, she provides helpful suggestions, such as "try a fruit you've never eaten" and "try tap dancing." As she asserts, "there's nothing more foolish than sitting on your butt when you could be moving your body and having fun."
I turn the page, and the clock rolls over to Wednesday -- "Diet = 'DIE with a T.'" Cute. I bet Kelly would find that Tumblr post that's like "she believed" to be unbearably clever. She wastes no time in letting us know:
I don't believe in diets; diets are for people who want to get skinny. I want you to be happy. If you feel good about yourself, you'll make good choices. If you starve yourself to be skinny, you'll be undermining your sense of self-worth and you'll be unhappy every day. Eating well -- a variety of high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods -- is for people who want to be happy -- and if you're not happy you won't be hot! Happy is always better than skinny.
This is starting to feel like some sort of word problem from Algebra II. If happy is better than skinny, but hot is equal to happy, diet = die + t??? Kelly tells us that all women fall into two categories: overachievers and underachievers. Being an overachiever is good, and being an underachiever is bad. Here are some things you can do to become an overachiever:
Make good choices.

When in doubt, have fun.

Keep smiling.
Kelly's motivational-phrasebook app apparently starts to glitch out right about here, but she continues on:
Stay positive and move forward. This is your last try at today. Yesterday may not have been great, but, today is better -- you just need to see it that way. The choice is up to you.
The idea of someone being in such a dark psychological place that they are able to find inspiration in those words is so deeply sad to me that I can hardly bear to consider it. Thankfully, Kelly has already taken a hard left turn into what I think is some sort of extended metaphor:
I've already said that you need to treat your body like a Ferrari, but maybe you prefer a Maserati, an Aston Martin, a Corvette, or even a Bentley. Whatever your luxury car of choice, if you treat it well, it will increase in value; if you treat it like a bargain rental car, it's just going to wear out -- and being worn out is not hot!
Ah, yes, I'd momentarily forgotten that cars almost always increase in value after they're purchased, and don't have a culturally ubiquitous reputation for losing most of their resale value immediately. Solid analogy. Apropos of nothing, we get a "HOT Tip" list of "model diet secrets that DON'T work." I'm extremely glad that Kelly encouraged us to take notes while reading -- I'd be devastated if any of these pointers had escaped my attention.
Eating Kleenex to make yourself feel full does not work.

The Graham cracker diet does not work.

Drugs do not work.
Well, I suppose this clears up some Scary Island confusion. Had Kelly indeed been doing meth (as the reported cat-pee smell might suggest), she would be fully aware that many drugs are, in fact, extremely effective ways to lose weight. But lest you start to lose faith in the expertise of our fearless leader, read on: "when it comes to food choices, I've probably made every mistake in the book." By which she means that she ate Chinese chicken soup before giving birth to her first daughter and it made her sick, so she ate a turkey sandwich before giving birth to her second daughter and she didn’t get sick. To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to find a way to apply this wisdom to my own life, but I'm sure it will become clear in no time!
Kelly is relatable for the first time so far in the following passage:
When I was accused of being a "bitch" on national television, I was really upset. My response was to find comfort in Mexican food and margaritas for lunch and dinner three days straight.
But we promptly return to form on the next page as she recounts her daily diet of "2 green juices," "a KKBfit lunch," and "a KKBfit dinner." I'd like to take a moment to appreciate how generous it is of Kelly to share her wisdom -- earned through a lifetime of catastrophic missteps -- so freely. It certainly didn’t come without a cost, as the following anecdote illustrates:
On the last day of my juice fast, I took my older daughter to a Yankees game where we gorged on sushi. (Yes, they have sushi at Yankee Stadium) As a result, I was stuffed and blinded by carbs when A-Rod came up to bat and hit a home run. Was I able to savor that A-Rod moment with my daughter? Absolutely not. I was in a food coma. Will I ever let myself be thrown into a food frenzy again? No! Lesson learned: I made another stupid food choice, and because of that choice I missed that home run moment with my daughter. From now on, when I go to a Yankees game I'll have a small hot dog instead….I want you to do the same.
Verily! Heed her words of wisdom, lest ye not also lose the precious chance for thine own A-Rod moment.
But don’t think this caution means that you have to get caught up in the minutia of your day-to-day. On the contrary, appropriate planning means "you can stop obsessing about your carrot intake and concentrate on what it is that's going to make you a great person in life." To help illustrate this point, Kelly introduces us to the "Kelly pie." Otherwise known as a pie chart. This is a helpful way to really visualize how much time you'll have now that you can cut that pesky carrot-pondering out of your day! Kelly even offers some thoughtful "hints" to divide your pie:
  1. Celebrate your own health. We take health for granted.
  2. Get up in the morning and say, "I'm so grateful to be where I am and look the way I do," no matter what your size is.
  3. Tell yourself you look HOT, because you do.
  4. Believe in your ability to make good choices today and every day.
  5. Be mindful of what you eat. If I have to be mindful of what I eat, so do you. We're in this together.
Ooh, sorry Brad, I won't be able to make it to this afternoon's meeting -- it actually conflicts with my daily session of believing in my ability to make good choices today and every day. No, I understand how that could seem like an abstract sentiment rather than something that actually takes up time within your daily schedule, but if Kelly has to do it, so do I! And to be honest, my day is packed enough as it is -- it takes at least a second or two for me to tell myself I look HOT (because I do!), and I'm just worried that if I try to squeeze anything else in, it will cut into my mid-morning health celebration. Wish I could help!
In a strangely threatening aside, Kelly commands: "Write down what you ate for the last two days. Don't lie. We can start fresh tomorrow, one bite at a time."
In a section titled, "What I Eat Every Day," Kelly enumerates her "three go-to breakfasts": "two oranges or a plate of mixed berries if I'm not going to be very active, all-bran cereal or some other high-fiber cereal with almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk if I'm going on a long run, riding, or doing something else that requires extra energy, and on weekends, I love making pancakes to eat with my girls." As should be apparent, this is far more than three breakfasts. I am irrationally angry, in the same way I was when a Bachelor contestant said their favorite food was a charcuterie platter. That's cheating. (And yes, I do strongly identify with my Virgo moon, thanks for asking.)
Kelly inexplicably (apologies if I've used that word for the zillionth time already) tells us that "a plastic cup that says 'Forced Family Fun' from www.themonogramshops.com makes the smoothie go down with a giggle." Also, "sitting alone in front of the TV eating ice cream is not hot!" We are then introduced to one of Kelly's more advanced strategies, which she calls "Energy Economics." This means that you might need to eat more on days when you are busy and/or exercising, and less on days when you're relaxing. So many innovative ideas, this book has really packed a punch for its < $5 price tag!
Another ingenious idea? "Stuff cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, or even onions with ground meat, chicken or turkey seasoned with salt and pepper. Bake until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable is softened." Granted, I have been a pescatarian for almost a decade at this point. But disemboweling an onion, jamming it full of hamburger meat, and cooking it for some indeterminate amount of time at an unspecified temperature seems…wrong.
Circling back to her theory of Energy Economics, Kelly explains,
If I don't eat [well], I'm violating my own laws of energy economics and my body goes either into inflation mode (too much energy when I don't need it) or recession mode (not enough energy in the bank for me to draw from). The key is to create economic equilibrium: eating well so that I feel good, which allows me to be happy.
I am begging someone to start a GoFundMe where we raise money to pay Kelly to explain how the economy works. The next page introduces us to "The KKB 3-Day Supermodel Diet," which is less of a diet and more a random assortment of miscellaneous health-related sentiments that reek of the 2009 pro-ana tumblrsphere:
Chew your food 8 times instead of 3 or 4.

Brush your teeth and chew mint gum as soon as you finished eating. When your mouth is fresh and minty, you'll be less tempted to eat again.
The final tip ("nurture yourself") includes a reminder to "blush your checks [sic]." Which may be a typo, but could also very well just be some strange Kelly saying that no one else has ever used in the history of the English language. On the next page, we're introduced to "Kelly's Food Plate." Which other, less sophisticated people typically refer to as the food pyramid. Kelly also takes a brief aside (in a feature box labeled "hot button issue") to expound upon her favorite delicacy, the humble jelly bean:
If you're a fan of the Real Housewives of New York City you probably remember that on Season 3 I took a lot of flack for eating jelly beans and talking about processed and unprocessed foods. I was actually making light of that food snob moment. Who stops at a gas station and asks for carrots? Did you bring your organic food cooler with you on this road trip? The important part is not to be a food snob; but when in doubt choose the best option. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. Was I able to make my point? Clearly it wasn’t in the cards at that moment.
This is a truly stunning synthesis of her experience. Underestimate Kelly at your own peril -- this girl has been playing 4D chess for longer than we know.
The chapter continues with some tips from Kelly on how to make the most of your meal planning and shopping experience. And no -- you have no excuses:
There's absolutely no reason why you, wherever you live, can't eat "colorful" foods. All over the country there are "gi-normous" supermarkets where fruit and vegetable aisles are bursting with every color of the rainbow.
I am starting to get a "gi-normous" headache trying to make sense of this chaos. Kelly's advice that we can "mix and match what's there to make a FrenAsian or an ItaloGreek meal" is not helping. We also get some tips for how to grocery shop responsibly:
  1. Always go with a list and never buy more than two items you planned on taking home.
This is incoherent, right? I know I need to wrap up Part 1 of this write-up pretty soon, because I've read this sentence at least two dozen times trying to make some sense of it, and am still at an utter loss. I assume she's left out a negative somewhere, but at this point, I realize I've already thought about this tip for approximately ten times longer than Kelly ever has, so I'll move on.
For the third or fourth time so far this book, Kelly segues into a literal grocery list. To be fair, this is a very effective strategy to take up several pages with minimal text. And what could be more compelling than
Shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs

