I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Important things appear out of nowhere — important GIFs, too. I don’t know where I first saw this GIF, but I knew I loved it.
Like most people with a smartphone and a propensity for excessive social-media use, I keep a collection of GIFs and memes on my phone. Sometimes I share them publicly, but more often, I keep them for myself for when I’m bored or sad or angry. Like a perfect empowerment album (Beyoncé’s Lemonade) or a go-to favorite dress (vintage Missoni I got for less than $20), the GIFs are tried and true emotional pick-me-ups.
I’d seen GIFs of Dorinda Medley — a peroxide-blonde force of nature from the Real Housewives of New York City — for the last year or two, but this one felt special. As soon as I downloaded it to my phone, I began posting it regularly: on long threads in secret Facebook groups, in response to silly tweets on my timeline, and weekly in my Instagram stories.
My friend Joe, who hosts a pop-culture podcast and enjoys the franchise, finally told me about Dorinda, after I posted the GIF once again in response to a question about my mood.
“That’s Dorinda,” Joe said. “You’d probably like her.” And her Instagram seemed to confirm this, at least on the surface. I found pictures of her at the Women’s March, perfect use of the Michael Jackson popcorn GIF regarding the James Comey hearings, and praise of National Wine Day. I can get behind that.
But this GIF runs on a deeper level for me. I found it outside of its original context. I still to this day don’t know its original context. I’ve imagined one in my head (one in which a frenemy asked how she was doing after a public embarrassment) making the GIF bigger and more valuable than just the Bravo franchise where it originated.
Dorinda is unrestrained and messy, demeanors we may relate to, but don’t always expose. Her emotions are right on the surface; nothing is hidden or opaque. And that speaks to the success of the Real Housewives and shows like it (think: Love and Hip Hop or Basketball Wives). These are not women we pity or ridicule, not entirely. No, these women are the physical manifestations of our ids: excessive and selfish, yet raw and unfiltered. They’re exposed nerves and beloved for it.
Most importantly, the GIF captures how I usually want to answer the question, “How are you doing?” Meaning, with honesty and passion and detail.
Most people don’t truly want to know how you’re doing if they ask that question. If they did, they would ask with specificity. They would pinpoint moments in your life they paid attention to in the past and follow up on them. Things like, “How is the job search going?” after you were just laid off or, “How are you coping with seeing your ex and his new girlfriend?” after a traumatizing breakup.
“How are you doing?” is a question of disengagement. It’s effortless small talk even worse than discussing the weather (which, at minimum, requires analysis and reflection). “How are you doing?” is the spoken equivalent of a Facebook like. It’s acknowledging your presence, but not actually engaging with you. “How are you doing?” asks for an “I’m good” in response and nothing more. Ever.
We all face it, especially with old classmates and co-workers and acquaintances. In those moments, it’s fine. Only narcissists truly crave the undivided attention of people one step above a stranger. And more often than not, we’re also guilty of throwing it out at parties or in passing on street corners. The easiest way to disengage is to not engage at all.
But it’s a tough and maybe downright rude question coming from someone you know more intimately. So what would happen if I actually said this to someone?
“How are you doing?” my ex-friend or mean boss or terrible ex would say. And I would respond with, “I’ll tell you how I’m doing … Not well, bitch!” It would feel cathartic, at least in the moment. My friends would understand. Everyone else … not so much. But sometimes you have to share the rawest, most vulnerable parts of yourself in order to start healing. Consequences can be an afterthought.
I see the GIF everywhere and all the time. Its popularity outside of its original Real Housewives context speaks to the reality that maybe I am not alone in this feeling. Small talk is stupid — let’s be as messy and angry and sad as we want to be in those moments, or leave us in peace. But until that becomes a reality, I guess I’ll just post this GIF again.