“Real Housewives”: What happens when their big fat fabulous lifestyles are over?

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Every once in a while, it’s nice to see some *reality* seep into the lives of Bravo’s “Real Housewives.”

Teresa Giudice's big fat fabulous life came to a screeching halt once Bravo cameras stopped rolling./Photo credit In Touch

And for some of these ladies, by *reality* I mean near financial ruin. You know, as in bankruptcy.

In addition to dropping money in the mall, Lynne Curtin decided plastic surgery was in the cards for her AND her teenage daughter./Photo credit Bravo

While I don’t derive any pleasure seeing the lives of these women come crashing down around them, watching them struggle – you know, like everyone else is doing these days – makes them a lot more relatable. And I sure find it fascinating to see how they handle it.

Take “New Jersey” housewife Teresa Giudice and “Orange County” housewife Lynne Curtin, for example. Both women suffered huge financial losses this season (Lynne on camera, Teresa off), and both claim their husbands kept it a secret from them.

Teresa, who was grilled about her dire financial straits (to the tune of $11 million) by Andy Cohen on this week’s reunion episode, is sticking by her man, Juicy Joe.

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“He kept saying (that I should cut back on spending), and I said ‘OK,'” she admitted.

(This is an understandably confusing statement for viewers, considering the lavish christening, birthday and housewarming parties Teresa hosted this season, as well as the trip to Italy for her family of six AND both sets of grandparents… to say nothing of the clothing and home furnishing spending sprees, many of which were caught on film.)

When Andy asked Teresa if she was mad at Joe for keeping their debt a secret (which technically he didn’t, because he hinted at it multiple times, including during a tour of his pizza parlor in Hillside), she insisted she wasn’t.

“I commend him for (trying to protect her and the girls), and I love him even more,” she said. “He wanted to take care of his family.

“I am not mad at him at all.”

And, to Teresa’s credit, she’s been working hard to bring in the beaucoup bucks ever since. Her “Skinny Italian” cookbook is a New York Times bestseller (another is in the works), and she’s made countless personal appearances to ensure it sells as many copies as possible. In addition, she sells assorted jewelry, T-shirts and other accessories on her website.  And in this week’s In Touch, she reveals that Joe has taken over the grocery shopping and imposed a limit on her credit cards (though I would think the banks would’ve done that already).

“If anything, this whole thing has brought us even closer than we were,” she said.

Teresa’s reaction to the sudden downturn of her finances stands in stark contrast to that of Lynne Curtin, whose own finances went south in episodes which aired earlier this year.

Lynne, whose particular poison appeared to be apparel (for her and her two teenage daughters), vacations, plastic surgery for her and her eldest girl, Raquel, and the hiring of a “teenage whisperer,” was stupefied when her family was served an eviction notice:

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Although it’s not clear whether Lynne ever actually asked her husband, Frank, how his construction business was faring in this economy, she had no trouble placing the entire blame on him when they served.

“I’m your wife,” she told him. “You need to tell me what’s going on.”

“You live in this little microcosm and it’s not even real,” Frank retorted. “You don’t know what’s going on.

“You don’t want to hear the truth.”

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(I feel like Jack Nicholson’s line from “A Few Good Men” is appropriate here: “You can’t handle the truth!”)

Just like Teresa, Lynne’s financial downturn was a wake-up call. She started up her own business designing cuffs for men and women and will be expanding into the bedding/handbag arenas, too.

While rumors swirled earlier this year that Lynne and Frank – whose relationship was extremely strained as a result – might declare bankruptcy, it apparently never happened. Last month, though, Lynne confirmed on Facebook that she will not be returning to “The Real Housewives of Orange County” next season.

As vapid and inane as the “Real Housewives” franchises can occasionally be, I think these instances provide female viewers with the opportunity to scrutinize their own lives and consider taking (if they haven’t already) a more active role in the day-to-day finances of their households.

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