Dog treats

Lavender pepper
Truly the voice of a generation! Decades from now, English teachers will be teaching their students about a fabled wordsmith who once uttered those eternal words, "shitake/oyster mushroom combination packs." Because this book has absolutely no respect for logical cohesion, we are hurled immediately into a diatribe about how expensive it can be to buy organic -- "I recently walked out of an organic market having paid $400 for just three bags of groceries." As I read on, however, it becomes quickly apparent that Kelly has no idea what the concept of 'organic' even means:
"Organic," in any case, seems like something of a misnomer to me. I know the Food and Drug Administration has regulations for certifying foods organic, but to me, for foods to be truly and totally organic, they would have to be grown in a test tube or a greenhouse with no exposure to the natural elements.
Well, sure Kelly. If that's what you would like to use the word "organic" to mean, be my guest. She tosses us another crumb of helpful guidance, but it only serves to make me feel exceptionally sorry for Kelly's daughters and everything they have to endure:
Plate your food as if it were being served to you in a fine restaurant. Use a fancy foreign accent as you invite everyone to come to the table. Or try saying it in French. My girls love it when I announce, "Le dîner est servi!"
We learn in yet another "HOT tip" that "fast food doesn't have to be fat food," and Kelly tells us for the eighth time that she eats two oranges every morning. In what has already become a recurring theme for me in this book, the following passage makes me desperately curious to know how Kelly thinks science works:
One question people frequently ask me is whether I believe in taking vitamins or supplements, and the answer is "yes, I do," because, even though I know my diet is healthy, I can't be sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I need. All the vitamins and minerals we need can be found naturally in foods, but how do we know, even if we're eating a healthy diet, that we're getting everything we need?
I flip back two pages to confirm that Kelly told us quite recently how important it is to read nutrition labels to know what is in the food we eat (to make sure we avoid foods "whose labels are full of words you can't pronounce"). Exactly how she is reading these nutrition labels yet still manages to have no inkling how anyone could possibly begin to assess their vitamin and mineral intake eludes me. She continues:
I don't want to take that chance. I think of the food I eat as fuel and vitamins as my oil -- my body's engine needs both. Vitamins and supplements are not food replacements, but we're exposed to so many environmental toxins on a daily basis that I believe we need to supplement our diets to counteract all the harm those substances can cause.
I can certainly think of something that is causing harm to my psychological stability at this particular moment, which I should probably take as a sign to wrap things up for today and go read some incredibly dense Victorian prose or something to remind myself what a properly constructed sentence looks like. Promise I won't leave you waiting for long!!
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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle.
After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children.
One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so.
My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt.
Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down.
The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues.
Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all.
The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome.
The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess?
Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is.
I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure.
As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate.
Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing.
I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event.
The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
  1. Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close.
In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?).
Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled.
Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
  1. We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
  1. While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think?
Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it.
This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
  1. Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here.
Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out.
After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
  1. Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled.
Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic.
The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex."
In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison.
That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends.
This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know.
In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking.
Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person.
We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth.
The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining."
-A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons
Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
Zing!
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February
I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
Got 'em!
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise.
You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.'
But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards.
We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
  1. Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
  2. Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
  1. Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines.
This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton.
A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
  1. Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®.
The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention.
The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive.
In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries.
After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American."
We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible.
In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city."
Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.'
I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous.
Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously.
But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.'
Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
  1. Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times.
This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part Two

I hope you all have taken full advantage of the past 48 hours or so to regain some sense of normalcy after our adventures through Part 1 of Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! Without further ado, Part Two:
I resume my journey through the truly incomprehensible mind of Kelly Bensimon with a chapter entitled, "Thursday: Tricks of My Trade." Now that we've learned about the basic building blocks of hotness, Kelly promises to share even more hard-earned advice to help us really kick things up a notch. And, as she reassures us:
I'm actually glad for the mistakes I've made because anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't learn, and if you don't learn, you're boring!
And if you're boring, you're not HOT! I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!
One of Kelly's most important life lessons came at her first horse show, when she made an unbelievably devastating misstep: "I decided to have an egg on a bagel from the food-service van." What kind of unimaginable ripple effects did this poor decision set off? I continue on to learn that Kelly "did all right in the competition." And…that's literally the whole story. Kelly legitimately refers to this as "one of my biggest lessons," as it taught her "to never eat more than I normally would." If life-changing breakthroughs were this easily sparked in my own life, I can't even begin to imagine how self-actualized I would be at this point.
At this point in my reading, I have reached the book's first insert, which contains about a dozen glossy color photos from various phases of Kelly's life. Unfortunately, I am far too preoccupied by this picture, in which a carefree, wind-swept Kelly clenches her infant daughter under one arm with all the grace of an NFL wide receiver, to pay the rest of the spread much mind.
We continue on as Kelly introduces new dimensions to the basic tips she's previously introduced. For example, you may have had some vague idea that water was important, but Kelly -- always there to help us learn and improve -- digs into the specifics to make sure we're up to date on the HOTtest tricks of the trade:
Staying hydrated is important no matter what you're doing, so I always try to drink eight glasses or about a liter of water a day. Soda isn't water. Coffee isn't water. Water is water. Drink throughout the day; don't try to get it all down at once. You wouldn't drown an orchid, so don't drown yourself.
I am putting in my formal request for a Public Service Announcement in this format, but using the last line of that passage. Also, Kelly clearly does not know how poorly I tend to my houseplants.
The next page informs us that, "hot isn't just caliente; it's also spicy and sultry." Kelly promptly launches into yet another list of miscellaneous grocery items, this time focused specifically on "red-hot foods." Except it includes entries like "popcorn with sugar and cinnamon," and "Mike and Ike candy," so I'm not convinced Kelly didn't just lose track of the thread entirely by the time we got a few items in. However, this does seem like an appropriate time to introduce this picture, from the book's second photo insert, which clearly depicts the sleep paralysis demon that has haunted my dreams for the past several nights. We're also treated to this chapter's first "hot button issue" panel, in which Kelly pulls back the curtain on the shadowy, pro-salt cabal trying to control us all with their anti-sodium legislative agenda:
We keep reading about how bad sodium is for our health, but if you eat fresh foods that you prepare yourself, you can determine and control the amount of salt you want to use. I, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, am perfectly capable of deciding how much salt I want to put on my food. I don't need anyone else to salt my food for me. I know that the amount of salt I choose to sprinkle on my food is not going to hurt me.
I read on to find a two-page spread in which Kelly expounds, in rhapsodic praise to rival that of Song of Solomon, upon her ardor for her beloved dehydrator -- "I though I was in love with coffee, but now I think my dehydrator is my truest love." Most of the passage is taken up by an unstructured list of the various things Kelly has attempted to dehydrate ("cucumber," "mangoes," "avocado") but she does manage to squeeze in a few infomercial-ready lines -- "Really, you should buy one; I promise you won't be sorry."
Since repetition is the key to reinforcing new concepts, I appreciate that Kelly's next list (of "a few more lean tricks I've learned along the way") repeats a note she originally relayed to us just a few pages ago:
Drink water throughout the day (not all at one sitting).
She's also been thoughtful enough to provide a list of resources for us to use as we soldier on along the perilous journey to HOT. After all, as Kelly says, "I don’t expect you to carry this book wherever you go -- as much as I would love that." As someone who has never before ventured into the wild world of cyberspace, I really appreciated Kelly introducing me to so many fun, useful websites that I might want to check out! In case you, too, just haven't figured out how to navigate this whole Internet thing, I've included a few examples below:
www.amazon.com
One-stop shopping for just about any book, periodical, or product you might want to read or buy in order to get HOT.

www.espn.com
Everything you need to know to stay up to date on any sport.

www.webmd.com
Useful, up-to-date, trustworthy information on medical and health issues.

www.yummly.com
Claims to have "every recipe in the world"
Can't wait to check these out later! That Amazon one sounds super cool!
I'm reminded quickly just how inelegant the transitions in this book are as we move directly from that list into the following:
I suggest that you take a picture of yourself every day…Some days when you're feeling your fattest, you may be surprised to see that you really look great.
Okay, so fat is NOT HOT. Except being comfortable in your body is HOT. And trying to be skinny is NOT HOT. But being skinny is HOT. Thank goodness I still have a few more chapters to go -- I clearly still have a ways to go before I truly understand the logic of HOTness. As it stands, I must admit that I'm a bit baffled.
Of course, returning to the previous bit of advice, Kelly doesn't actually have to worry about taking her own pictures like us plebeians -- "Having been photographed so often has provided me with a permanent retrospective catalogue of my life." The chapter closes with these words of wisdom:
The best kind of vanity is being vain about what you put in your body.
Friday's chapter promises to introduce us to the world of "Hot Couture," and I am excited to see what tips and tricks Kelly has managed to accrue over her lifetime in the cutthroat world of modeling . But first, we abruptly transition to a story about Kelly meeting Madonna shortly after both women had given birth. Kelly had "gained a healthy fifty pounds," which I am led to believe, from the context of the anecdote, is NOT HOT. Madonna, on the other hand, was "flat-stomached" and therefore "HOT and cool." Of course, Kelly reassures us hurriedly that she lost all the weight within the following six weeks and was "actually thinner than I'd been prepregnancy." I am at an utter loss as to what the point of this story could possibly be, but -- blessedly -- Kelly is gracious enough to explain:
So what's the lesson here? That Madonna had personal trainers and chefs to whip her back into shape, and I didn't -- and still don’t. I shouldn't have been comparing myself to her in the first place. My advice to you is: don’t compare yourself to anyone else, only to your own personal best.
This is a perfect example of something Kelly does throughout this book, which is to present a completely reasonable piece of advice (don’t compare yourself to others), but couched within such a bizarre and logically disorganized narrative that by the time I reach the ultimate moral of the story, my brain feels like it's been run through a series of meat grinders, and I'm reduced to just nodding along in bemused acceptance.
We get a "Kelly's Cardinal Rule" reminding us to "let your body be what your body is and be happy with what you've got." I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde thing going on behind the scenes here, in which two versions of Kelly are frantically grappling over control of the book's body-positivity dial. I'm literally don't even have to flip the page to see Kelly commiserating with us that "we all have days or occasions when we feel fat" and quipping about her "go-to fat outfit." But also:
Stop praying for what you don't have and be grateful for what you've got.
This amount of cognitive dissonance is truly proof that Kelly contains multitudes. Or has recently acquired some sort of debilitating short-term amnesia. Nevertheless, we continue:
But whatever your shape, show it off. Don’t try to hide it. Hiding is not hot.
Kelly next walks us through figuring out which "season" we are, based on the wisdom extolled in "Color Me Beautiful, the groundbreaking book that was so wildly successful in the early 80s." It's no surprise to me that Kelly, who earlier encouraged us to make our lives easier by using our PDAs, finds this to be an exciting new trend to share. Also, in case you weren't aware, "hair color is also important. You can lighten it or darken it or cover the gray." Lighten it or darken it? The boundaries of my mental universe are truly expanding.
Some more fashion tidbits:
Scarves are hippie chic, cool, and always HOT.

If you're narrow, show off how narrow you are with a monochromatic palette.

Ankles are the new cleavage!
Narrow ankles only, I presume. Kelly's selfless, giving nature is highlighted yet again in the following passage, in which she explains:
All these celebrities have stylists who pull the clothes, accessories, and shoes that make them look the way they do. They charge a lot of money for what they do, so why not get some free advice based on my experience.
And what, pray tell, is this coveted advice that Kelly is so lovingly sharing with her readers, free of charge?
  1. Save sweatpants for the gym.
  2. Save PJs for the bedroom.
  3. Dress as if you were the boss.
  4. Remember what Carrie Bradshaw says: "Nothing is casual anymore, even when it says so on the invitation."
  5. Manolo Blahniks are a girl's best friend.
Okay, so far be it from me to complain about the quality of free advice. But. Out of the five pearls of wisdom that make up the "KKBStyle Rules," two of them are rudimentary instructions to wear somewhat-situationally-appropriate clothing, and the other three are the kind of cute sayings that you would find on a piece of poorly bedazzled wall art in the clearance aisle of your local TJMaxx. I'm not impressed.
Kelly next tells us how important it is to eat well and exercise, even "when you're premenstrual or having your period." That way, as she continues on, "you'll feel better because your endorphins will be flowing while your body is sloughing off unwanted endometrium and mucus." To be fair, Unwanted Endometrium does sound like a sick band name.
Thankfully, the mental image of Kelly's mucus slough is promptly booted from my mind by a careening diatribe about the color red (HOT!):
I even painted my nails red the minute I started writing this book. I wanted to see my short red nails tapping away on my Macbook Pro. Almost every red dress is smokin' HOT, and I've never met a guy who doesn't think a woman in a red dress isn't hot. He's a liar if he denies it.
To repeat, Kelly says she's "never met a guy who doesn’t think a woman in a red dress isn't hot." Poor dear got a bit carried away with her negatives, but I'm sure she'll redeem herself in no time:
When I was sitting in the front row of a Marc Jacobs fashion show a few years ago, I wore a full, red short skirt, a tight red sweater, and red open-toed shoes. One of the editors from The New York Times was sitting across from me, and as we were waiting for the show to begin I kept crossing and recrossing my legs to make him laugh.
Sure, Kelly. To make him laugh. I can only assume she must have written some kind of hilariously clever joke on the gusset of her underwear to have had this editor so tickled pink red.
It was a long wait and after a while some guy I didn't know who was at the other end of the row, leapt towards me and screamed that he was obsessed with my feet. How crazy is it that red open-toed shoes and red toenails could create such a reaction. Red is HOT, even stalker HOT. Yikes!
I'm not clear where "stalker HOT" fits into this whole complex web, but it's reassuring to know that a wise soul like Kelly has such a nuanced appreciation of all of the different ways to be hot. She also gives us some "HOT tips for heating up your image." Like,
Put on a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt.

Put your hair in a ponytail.

Put on a pair of hoop earrings.
And also
Wear your jeans a size smaller instead of a size larger.
For some reason not entirely clear to me at this moment, wearing jeans in your actual size does not seem to be an option.
The chapter continues with a reminder to "remember what's on top of your head!"
There's nothing hotter than a HOT head of hair (unless it's a hunky bald guy).
Kelly follows up by offering a list of what she calls "HOT healthy options." Based on the preceding paragraph, you might assume that these tips would have something to do with haircare and hair styling. However, you would be wrong. Instead, we're instructed to:
Enjoy as much watermelon as you like.

Pack a picnic lunch of dehydrated fruit, chamomile iced tea, and mini pizzas made with corn tortillas, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Eat your picnic in the park.

Come up with something fun you want to try and do it!
Personally, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to make one of the items on your list of fun things to do "make up your own fun thing to do." But who knows? Maybe cop-outs are HOT!
Before my faith in our fearless leader starts to waver, however, I read on through the end of the chapter, and my surety is promptly restored:
Besides my hair and my legs, the one thing people always ask me about the way I look is how I keep my teeth so white. And yes, that's also a matter of genetics. I'm blessed with the whitest teeth on the planet, and, no, I've never had them professionally bleached.
The weekend begins as I turn the page to the penultimate chapter -- "Saturday: Heat Up Your HOT Image with Healthy Options Today." Saturdays, as Kelly tells us, are for fun activities. For example:
If you're in the mall, go to different stores and figure out which looks will make you HOT. Ask other shoppers for advice.
Also:
Parks are great for people-watching. Who looks fit and healthy?
I sincerely hope that any and all of my friends would give me a stern talking-to if I informed them that my weekend plans consisted of going to a park and…pointing out people I think aren't healthy enough?
Kelly then warns us against overindulging on late-night snacks or alcoholic beverages, lest we wake up Sunday feeling "bloating, sluggish, and with deep regrets." Presumably, Kelly then proceeded to rail a massive line of cocaine and hammer out the following frenetic spiel:
You're not going to get fat from having a few drinks a week. You will get fat if your routine is to drink, eat late, and then lie around watching television the next day, eating and making bad food choices. Going out is fun, but when you sacrifice the next day, it's never fun enough. Don't have regrets; enjoy every day. This is a life plan, and yesterday isn't coming back ever again.
The chapter comes to a close with a reminder to "wrap up every day with a great big bow and be ready for your next adventure. But before we close out our week of HOT, we're provided with what I anticipate will be an incredibly useful reference material for us all, the "KKBfit HOT Quiz." If you'd like to take the quiz yourself, you can find it here. However, I'm not entirely sure I would classify it as a "quiz," since it seems to be mostly a set of questions followed by Kelly's feedback on various possible responses. For example:
  1. How Kelly Green are you?
I had a Kelly Green Juice -- Wasn't it yummy?
I had a smoothie from the health food store with a splash of spinach -- Great choice!
I had kale chips, spinach, and quinoa for dinner last night -- I bet you woke up feeling great this morning!
Other?
I presume that the lack of response after the "Other?" choice is supposed to represent Kelly staring at me in deranged disappointment for a few painfully protracted seconds. Some questions, like the one above, don't seem to have any wrong answers at all. In contrast, other questions have clear wrong answers, which Kelly wastes no time in making apparent:
  1. Are you getting enough protein? How many days did you eat chicken, fish, or meat for at least one meal?
I had a grilled chicken salad for dinner on three different days -- That's good, but I wish you'd get a little more adventurous in your choices.

  1. How KKBfit are you?
Haven't had a meal since last night, but I'm going to skip breakfast and go on a run. I won't eat anything until lunch. -- Sorry, but starving your body is not KKBfit.

  1. Are you drinking enough?
I drink when I'm exercising but that's about it -- Not good enough! Try harder next week.
The quiz ends, leaving me entirely unsure of whether or not I've actually made any forward progress towards my HOTness goals, but the next page does promise help for those who "still need more inspiration." Here, it seems that Kelly has compiled a loose assortment of quotes, most of which (I have a sneaking suspicion) were found by searching the keyword "hot" on BrainyQuote.com. Also, this masterpiece from Kelly's ex-husband, noted fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon:
HOT--
It is not about the look,
It is not only about the charm,
It is the perfect combination:
Sweet and tough,
Sexy and reserved,
Fragile and powerful,
And definitely smart.
-- Gilles Bensimon
Move over, Rupi Kaur! I hope with every fiber of my being that Gilles Bensimon has published his collected poetry in some kind of volume that I could purchase, read, and have, I'm sure, nothing but positive things to say about. After about a dozen similar quotations, Kelly continues:
Now, as you get ready for Sunday Funday, take a few minutes to think about how you define HOT. Has your definition changed or evolved since you started reading this book? If so, I'm doing my job.
In all honesty, my definition of HOT has definitely been…affected by this experience. So we'll call that a win! Kelly tells us a few stories about times when her friends and family members have come to her for guidance on how to be hot. She explains:
I'm not the food police, but I've made myself the Sven-arbiter (as opposed to Svengali) of what's HOT and what's not.
Case in point:
It's just not hot to belong to the clean plate club.
The chapter closes with a list titled "Why Don't You," which I believe is supposed to be a list of fun activities we can try during a Sunday Funday. Or possibly a list of terrible life hacks for stoned college freshmen:
Use an electric teapot as a clothing steamer.

Make grilled cheese sandwiches or press wraps using a hot clothes iron.
There are very few things sadder to me that imagining someone taking Kelly up on this last bit of advice as a fun way to liven up what must be the most preternaturally boring existence possible. If your idea of fun is white bread and Kraft Singles getting slowly warmed over on your clothing iron, I can only imagine the fit of hysterics that you'd be thrown into by a passable Minions meme.
And that brings us to the end of the week. But not -- lucky you! -- to the end of this book. Au contraire -- the remaining 100 pages or so of I Can Make You Hot! feature dozens of unique recipes from the culinary mind of none other than the indomitable Kelly Bensimon herself. In her intro, however, she makes it clear that
No one on earth would ever call me a chef.
Of course not, Kelly -- they'd call you a cook. Otherwise, it's creepy.
This portion of the book begins, reasonably enough, with Breakfasts. These include such thoughtfully named delicacies as "My Favorite Cereal" and "My Favorite Pancakes." The recipe for the latter begins with the following introduction:
I'm not the greatest pancake maker, and I probably never will be. But what I am very good at is thinking of unusual things and doing them.
Frankly, I can't argue with that. As she continues:
When in pancake doubt, have fun, add fruit, and see if pancakes can be a vehicle for creating great memories for your family.
Next time I'm in pancake doubt, I'll know just what to do! We move right along into the Soups and Salads section, and are promptly introduced to Kelly's "Jimmy Achoo's Chicken Soup." Which is apparently a play on Jimmy Choo and also described by Kelly as "filled with veggie exploitation," which sounds terrifying. Of the next recipe, "Rich and Skinny Cauliflower Soup with Kale Chips," Kelly reflects:
I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet. I wish I could tell you exactly where, but I can't.
The recipe calls for kale chips, which Kelly goes out of her way to inform us can be purchased "at health food stores and many well-stocked supermarkets." We also get a few general "HOT salad tips" that can be applied to many of the recipes throughout this book, such as
There are so many different types of lettuces available today! Try different ones to see which you like best
and
When you order a salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side. You're a grown-up and you should get to decide how much you want to use.
With that under our belts, the grown-ups among us move on to "Meat, Chicken, and Fish." In her recipe for "Grilled Rib Eye with Herbes de Provence", Kelly tells us about meeting the famous chef who inspired this dish:
When I met Eric, who was still in his thirties at the time, he still had dark hair. I was caught off guard because I thought all chefs were older, had gray hair, and smelled like garlic.
So perhaps Bethenny should have taken it as a compliment? Kelly continues,
He's since invited me many times to go into his kitchen and cook with him, but my fear of losing a finger by being overzealous has prohibited me from accepting.
It's unclear to me exactly what this means or why Kelly would even be particularly worried about this possibility. Does she have habit of excitedly snatching vegetables out from other people's knives? Does Eric have a reputation for slicing anyone who dares to get in his way? Before I make any headway with this particular mystery, we're introduced to the next recipe, the "Pencil-Thin Skirt Steak." As we learn, "Everyone looks slim in a pencil skirt, so it's only fitting that skirt steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef you can buy." We get a recipe for "Sultry Roast Chicken" in which Kelly shares with us that "in fact, chicken without ginger doesn't taste like chicken to me anymore." This would be more believable if we weren't, a mere two pages later, introduced to a notably ginger-free recipe for "Second-Chance Chicken." As Kelly explains,
I hate the idea of leftovers. To me, eating leftovers means you're too lazy to start over, and I've never wanted my girls to think that we weren't starting fresh.
In the introduction to the recipe for "Bad Girl Wings," Kelly gives us yet another poignant insight into her life as a mother:
These chicken wings are Sea's favorite. I'm sure she loves them because she knows I love wings (she's a cutie like that).
It would obviously be ludicrous to assume that Sea actually enjoys chicken wings authentically. Much more likely that she just loves them because Kelly does. HOT! In a segment labeled "hasta la vista taco bell," Kelly recounts a traumatic experience in which she "discovered that my favorite food choices [at Taco Bell] added up to 580 calories." To me, this seems like a perfectly reasonable amount of calories for one daily meal out of three, but according to Kelly, I am embarrassingly off the mark. Rather, she sighs, "I guess that means my Taco Bell days are over -- unless I decide to chance [sic] Sunday Funday into Fatso Food Day." Not HOT.
Kelly tells us about the creative process behind the development of the next recipe, "Spicy Sultry Shrimp and Mango Stir-Fry" (which, for the record, is the second recipe to have the word "sultry" in its title).
This was one of the first dishes I made when I started to cook -- as a science experiment. My "method" was to think of foods I loved and which ones I thought would go well together.
Fascinating! Think of ingredients you like and combine them into a dish that you will then likely also like! The next recipe, for "Kelly's Kalamari," features the following introduction:
I still love fried calamari, but it doesn't love me. Whenever I eat it, it goes right to my stomach and makes a little pooch -- eww!
As a reminder, this is the same Kelly Bensimon who told us that loving our bodies is HOT and dieting is die + t. But also, eww!
We trek along into the next portion of the recipe book, succinctly titled "Pizza, Pasta, Potatoes, Grains, Vegetables, and Sides." We get a recipe for "Pizzzzzzzza!," which instructs the reader to obtain pizza dough, pizza sauce, mozzerella cheese, salt and pepper. Spread out the dough, add sauce and cheese, and cook! This is yet another time I'm glad Kelly told us early on in this book to take detailed notes -- these kinds of nuanced culinary creations can only come from the mind of a true master.
The same kind of true master who would, as we soon learn, conceive of this particular travesty -- "Pink Pizza." Imagine with me, for a moment, that a dear friend invites you over to their house for dinner. I'm making pizza! they implore you. Come over -- we'll hang out, have a couple beers, catch up on old times! Excited for a chance to relive the glory days, you eagerly accept, only to be met -- upon your arrival -- with this abomination. I thought you said we were having pizza? you sputter nervously. This is pizza, your friend intones, as their eyes slowly fade to black and their hands reach out to wrap themselves around your throat.
Kelly goes on to share a recipe for an "Asian-flavored noodle dish" that she has christened (and it truly pains me to type this), "Me Love You Springtime Noodles." Somewhere, the last ember of hope for humanity quietly fizzles out.
The following recipe, for "Pasta with Oddkavodka Sauce" begins with a warning:
When you make this (especially for children) just be sure you cook off the alcohol so that you aren't serving vodka to minors or have to assign a designated driver for your guests.
This seems like reasonable and conscientious advice. Until I read on and learn that the recipe calls for 1/8 cup vodka, and makes four servings. If your guests need a designated driver after consuming a half-tablespoon of vodka each, I would strongly encourage them to seek medical advice forthwith.
I am reminded once again how different Kelly's and my worlds are with the following exclamation:
Try using quinoa in this recipe instead of the rice -- I call that having your cake and eating it too!
Oh, to live a life in which your most selfish indulgence was quinoa. I suppose this should have prepared me for a few pages later, when Kelly remarks:
Both hummus and guacamole make great toppings for steak or fish. They're my version of béarnaise sauce.
I love hummus. Hummus is great. But there is no possible existing parallel universe in which hummus and béarnaise sauce are interchangeable. One of the final recipes in this section is cryptically titled "Have an Impromptu Pepper Party" and instructs the reader to scoop out the insides of a bell pepper and stuff it with "whatever ingredients suit your fancy." Again, I feel like this fails to meet the definition of an actual recipe, per se, but it is supposedly "quick, fun, and satisfying."
We're nearing the book's end (for real this time) with a section on "Breads and Desserts." This includes an inspirational passage in which Kelly shares a personal anecdote:
On Season 4 of the Real Housewives of New York City, I made a mixed fruit pie for my kids with what was left over in the fruit bowl…Don't be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and have fun doing it.
I can only hope to someday be brave enough and fearless enough to make a mixed fruit pie.
Blessedly, the final section , titled "Beverages", looks like it might have exactly what I need in the aftermath of finishing this book. The "GIN-Ginger Beertail," for example, which "was originally made with gin, but I don't like serving gin drinks because I think it makes people mean." We also get a recipe for something called "Babylove," which (thankfully) seems unrelated to another of my favorite reality TV cesspools.
It only seems appropriate to share the final recipe of I Can Make You Hot! with all of you. I will definitely be downing approximately seven of these tonight, and I hope some of you will be joining me in spirit. Cheers:
Gummi Bear Martini
If you don't have a paper umbrella handy, Gummi Bears are a great way to put more fun in your drink.
Makes 1 Drink
2 parts orange, grape, or other-flavored vodka
1 part Triple Sec
1 part white grape juice
Splash of cranberry juice
Gummi Bears, as many as you like
Combine the vodka, Triple Sec, grape juice, and cranberry juice in a tall glass. Add ice and fill the glass with Gummi Bears.
ETA: I am so disappointed in myself for forgetting to include that Kelly has a ceviche recipe that instructs you to marinate raw fish in lemon juice for exactly two minutes before serving. In the interest of food safety, perhaps it was for the best that this nugget momentarily slipped my mind, but sharing this information with you all is the burden I have been cursed to bear. 🙏🏼
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McKamey Manor, a “haunted attraction,” is a participation event “where you will live your own horror movie.” Critics have argued that McKamey Manor is not a haunted attraction, but a torture chamber. Founder Russ McKamey denies these claims, and maintains that the Manor has an element of mystery.

“The reason why the manor is so controversial is because nobody is saying what’s actually happening in here and that’s out of respect for the manor and myself and what we’re trying to produce here. If the people who go through the haunt want to spill all the beans and say everything that happens, they certainly could but they don’t and that makes the haters crazy because they don’t know what’s happening. That’s why you hear all the insane rumors because they’re just making things up in their mind of what is happening.” - Russ McKamey
What is McKamey Manor?
McKamey Manor, founded by Russ McKamey, is known as the most extreme “haunted attraction” in the United States. However, what separates this attraction from the rest is the fact that there are no zombies or ghosts. Rather, there are actors who are legally allowed to bind you, gag you, and push you to your mental and physical limitations. Of course, the experience isn’t for the average person. To even get the chance to experience the Manor, you would be required to be at least 21 years of age (or 18 with parent’s permission), pass a physical exam, a background check, and a drug test. The tour, which operates year-round and can last up to 10 hours, offers participants the chance to earn $20,000 upon full completion. According to McKamey, not a single participant has ever successfully endured the full 10 hours.
Just a handful of patrons are permitted to enter each weekend. There is no entrance fee, though McKamey asks that participants donate a bag of dog food upon their arrival. Besides meeting the necessary qualifications, McKamey requires that his participants refrain from swearing and physically engaging with the actors. Violation of these rules would be grounds for subsequently ending the tour.
Now based in Summertown, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama, the Manor bills itself as “an audience participation event in which YOU will live your own horror movie.” However, others describe it as a “torture chamber.” McKamey Manor has received criticism from the public, the “haunt” industry, and even some participants. Critics have branded McKamey a “psychopath” who found a “legal loophole” to fulfill his sadistic tendencies.
Frequently asked questions range from “Is this legal?” to “Is this a hoax?” McKamey assures the public that not only is the attraction 100% within its legal rights of operating, it is also not a hoax.
Waiver
If all goes to plan, prospective participants are required to sign a 40-page waiver prior to the tour. The waiver asks that the participant understands and agrees to:
“19. Participant was warned numerous times about the intensity of MM and by the Owners and other members of the crew that YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO THIS.
“20. Participant agrees and understands that your life in reality is not in danger and this is just a game.
”21. Participant agrees and understands that during the Tour and Participant is in the van, they will not be secured by a seatbelt or other safety device.
“22. Participant understands and agrees that they are not being tortured and this is just a game.
“23. Participant understands and agrees that they are not being beat up, kicked, slugged, or actually physically harmed. You will be roughed up but no one is there to hurt you. Knowing that, MM is very rough and not for the meek. Participant will have bumps, bruises, possible black eyes, swelling of the face, etc.
“24. Participant understands and agrees that they are never being held against their will.
The waiver continues to stress that the experience is just “a game” several times. By number 28, the waiver starts to detail what the participant may be subjected to:
“28. Participant fully understands that by signing this waiver that they are giving MM permission to keep nothing off the table (except sexual or inappropriate situations). Everything else imaginable can and will happen inside of MM. You are aware of this and are giving full permission for any action that may happen inside of MM.
“29. Participant agrees to and has full knowledge that if selected to visit the barber, Participant may leave MM completely bald, including eyebrows.
“30. Participant agrees and knowledges that mousetraps are used within the Tour which may result in bruising, cutting, or breakage of fingers.
“31. Participant agrees that if selected, they could be buried alive under 12 feet of dirt and rock to which they will have a limited amount of air and that they will have to figure out how to escape and they could possibly breathe in a significant amount of dust, dirt, or foreign objects that may cause death if Participant does not breathe properly or hold their breath at the right time.
“32. Participant agrees to partake, if selected to participate, in a height stunt that involves walking a plank 25 feet above ground without a safety net.
“33. Participant agrees that if selected they will come in contact with a variety of live poisonous animals. It is the Participant’s responsibility to not panic or agitate the animals. If Participant is bitten, it is because the Participant made a sudden movement within a confined secured environment.”
The waiver continues for several more pages, the intensity increasing with each page.
Consenting Participants or Victims?
One San Diego participant, Amy Milligan, says that experience was more than “just a game.” According to Milligan, she suffered several injuries beyond “cuts and bruises.” Milligan was waterboarded during her tour. Milligan claims that, while exclaiming she could not breathe, actors laughed while they continued to waterboard her.
“My hair is wrapping around my neck and I start freaking out. I’m telling them I can't breathe and they’re just laughing and doing it more.”
Despite the “traumatic” experience, Mulligan spoke highly of the tour during her exit interview, going as far as adding that she did not feel like she had been “tortured” and treated it “as a game.”
However, Mulligan claims that the only reason she left a positive review was to ensure that McKamey would upload the footage of her tour to YouTube. Mulligan had intended to use the footage as evidence of her excessive abuse. However, Mulligan found herself disappointed when she watched the video. According to Mulligan, the most distressing portion of her tour had been edited out of the footage.
In an interview, Mulligan says that she begged to go home but was forced to continue to tour. “I’m like ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it, I need to go home let me out, let me out,’ and they’re like ‘you’re not done.’” Mulligan adds, “[They] shoved my head back in the water and I was like, ‘They’re not going to let me out. I’m going to die in here.’”
Another San Diego participant, Laura Hertz Brotherton, shares a story similar to that of Mulligan’s. Like Mulligan, Brotherton left the tour with more than just cuts and bruises. Prior to Brotherton’s scheduled tour, McKamey sent Brotherton tasks that she would have to complete in order to prove her loyalty to McKamey. Brotherton was required to purchase an adult onesie that she would wear on her tour and videotape her visit to a nearby Halloween store. Brotherton described her initial interactions with McKamey as “fun,” and was looking forward to the day of her tour. McKamey instructed that Brotherton upload her assignments to Facebook. While navigating McKamey Manor’s Facebook page, Brotherton became romantically involved with another fan on the other side of the country, despite the fact that they were both in, albeit estranged, relationships. To Brotherton’s surprise, her affair had struck a nerve with McKamey. So much so that upon Brotherton’s arrival to the Manor on October 23, 2016, McKamey publicly exposed Brotherton, who was in the company of her boyfriend. While Brotherton’s boyfriend was aware of the affair, her online partner’s wife was not aware.
According to Brotherton, McKamey was cold to her for the remainder of the tour. Despite that Brotherton had just been humiliated, she was determined to power through. Brotherton had traveled to San Diego from Colorado and felt that it was too late to turn back. According to Brotherton, her experience was more extreme in comparison to others. Brotherton believes that McKamey was particularly harder on her. Brotherton believes that McKamey’s knowledge of her affair factored into the excessive abuse, noting that he appeared to be “personally offended” by it. Speaking of her experience, Brotherton says,
“I was waterboarded, I was tased, I was whipped. I still have scars of everything they did to me. I was repeatedly hit in my face, over and over and over again. Like, open-handed, as hard as a man could hit a woman in her face…” More graphically, Brotherton adds that she was blindfolded with duct tape and submerged underwater by her ankles. According to Brotherton, she was submerged underwater for so long that her body started involuntarily thrashing. Brotherton was later forced to dig a hole in dirt with nothing other than her bare hands. Brotherton was then forced to lie in the fresh hole while they covered her and her face with dirt, giving her only a straw to breathe through. “[The dirt] started to go into my throat, and I started to swallow it. I’m coughing and I keep saying ‘I need water,’ and they would just splash water in my face. That went on for, I want to say, 20 to 30 minutes.”
Brotherton repeated the safe word for several minutes before the actors finally relented. Like Mulligan, Brotherton had to record an exit video. In the video, Brotherton also spoke positively about her experience. Though according to Brotherton, it was because she was “forced” to.
“Before Russ turned the camera on he said to me, if I do not say good things about McKamey Manor and I start telling what actually happened, he’s going to sue me for $50,000. I signed a waiver saying this could happen. So Russ forced me into saying all these great things, like, ‘Oh my God, my tour was so amazing, it was exhilarating,’ blah, blah, blah.”
After her experience, Brotherton went to the hospital but refused to tell the hospital staff who or what caused her injuries. As a result, the hospital staff called the police. Brotherton, however, was discharged and left before the police arrived. Brotherton says that she later worked up the courage to report the incident to the police, but was told that she didn’t have a criminal case because of the waiver she signed. Brotherton took photographs to document her injures. According to journalist Megan Seling, who interviewed Brotherton for her article, Tennessee's McKamey Manor: Torture on Demand, the nature of Brotherton’s injuries included:
“In one photo, Brotherton is in a neck brace and a hospital gown and her face is markedly swollen. She has scrapes on her cheeks and a lump on her forehead, her lips are red and puffy, and there are small cuts at the corner of her mouth.
In another image, you can see a large, bloody wound on Brotherton’s left knee. She says that’s an old surgery scar that opened up after McKamey’s actors cut off her knee pads and made her crawl on the ground. Her legs are covered in scratches, and there’s a large purple bruise on top of her left foot. There are also two pictures of her torso, showing large purple bruises that stretch across her hip and stomach. She says X-rays showed a hairline fracture in her foot, and the inside of her mouth was so scratched up from the hitting and “fish-hooking” (“Where they take their two fingers and they put them inside your mouth and they stretch your mouth open”) that the hospital sent her home with medical mouthwash, which she had to use every two hours for three days.”
According to Seling, McKamey didn’t deny Brotherton’s claims, though he did shed doubt on the fracture in her foot. McKamey also admitted to exposing her affair but claimed that it didn’t affect her tour in terms of increasing severity. Rather, according to McKamey, “Any personal information we have, we’ll use it against you in the tour.”
Towards the end of the article, Seling states, “Here’s the thing: There is no $20,000. There’s no caiman named Ralphie, there’s no quicksand-like mud that will swallow you whole, and McKamey will certainly never slather your body in flame-retardant gel and lock you in an incinerator somewhere in Huntsville, Ala. None of that is real.”
McKamey himself commented on the article, suggesting that Seling reported her opinions rather than facts. The comment read,
“Russ here, I'm posting this FB post here because I think it's worth mentioning. There really is only one part of your story that I have an issue with. Sure the way you went on and on about Laura B. without having the real facts was to be expected. Clearly if things happened the way you suggested in the piece...I would be in jail. I can assure you, Laura's tour was no tougher then other "Chamber" tours in San Diego. If you would have spoken to other contestants who have taken multiple tours (up to 5), including the same tour that Laura took...you would have received a balanced take on the San Diego shows. I offered you their names, but you decided to go with the most salacious participant. The person who has been banned by all other extreme attractions. Why...because she causes trouble and she does not speak the truth. The bottom line Megan Seling is this. Why did you feel it was important to get one final (unsubstantiated), dig in at myself and the Manor. Would you top off a story about a magician or illusionist with a statement about what is real or nor real? But for some reason you felt it necessary to do so covering the MM story. It may have been understandable to include your final paragraph if for some reason you really felt inclined to complain because I wasn't giving away my secrets, but you did so much more then that. You left your readers with the impression that what you were saying was fact. And that's were I have a big issue with what you presented to your audience. You deceived your readers by presenting your "opinion" as a factual statement. You even admitted to other FB readers that you you knew what you did was going to upset me, but you went full steam ahead nonetheless. In hindsight, that's probably the effect you were looking for. As you and I both know, I called it from the first phone call and several hours working with you on your story, how you would eventually spin the article. And as usual in these cases deal with the media...I was correct. But let's get back to the actual statement you presented to your audience as fact...not opinion. You wrote the following: "Here’s the thing: There is no $20,000. There’s no caiman named Ralphie, there’s no quicksand-like mud that will swallow you whole, and McKamey will certainly never slather your body in flame-retardant gel and lock you in an incinerator somewhere in Huntsville, Ala. None of that is real." That is not an opinon...you're stating this as fact. I would like to offer this challenge to you publicly here in your papers comment section. I have already done so numerous times as you're well aware. Because you're so keen on exploring what is real and not real at MCKAMEY MANOR, and because you're so inclined to make that the final impression of your story, I have a very simple way to bring this to a very exciting conclusion. All you have to do Megan is to actually take the tour. I would think as a professional journalist you would be more then happy to participate in this little adventure. If for no other reason just to get the actual facts correct. Unfortunately we all know you will never do that. Instead you'll sit behind your desk in the comfort of your safe space, writing about second hand information instead of actually seeking the truth from your own experience. I understand that there are those that are "participants" in the world, and others who simple watch from the sidelines. In your case I'm offering you a chance to actually become an active player and not just a computer warrior. If you would care to sign up for the tour, I'm pretty sure you would change your statement. What do you have to loose? Don't just toss opinions out as fact. Maybe you're absolutely correct that MCKAMEY MANOR in not real in the faintest, and that nothing is what it seems. My challenge to you is to be a real real journalist and find out the facts. Imagian the great story you would have, and I know your supporters would love to see you get away from your desk and safe space to show us all what MCKAMEY MANOR is real all about. Is MM just "Smoke and Mirrors," or it it something much more exciting and magical. This would make an excellent follow on piece for your paper. Do you have what it takes Megan to actually find out the truth? If anyone would like to participate in the MM experience, please fill out the contact form at www.Mckameymanor.com. Be advise you must be able to meet all basic requirements and you must provide a doctors letter stating your mentally and physically cleared to participate in our little adventure called MCKAMEY MANOR. And no matter what you may have read in this article, the chance to win 20,000.00 is absolutely real. Do I believe that will ever happen...not on your life ladies and gentlemen. MM is looking forward to meeting each and every one of you. One final note, I'm the most transparent individual you'll ever have the opportunity to meet. If anyone one of you reading this comment have any questions for me, feel free to call me directly at (omitted by u/BubbaJoeJones). I will answer any and all questions...concerning anything. Thank you for reading my little rant :-). Russ McKamey”
Questions and Theories
Real, or Staged?
McKamey, who is a fan of filmmaking and acting, uploads footage of participant’s tours to YouTube. Or, he used to. McKamey has since stopped uploading to YouTube, presumably because of backlash. However, McKamey hasn’t stopped uploading footage of the tours entirely. According to Facebook users who are in McKamey Manor’s private Facebook group, McKamey still privately uploads, and occasionally live streams, the tours. The tours, which resemble movies backed by professional editing, lighting, and props, raise questions as to whether or not what we’re seeing is staged.
In one video, the footage shows three individuals reading the waiver aloud prior to signing. During the reading, McKamey repeats the Manor’s tagline, “You don’t really want to do this.” While the individuals are attempting to read the waiver aloud, they are having their hair pulled out of their scalps, being smacked in the face, and being choked with rope rung around their necks. Footage later shows the individuals having their eyebrows and hair shaved off (and later being forced to eat it), including other sadistic acts such as having drills forced in their nose and mouth, being locked inside a freezer, and being forced to eat raw dead animals.
These acts lead some people to theorize that it’s “just a movie” and that the participants themselves are actors.
People speculate that not only what is shown on camera real, neither is the alleged waiting-list. According to McKamey, there is a waiting list totaling about 27,000 prospective participants in 2015. However, there is no evidence to support the claim that there are 27,000 prospective participants on the waiting list.
There are also people who question the existence of the $20,000 prize upon completion. According to McKamey’s comment, “the chance to win 20,000.00 is absolutely real.” However, some people, including Seling, find it suspicious that nobody has ever been able to claim the prize. McKamey has said on record that though the prize exists, it’s “impossible” to attain. Though, as Seling pointed out, it’s not due to being unable to complete the tour in its entirety, it’s by design. According to some participants, McKamey decides when you’re through, even if you never withdrew your consent. As a result, despite what McKamey claimed, many believe there was no $20,000 prize.
How Does McKamey Afford it?
One question that remains unanswered is how McKamey is able to fund the Manor. McKamey, who is a US Navy Veteran, does not profit off the Manor. As mentioned before, McKamey accepts his payment in the form of dog food, which is later donated to Operation Greyhound. Additionally, McKamey invested $500,000 out of pocket into the establishment of the Manor in San Diego. According to McKamey, he was shelling out about $250-275 a night for an on-site EMT and somewhere between $15,000-20,000 per year on specialty insurance. McKamey estimates that it cost around $500 per haunt. How is/was this experience bankrolled?
Theories and rumors have ranged from believing that McKamey sells the entirety of his footage on the Dark Web, to taking a cut from a betting pool who watches the live streams from Las Vegas.
Though according to McKamey, he doesn’t profit off the Manor “at all.” McKamey admitted to struggling financially after having lost his job as a Veteran’s Advocate. As a result, he found that he had to move the Manor where it would be more affordable. As a result, McKamey moved San Diego home and purchased property in Tennessee and Alabama.
According to McKamey, his only source of income is his $800 monthly retirement check.
Is it Legal?
There has been some debate regarding the legality of operating McKamey Manor. As mentioned before, Brotherton reported the incident to the police and was told that there was nothing that can be done as she had signed a waiver. Moreover, the police were called to McKamey Manor on more than one occasion. According to Seling, police arrived to find one woman in a basement, shivering and bruised with duct tape over her mouth. When police asked the woman if the interaction was consensual, the woman said yes. Police had no option other than to leave.
According to the Brent Cooper, District Attorney of Lawrence County, Tennessee, McKamey Manor is legal. Cooper says that as long as McKamey participants are there voluntarily, no crime is being committed. However, Cooper does add that a participant can withdraw consent in the state of Tennessee at any time. If McKamey were to disregard the withdrawal of consent, a participant would then be classified as a victim who is being held against their will.
McKamey Manor Today
McKamey Manor’s Tennessee location is, according to McKamey, far less physically involved than it was in San Diego. According to McKamey, the experience in Tennessee and Alabama is more of a “mental game.” Rather than being physically tortured, the participant is manipulated into believing that torture is being inflicted upon them. In response to an online petition demanding that the alleged “torture chamber” be “shut down,” McKamey clarified,
“There’s no torture, there’s nothing like that, but under hypnosis if you make someone believe there’s something really scary going on, that’s just in their own mind and not reality. If you’re good enough and you’re able to get inside somebody’s noggin like the way that I can, I can make folks believe whatever I want them to believe. I’m like the most strait-laced guy you could think of, but here I run this crazy haunted house. And people twist it around in their little minds. It really is a magic act, what I do. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.”
However, that isn’t to say people escape the Manor unscathed. McKamey stands by the possibility that one may leave with cuts and bruises, as stated in the waiver.
Despite people having attempted to shut down McKamey Manor by signing petitions and filing police reports, McKamey Manor is still operating year-round in Tennessee and Alabama. According to McKamey, some people have grown so defiant to his presence that they have sent death threats and shot through his windows. Out of the hundreds of threats that McKamey has received over the years, McKamey recalls the one time that he was involved in a potentially life-threatening incident. Shortly before McKamey moved to Tennessee, a single bullet flew by his head while he was working outside in his yard. However, McKamey never reported the alleged incident to the police, claiming that he didn’t want to bring any more attention to himself.
Conclusion
“I’m not going to open it to the masses–I like keeping it a secret. I like the mystery of the manor. If you saw everything it’d be like any other haunted house. That’s my goal, even when I’m dead and gone, to make sure people are still talking about McKamey Manor. That’s why nobody is really going to ever see behind the wall.” - Russ McKamey
To date, little is known about what took place at McKamey Manor in San Diego. Mulligan and Brotherton maintain that they were subjected to excessive abuse, despite that they signed the waiver. As McKamey said, many of his participants choose not to detail their experiences out of respect for maintaining the mystery of the manor. Thus, there are very few accounts available on people’s experiences at the Manor. Although McKamey claims that the Manor in Tennessee and Alabama is the most “toned-down version of the Manor ever,” people continue to sign petitions in an attempt to shut the Manor down. Despite their efforts, McKamey says that he will continue to run the Manor as long as he is able to.
Links:
McKamey Manor
An ‘extreme’ haunted house requires a 40-page waiver. Critics say it’s a torture chamber.
San Diego terror attraction McKamey Manor runs into opposition at new Tennessee home
'There's a chance of death': Extreme haunted tour employee explains their terrifying 40-page waiver
McKamey Manor 'victim' speaks out
Terror attraction McKamey Manor is leaving San Diego for the south
submitted by BubbaJoeJones to UnresolvedMysteries [link] [comments]

A close examination of the story. Part 22: What exactly did Katarina do for the cabal and the KGB?

In this series we have been examining the apparent narrative, and finding how it crumbles when it is subjected to scrutiny. The Blacklist resembles a massive illusion, both in the narrative to the audience, as well as the story as it occurred within the show. I think that what is underneath the illusion is far more interesting. It is master storytelling.
We turn now to examine what the emerging real story looks like, beneath the facade.
We had questioned the narrative that Katarina was a a KGB agent. We did a bit when we examine it in Part 3 & Part 2, and concluded she could not have been really a bona fide KGB agent. The attitude of the KGB and the CIA was not consistent with that. The CIA seem less than inclined to want to find her, the KGB was trying to through Anton Velov, then the OUC.
But what was Katarina doing then? What was she doing for the cabal? Why were so many people wanted her dead, forming the Townsend Directive, led by a mysterious figure, Neville Townsend. What is this business with the Sikorsky Archive, that Fakerina is hell bent on finding, going as far as saving Red if it secures her Liz's goodwill?
First, let us do a quick recount on Katarina's supposed comrades:
https://preview.redd.it/chdf6bdul7b51.png?width=991&format=png&auto=webp&s=a433cc561b6dd25fbb44bffedae69a2eab75d569
Ilya Koslov had to have been an identity of Ilya pretending to be a KGB agent, because the FBI does not have information of a supposed Russian diplomatic worker working in the inexistent Russian Embassy in Washington DC in 1991. So, "Ilya Koslov" is a ghost because there was no Ilya Koslov. Ilya, however, exists and is a childhood friend of Red and who Katarina turns to in her hour of need.
Dom, her father, is also a ghost, a man supposedly investigated by the CIA for being a KGB operative, but whose prints and face are not in the system. That looks like a scrub job. I doubt Dom was a real KGB agent, but he was intelligence of some sort.
Fakerina seems to have been involved in the "Katarina Rostova" identity as one of the Katarinas. It is unclear what did she know of the entire scheme. She seems to think Dom and Ilya were KGB and was unaware that Ilya and Red are childhood friends, she knew of Dom's daughter, but is unclear what else she knew about her.
So, if Dom and Ilya were not really KGB agents but were pretending to be so, exactly what was Katarina doing for the KGB and what was she doing for the CIA. And what was she doing for the cabal and Alan Fitch?
Who is Neville Townsend, that Ilya says he cannot stop him?
https://preview.redd.it/jiv1nzt4m7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=444e13e91ce97fe0551a8354254cbf3bc90b8a03
YOUNG DOM: Do you know they've assembled a directive? The Russian Vory, KGB, the Americans, her enemies have pooled their resources and put a bounty on her head. They're calling it the Townsend Directive.
YOUNG ILYA: Neville Townsend?
YOUNG DOM: He's at the top of a very long list of people who want her dead.
YOUNG ILYA: Are you worried they'll find you?
YOUNG DOM: I'm worried they'll find Masha, try and leverage her.
YOUNG ILYA: Look, Dom, I I can't help you.
YOUNG DOM: You made a promise! To Katarina. You told her you would look after Masha if anything happened to her.
YOUNG ILYA: Yes, but I can't call off Townsend. And he will not stop looking.
Seems clear Ilya knows who this Neville Townsend is.
Another interesting point is the list Dom gives of the people looking for Katarina:
The Russian Vory, KGB, the Americans,
Note he never says, at the time they are discussing this, which is after Katarina disappeared, likely even after the surgery even, possibly years later, during the Belgrade affair, that the CIA is after her.
Contrast then what Red tells Kate circa 1997:
Katarina was a traitor to two countries, both global superpowers.
which coincides with what Katarina told Kate in 1991:
The KGB uncovered my affair with Raymond, which means US Intelligence knows as well. Both sides are tracking me down.
forget the cockamamie reason: the KGB would be happy with her affair. It was supposedly the job. Seduce RR and her information. But what Katarina told Kate was that she was being chased by BOTH sides:
Both sides are tracking me down.
and that is further established by what Red tells Jennifer when he is desperate to get to Naomi, and Jennifer is demanding truth:
In 1990, the KGB and the CIA had almost nothing in common except the mutual determination to hunt down one individual.
https://preview.redd.it/tthwdgy8m7b51.png?width=558&format=png&auto=webp&s=315157b13fdada5ce4762bd06f904d9d6d3d02b9
So, what we KNOW, is that while in 1990/91 Katarina had BOTH KGB and CIA after her, by the time Dom and Ilya meet in Belgrade, the CIA is absent of the list:
The Russian Vory, KGB, the Americans,
The KGB is after her (or its successors), as they were since 1991, since they sent Velov and then the OUC. Nothing has changed there.
Russian organized crime is after her. So, likely their links to power are threatened. Look at Motya Morozov, who has someone with the same last name, who was the Minister of Finance, and he used to be employed by the cabal.
Motya Morozov, part of the Russian Vory, and Kiryl Morozov, former KGB & cabal operator and later Minister of Finance
And when Dom says "the Americans" we are meant to connect that the CIA is still after her. But they are not. They are now protecting her. So, between 1991 when they were chasing her, and the time Belgrade happens, which we do not know when it did, the CIA had learned that Katarina was not a traitor to them:
KATARINA TO DOM: I am not a traitor.
So, the Americans after her, are not the CIA. She was not a traitor to them. She is now being protected. Likely someone high in power told the CIA to leave her alone. Alan Fitch?
PHOTO F FITCH/
So are the American who are after her, the goons, the organized crime that were also benefiting from the cabal? Are these Americans the ones in Bonn?
And IF as it seems Katarina was truly a CIA officer, operative or agent, then it means that in 1990, they believed she had betrayed them, becoming a double agent, but later on they were told or convinced she was not such.
IF she had been CIA masquerading as KGB, that likely means she had been a covert agent. Someone skilled at making people believe she was someone different than who she really was.
And IF she had been a covert agent, she would likely had been in contact with another CIA officer who decades later, headed the Clandestine Services: Peter Kotsiopolus. Who seems quite happy to kill Liz, once he ascertain who Liz was.
https://preview.redd.it/t5z70ljzm7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=8e29d2e68b3fdca397b160c50407a5b809c514a2
Especially if Peter, who decades earlier might have been a handler, had been "betrayed" by Katarina working for someone higher up the food chain, Alan Fitch, who in 2013 is the Assistant Director of national Security, but who in 1991 might have had a different job. And since he is buried in Arlington, that might have been a job with the US military.
Fitch is buried in Arlington
Going over his head, making him a fool. A man who was quietly biding his time until he could get one up on Fitch. Sure Reddington did not have the fulcrum. Eager to have him killed.
Was it Peter who sent the bones & body parts to Berlin? An incredibly cruelty.
https://preview.redd.it/635pkjijn7b51.png?width=1280&format=png&auto=webp&s=7c3a9eb8cef1c5bba7dbb8386c99c6e36314d77a
Whoever did so, was hoping that Berlin would annihilate whoever he held responsible. The question is, who did the person who sent those bones believed this person to be? Reddington? Maybe this person believed it was someone different, someone who could have approached Berlin's daughter, someone who would also present as a dissident. Maybe someone like Katarina.

With that explored, what was Katarina really doing? What is the narrative and what seems to check out?

It is a difficult endeavor, as Red seems to be using Redspeak to confuse anything related to Katarina. Not once has he talked about her to Liz as just "Katarina". Only as "your mother", "Katarina Rostova" or "she and her". He uses Katarina to Dembe, Dom, Kate and Ilya.
https://preview.redd.it/puvbou9qn7b51.png?width=971&format=png&auto=webp&s=b12673055c952012dfb6f5927866761c9392d4ff
But who is who? When is Red talking about Katarina (Dom's daughter), the woman who raised Liz, and when is he talking about Fakerina, a woman whose real name he does not know, and who seems to have had some sort of relationship with?
IF that were the only two there were. I feel there has to be more. Three at least, because Fakerina is not sure why was she chosen.
Let us start by what we know is about Katarina for sure.

The most important piece of information Red gives Liz refers to secrets Katarina, as a secret keeper, "took with her" when she disappeared.

Red tells Liz this in 3.11 [Daniel Knauff, writer] when Red shows Liz a map, and tells her why she cannot just walk away:
https://preview.redd.it/6nvq7ywyn7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=25f1ad6992b50e841f19c558d5291328a1a5a4cb
RED: The Cabal is in green. Their affiliates are in red. Their competition is in blue. Since I've been a fugitive, the pestilence on this map has only grown. This is what we're up against-- a multi-headed hydra. You cut off one head, it grows two others, you have to cut off every head and burn the rest of it. It's a mythic battle, and it's not anywhere close to being over.
LIZ: It's your battle, not mine.
RED: I wish that were true, Lizzy. But the manhunt revealed certain facts that had long been hidden about you.
LIZ: Me?
RED: Katarina Rostova was a name that had been lost to history. Masha Rostova was never more than suspicion and rumor. The manhunt and the publicity it generated changed all of that.
LIZ: But who would care that I'm Katarina Rostova's daughter?
RED: The daughter of a legendary spymaster, the secret-keeper who disappeared - ... The secrets she took with her could compromise any number of players on that map.
LIZ: But I don't know anything.
RED: They don't know that. You can't walk away, Lizzy. They won't let you.
When this aired, I thought this was singularly important. It was not the fulcrum, which was long exposed. This gave us the reason why Katarina is hiding:
a legendary spymaster, the secret-keeper who disappeared. The secrets she took with her could compromise any number of players on that map.
This has to be the Sikorsky Archive (SA). It also tells us the SA contains information not only on the cabal, but related players and even competition. But the cabal seemed weakened, yet, there is one level of the cabal we have not learn much about it other than location, it seems singularly important:
THE DIRECTOR TO SOLOMON: if you don't and our friends in Bonn learn of your insubordination, I don't think they're gonna be very pleased.
The higher echelon of the cabal is located in Bonn, which was the capital of West Germany during the Cold War.
Germany was divided during the Cold War. Bonn was the capital of West Germany.
And it tells us that even though Liz was 4 years old when her mother Katarina disappeared, "they" would come for her. If that is because they believe a four year old would know something, or because she is leverage, is unknown.
One thing is worth remembering, though. Liz, even with her tampered memories tampered, even if she does not recall faces, she remembers words:
Is it possible that Liz knows something she does not know she does? Like the location of the stolen archive, hidden in a nursery rhyme, a song with changed lyrics, a child story?
Is Liz's burn the result of an accident, or is it a mark of some sort, maybe to identify her?
What is not certain is why would she take this information with her. Was it the objective of her being involved? Was it insurance? is it something she is protecting to use it? What we know is that Ilya seems to have been involved in it, but it is uncertain if they were accomplices, or if he had tried finding it, or got involved by association.

What is certain is that that object or knowledge that Katarina took with her when she disappeared, has secrets that are damaging to powerful people. It tells is why is she hiding.

We know too then, that Ilya is involved with the Archive, and now Fakerina is trying to find it. The secrets in the SA are lethal:
How many times have I told you? Leave it alone. I warned you. Even saying the name Katarina Rostova has consequences, and now you see. Now you see what that name will make others do.
Note the curious wording. Not the normal one: 'Even mentioning HER (Katarina) has consequences, and now you see. Now you see what HER name will make others do.'
This tells us that whatever Katarina do, she was a secret keeper in that name and mentioning the name, a name that seems to have been inhabited by many women has consequences, in that people would come out of the woodwork to do unspeakable things.
Katarina seemed to have been then collecting information, or stealing a collection of damaging information on many players involved with the cabal. Almost make it seem like the fulcrum was a decoy for the real thing. Given that the CIA is not really trying to find her, it would seem they were not affected by it. We can then gather that the secrets are not from the American players of the cabal.
this is what Fakerina tells Liz the SA is:
Do you know what the Sikorsky Archive is? ... It's a blackmail file. It has compromising information on very powerful people. I've been accused of stealing it. He knows I didn't. I think he knows who did.
What is not clear is who commissioned her to do so, if anyone did. What it sounds like is the way Red described the fulcrum:
The Fulcrum.... It's a blackmail file-- proof of the existence of an extraordinarily powerful clandestine organization. If their activities were made public, some of the most powerful and influential men would go to prison or be executed.
Peter sees the fulcrum for the first time. he had examined the pieces, as if he did not know it had pieces, or had seen the pieces before, but not know what they were.
Is it possible that Red believed the fulcrum was the Sikorsky Archive? Because when we looked at the fulcrum, it exposed the cabal members, but was not blackmail. It would undermine the cabal. The entire thing. Not specific members, including the one who supposedly created the thing, Alan Fitch, dead by the time was exposed.
Unless the fulcrum was a decoy for the Sikorsky Archive. Or part of the Archive. Unless that device was made in a such a way that different codes unlock different parts.
The exposure of the fulcrum debilitated the cabal, but it is still there. The Bonn faction or echelon is still active. Now we have compromising information. Was it in them, or was the Archive taken out of Russia, containing information that compromises them?

The second fact we have is that even if the tape of Minister D was recorded as a "get out of jail card" for Red, because it is hard to imagine two seasoned intelligence people discussing things openly, with no code words, and in an unsecured line, the fact that Katarina and Alan Fitch recorded it tells us they DID work together. It serves as confirmation of this part of Rassvet:
DOM: Remember, all this happened as the Soviet Union was collapsing. She betrayed all of us.
LIZ: By working with the Cabal.
DOM: By helping to fan the flames of an uprising. Many powerful people were looking for your mother, and she knew she needed to disappear, to fade away.
Dom never mentions a cabal, but it is clear she was working with Fitch, parts of which we see in Rassvet. A curious part, because she tells her mother and her father diametrically opposed things:
KATARINA TO LENA: Because I'm a traitor. And they'll think you're a traitor, too. They'll think you're on my side.
KATARINA TO DOM: I am not a traitor.
The KGB believed her to be a traitor, dispatching Anton Velov to hunt her, then the Osterman Umbrella Company:
Your mother loved that photograph. Represented everything she wanted but couldn't have. Not after she betrayed the KGB. After that, she was a hunted woman.... Hunted by the Osterman Umbrella Company.... A burn notice can mean kill or capture. When it's kill, they're the hit squad of choice.
So, It seem as we explored in part 2, Katarina's mother was KGB, but Dom was not. This puts these lines from Rassvet into perspective:
No, Papa, listen to me. You have to go. You can't come back here.... Moscow's gonna fall. It's only a matter of time. You have to leave.
Former KGB involved with the cabal stayed in Russia, after the USSR fell. An example? The esteemed relative of Motya Morozov, one of the goon who bought into the Townsend Directive bounty:
RED: Motya, I need to take care of this myself. It's personal.
MOTYA: Ah. Do you know your conversations with the Minister of Finance single-handedly responsible for getting my operations pushed out of Kiev? I lost millions in rail lines alone. I lost my relationship with contractors, politicians
Back in 2015, when the team was trying to find the man responsible for faking the death of Berlin's daughter, and setting the bombing at Kursk, they discover that the man who set the explosives was Kiryl Morozov, a man who back then was a low level KGB officer, and rose to the rank of Minister of Finance:
COOPER: Kiryl Morozov. He was a low-level KGB operative.
NAVABI: And today?
COOPER: One of the most powerful men in Russia.
WRIGHT: Kiryl Morozov is one of Putin's most trusted advisers. The man runs the finance ministry.
COOPER: And we have reason to believe he's responsible for the 1991 bombing in Kursk that left -
WRIGHT: 12 people dead. In Russia.
so, if Morozov not only could stay in Russia, but seemed to have benefited from the cabal's activities in rising to a position of great power, why did Dom have to leave?
Add it to his being a ghost, and the answer is clear: Because Dom was not KGB. If he was involved with them, was as a double agent. But it is more likely that the reason Katarina is warning him to get out, is because the KGB discovered she was not really KGB, and Dom would become persona non-grata. Accused of espionage. Maybe false flag operations
would a real GB use Russian explosives? Or would that be the work of a non-KGB to create a false flag operation?
Since the KGB seemed to have really wanted to get their hands on Katarina, while the CIA seem to still work hard at not finding her, or her relatives, the deduction is an easy one: Katarina masqueraded as a KGB agent, but was really CIA, with a burn notice. Her existence is denied. Dom seemed to have a cover blown, and so did Ilya.
What was the cabal's apparent objective? Quoting from a letter from Lukas Reiter:
The CABAL was engaged in a global conspiracy to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. The players agreed that, once the Soviet Union was dismantled, the world would enter a 25 year period of instability, allowing the group to profit from the political and economic uncertainty that followed. Afterward, the world would return to a Cold War posture, with the two opposing super-powers restored.
But Fitch making an object that would effectively dismantle the cabal (if it had been used in the 1990s) and then protecting Red while he found the missing piece, certainly puts that part into question. So, what Fitch was really doing, likely under the guise of enriching the group, is ending the Cold War by accelerating the fall of the USSR.
https://preview.redd.it/5omyzq0dp7b51.png?width=854&format=png&auto=webp&s=730242d5698f17e828ba76fdcfa263e4c6e4edec
If the upper echelons were in Bonn, then this part really just wanted the end of the USSR. Maybe the reunification of Germany. At any rate, it seemed Fitch was using the rest of the cabal to end the Cold War.
It was Fitch who ordered the then KGB operative Morozov to bomb the meeting in Kursk of the old guard who were trying to hold on to the old order, keep the USSR in place. People like Colonel Milos Kirchhoff.
these men were trying to keep the USSR together, opposing the cabal plan to accelerate its demise.
Someone must have assessed those individuals who opposed the end of the USSR, to get them out of the way. One way was a crude one: a bombing. Another was more devious: make his daughter disappear, and then make Kirchhoff believe she was in jail, get him to compromise himself by facilitating her "escape", which landed him in Siberia.
the plan to compromise Berlin by making him believe his daughter was in jail was hatched by December 1990. Reddington was blamed for it afterwards.
Katarina seemed to have worked with Fitch in ending the Cold War. So, what would be the job of a woman who could get anyone to believe whatever she wanted them to believe? Maybe find out the weaknesses of those opposed to the plans of the cabal?
This was what Red starts to tell Constantin while being drugged, under intense pain, with less control he usually has:
You saw what Katarina wanted you to see. She lied to you about everything. KGB trained her to seduce foreign diplomats, intel intelligence personnel into believ--
https://preview.redd.it/bges9qkxp7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=7afbde9f8192980f168112d49b837b664da6e7d9
Before he corrected himself to the standard narrative that "Katarina Rostova" was a honeytrap, Red was telling Constantin Katarina was an illusionist, someone who could make others see what she wanted them to see. For Constantin it was an illusion of a happy marriage, with a child of his own.
Red corrects himself, though, and gives Constantin the apparent narrative: Katarina was a seductress.
You saw what Katarina wanted you to see. She lied to you about everything. KGB trained her to seduce foreign diplomats, intel intelligence personnel into believ - revealing secrets. You always thought I was the interloper. The truth is that I was an assignment. I'm I'm sure you were, too.
Red does not use verbal clutches often, those "ahhh", "Ohh", "Mmmh" or has interrupted speech, in which a thought starts to come out, and he checks himself midsentence, changing it, or abandoning the thought. He has done it three times. ALL related to a "Katarina Rostova".
  1. You saw what Katarina wanted you to see. She lied to you about everything. KGB trained her to seduce foreign diplomats, intel intelligence personnel into believ - revealing secrets.
  2. Mmmh I knew her as Katarina Rostova. One of her many names. She was a KGB agent.
  3. Your parents Uh, father and -- They were both in foreign intelligence.
I have explored that maybe there was no child born as Masha Rostova. No birth certificate under that name, or the Russians would have been certain there was a child. Even the Director did not know for certain, for he sends his people to interrogate Velov.
VELOV: All I know is they say she had a daughter.
https://preview.redd.it/b2vr9an4q7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=5f67fa03fd4637de8935c04a66be1bd621f0b06a
We also explored that it is entirely possible that Katarina may not have been Liz's biological mother, but the woman who took her in, and Liz may have been the child of one of the other women using the name Katarina Rostova, as Red's use of a natural way of refering to Liz's mother ("your mother") and an unnatural one ("Katarina Rostova") seem to indicate.
The first time we hear the name of the blond woman in the swing, this is what Red tells Liz:
I knew her as Katarina Rostova. One of her many names. She was a KGB agent.
That sounds like what Red tells the task force about Fakerina: "She has no name."
She doesn't have a name. She's a ghost. Think of a name, any name, and that could be it.
Which sounds like Wujing. A ghost child, whose invisibility was an asset:
They say that Wujing was a second child. So they gave him away, denied he was ever born. He was invisible to his family. Wujing made a life working in a business where invisibility was an incredible asset.
Red certainly knows what Katarina's real last name is, because he knows who Dom really is. So when Liz asks about her mother, it seems Red is telling her there about a mother who is NOT Katarina, the woman who raised her, but about the one who gave birth to her. Or he is digging telling Liz her mother's real name.
This is further compound by one of the most mysterious phrases of the seven seasons of the show:
Your parents Uh, father and …They were both in foreign intelligence.
Red had just told Liz that her mother was KGB. Why then does he appear to be repeating himself?
Unless, of course he is NOT repeating himself. We KNOW Liz's had several paternal figures: her biological father, RR; her adoptive father, Sam Milhoan; the man who believed himself to be her father, Constantin Rostov; and Red, who had been directing her education through Sam, and who did not want her to be like him.
For the longest time I believed the rest of the phrase had to do with another father Liz had. That Katarina took her from dad to dad, making several men believe she was theirs.
Then Fakerina appeared. Now I am inclined to believe what Red meant was that
Your parents Uh, father and [biological and adoptive mother,] They were both [ALL] in foreign intelligence.
It would explain some of the dodging Red is doing, using "Katarina Rostova" or "your mother" only. IF Red is talking to Liz about two women, who both used the name "Katarina Rostova", and whose first name may have been Katarina, it really explains a lot.
So, when we look at the evidence, what we know is that at least one of the women who inhabited the name was a KGB agent that Red knew as "Katarina Rostova" and maybe he never knew her real name.
I think it is possible Liz's biological mother is either Fakerina or another one of the "Katarina Rostovas" including possibly the bones.
A KGB agent who targeted Reddington, which explains Red's feelings at being used, at Liz discovering her husband did not exist, feelings that seem more personal, like something he had experienced himself:
And the CIA was actually being somewhat straightforward:
I don't think there are any photographs of Katarina Rostova.... She's a myth. Tall tales late at night over vodka shots. Probably an amalgamation of a half-a-dozen unknown female Soviet operatives-- the Pinko Mata Hari.
They seem to be covering up the charade, but "Katarina Rostova" was a honeytrap, a professional seductress who extracted secrets from targets using seduction and sex, and that seems to have been the province of the Russian, real-KGB agents, as Red said in the trial (partly)
Have you ever heard of Katarina Rostova? ... She was a KGB officer. Would it surprise you to learn that she and I had quite a complicated history? Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll. Did I say "sex"? Sex....
and:
35 years ago, a Naval intelligence officer working for the US government fell fell into a relationship with a beautiful Russian woman. Unbeknownst to his superiors, that relationship, which started as guarded attraction, quickly evolved into passion, which resulted in pregnancy. They had the child. ...
What the Naval officer didn't know, but certainly should have suspected, was that the Russian woman was a KGB officer, that Katarina Rostova had been assigned to get close to Raymond Reddington and steal classified information from him.
There is no subterfuge there. We know the woman Red met as "Katarina Rostova" was a honeytrap who was assigned to him to seduce him and either turn him, or steal information from him. Just what Dom tells Liz, except that is not about his daughter Katarina:
Not necessarily Dom, but the "Katarina Rostovas" would have been KGB agent ordered to turn Reddington or steal secrets from him. Sometimes, the female KGB agents were ordered to have children, to secure the relationship, or to use as Kompromat. Proof of an affair, leverage against the men.
Did Katarina stepped into that role as well, pretending to be seducing Reddington, but fell in love with him? This could be a way how this bizarre phrase works:
https://preview.redd.it/c1q3cjocq7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=e913b6eaf72df74cb486e873330fc271d4dac9ce
KATE: Is it serious?
KATARINA: Yes. It's frivolous exciting dangerous
Frivolous and serious are antonyms. There is one way to make it work.


Another indication we have of Katarina's activities are in what Constantin accuses Red of.
I don't really know how we got here, Raymond. I remember being an honest businessman in a happy marriage until you came along.... Seduced my wife. To her credit, Katarina broke it off, - but you couldn't let go.
For Constantin it was Red who had seduced Katarina, and made him into a dishonest businessman. But how would that happen?
This cannot be simply a case of Katarina pretending to Constantin she was the innocently seduced. Because it is the fact that Constantin makes Red responsible for his no longer being an honest businessman which suggest Red blackmailed him into being a spy for him. And this is not a third party, as Constantin recalls an opportunity in which he had a gun in Red's mouth:
Do you know what I'm thinking, Raymond? That house by the water, holding a gun in your mouth. I should have pulled the trigger.
Constantin was referred to in a newspaper as a trafficker in secrets from the USSR and goods into the USSR.
https://preview.redd.it/a7xo2t9jq7b51.png?width=576&format=png&auto=webp&s=9deee885226443a61782a7037671012678c2a90f
So from Constantin POV, Reddington was who had seduced his wife and made him into a dishonest businessman, apparently by either allowing his identity to have an operative going into Russia using his name, or having him be a reluctant spy ( like the architect in Wujing) and a smuggler.
Likely, by blackmailing Constantin with exposing his wife as a KGB agent, if he did not do as told. With the irony that his wife was NOT really a KGB agent, but was pretending to be so.
Most of it comes from the trial, where we learned that Katarina framed him for it from the tape, when Fitch tells Katarina to kill RR because he discovered the cabal, and who Katarina really was. That tape is bizarre, but this part is quite interesting.
But if we discredit him... The intelligence I stole. We leak that it came from him. No one will believe him after that. Not with the blood of 134 Americans on his hands.
And where do that leave the Gideon? Did it really exist? Was Fitch fine with working with an agent who had caused the death of 134 Americans? Fitch send the guy who was attempting to disable the bomb home. It is the act of a good man, a man who loved his country:
I've been in the intelligence field a long time now. On my orders, 763 men and women have died in service to their country. And there wasn't a grieving wife or mother or husband I didn't either call or visit personally. Thank them for their sacrifice. That's what makes it the hardest. The families. You can't disarm it, can you?... That's more than enough. I'm not gonna make it 764. What's your name? ... Go home, Mike. You've done everything you can.
Were the 134 sailors part of the 763 men he had been gone to thank their families for? Or was the USS Gideon a false flag operation? An old sub made into a charade? Were they really 134 sailors? Was it full of 134 traitors, delivered to Russia on a silver platter? (Reverse Red October?)
Was Seaduke among them?
Was Katarina the one who really steal those coordinates from Reddington? Or was Reddington's name used as the US Navy did with the Grayscape 17 stunt:
A defective stealth fighter called the Grayscape Seventeen. The Navy knew Ross was working for China, so they made sure he stole plans for a plane that couldn't fly, and when it crashed, China blamed Ross, turned him over to the feds
Because if the US Navy (Or Fitch) knew that Reddington was not the real identity of RR, then maybe it had always been the idea to use that identity for whatever was needed, because not been a real one, Raymond could then disappear into another identity, leaving "Reddington" behind.
Was the USS Gideon another Grayscape 17? If Katarina had "stolen" coordinates that were a sham, or the submarine was a sham, what did it do to her reputation? Greatly enhanced it, I bet, until the KGB discovered she was not really KGB.

So, Katarina seems to have been a CIA (or the like) officer, an illusionist like Red, who infiltrated the KGB, working with the cabal to end the Cold War, and who took a lot of secrets with her when she disappeared.
<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>
see the entire series. First the crumbling facade:
submitted by TessaBissolli to TheBlackList [link] [comments]

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