Truth be told The Bachelor isn’t the kind of reality show that even makes a bleep on my radar. I prefer programs like Teen Mom, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Intervention or Sister Wives. You know, the kind of reality show that has the least bit of semblance to reality even if it’s not my own. Coby Brown and his four spiritual wives? Not my reality but I find their belief in the principle of plural marriage incredibly fascinating. (You know I’m a true fan when words like “principle” and “plural marriage” roll off my tongue with such ease.) Teen Mom? Well, consider the fact after every 42 minute episode I send a mass text message to my friends which reads, “you think you got problems.” And I do have problems but in comparison to a 19-year-old girl who’s trying to figure out who she wants to be and how to get there with a husband and twin daughters along for the ride, my problems seem infinitely more manageable. Now, I know what you’re thinking. MTV takes advantages of these girls, dramatizes “reality” and manipulates the situation in order to produce a good show. Yep. They do. But most of what happens on the show is just life unfolding in front of the camera. I doubt the producers of Teen Mom 2 had a hand in the infidelities that ran rampant among the girls in season 2.
So, yes, I love reality tv. And I’ve been around the block long enough to not expect it to be 100% authentic. I do, however, expect something about the show to feign reality, which is why I hate The Bachelor; none of it is real. For two hours on Monday nights, the life is zapped right out of me. I blame my roommate and her unwavering commitment to fake ass reality television (FART). I blame the producers of ABC for airing such trash during prime tv time. At the end of the night, I hate Chris Harrison, my roommate, The Bachelor, the women, and the producers. But mostly I hate me because I could do something else — anything else — during this time. I could file my taxes. Read a book. Write ahead in my blog. Edit the book I finally finished writing even though the ending isn’t quite finished. I could floss. Dye my roots. Clean the bathroom. Wash the dog. Fold the five loads of laundry that never seem to find themselves neatly stacked in drawers or properly hung in the closet. (Why can’t I do that?) I could sweep and mop every non-carpeted surface of the apartment. Or do online meal planning and then go grocery shopping. I could cook dinner for the rest of the week, freeze it and rest assured that when I get hungry I don’t have to eat Cheerios or English muffins. I could snatch my eyebrows, change the bed sheets, sort the recycling or walk an online labyrinth.
Instead I watch. It wouldn’t bother me so much if the show were only an hour but I feel like I’m entranced for the length of a full feature film. Even the best shows on network television don’t regularly air two-hour segments. Occasionally, there’s a two-hour season premiere or season finale for shows like Grey’s Anatomy…or Grey’s Anatomy. What right does a fake ass reality tv show have to muscle out other programs for that extra hour? The premise of a competitive reality show where contestants compete to win a guy’s heart doesn’t really go hand in hand with the way most Americans experience romantic relationships, love, and the road to marriage. It doesn’t deserve two hours every week. It doesn’t deserve two seasons a year.
The unrealityness of the show is mind-boggling. It stands to reason that if any guy flew me to Costa Rica one week and Switzerland the next, I’d profess my undying love and commitment. Put my face in front of every camera in Hollywood and I’d sound like the women on season after season after seasons on The Bachelor. “He’s the best man I’ve ever known.” “I’m falling in love with him ,” (This after two group dates). “This experience is making us stronger. If we can get through this [his open cheating with 13 other women] we can get through anything.” Damn right they’re gonna say he’s the love of their lives after the first week. It’s an all expenses paid vacation around the world with the golden ticket that for most of them promises more than fifteen minutes of fame.
Part of my problem with the show is that these dates really are out of this world. Know where guys take me? Out for American food. Maybe Mexican. Nice long walks on the beach when it’s 45 degrees outside. Late night drinks at Hard Rock Cafe where the most exhilarating moment of the night was when we shared a Pop Rocks martini. I kid you not, when those little candy bits started exploding in my mouth I felt like it it was a sign from God that we’d be together forever.
I was kidding.
Skiing down the mountainous streets of San Francisco makes for a contender in the Guinness Book of World Records for best date, but once the muscle of ABC’s wallet makes its exit, Ben’s going to have a hard time wooing whoever he chooses to date off-screen. No more jet setting across the country, no more helicopter rides, no more picnics in the countryside, no more private concerts, and no more romance. Ben’s boring. Every fiber in my being tells me the best date he could plan is Redbox at his place with a couple of bottles of wine from his vineyard. That’s how boring he is. I’d rather hang out with a 4 month old baby. I’d rather fold five loads of laundry. I’d rather do meal planning than hang out with him if the cameras aren’t around. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. And since we since we’re on the subject of why I dislike Ben — he disgusts me. Every single episode plays out like this: Woman #1: “Ben, I’m falling in love with you.” Ben: [Blank stare. Dumb stare. Slight nodding of the head.] Passionate kiss. Repeat with Woman #2, Woman #3, Woman #4, Woman #5, Woman #6, Woman #7.
Part of the reason this show continues to produce failed relationships is because you can’t do shit like this. You can’t make out with multiple women every other night, tell each one that you have feelings for her, invite three of them to spend the night with you in the span of one week and expect the woman who somehow managed to emerge with sincere feelings to forgive this level of infidelity. I know the bachelors aren’t supposed to reveal who they’ve fallen for because it doesn’t create the necessary suspense, but he doesn’t have to sleep with them all either. In the real world, that’s called sending out mixed signals. And at the very least, you’re left to deal with a crazy text stalker all because you couldn’t be honest.
IRL, the guy you’re sleeping with is likely sleeping with at least two other woman. We know this, but we’re comforted by the fact that there are no cameras filming their every intimate moment. But once a guy tells me he’s falling in love with me, I’m way too human to believe that he might be telling another woman the same thing. He wouldn’t do that to me. What we have is special.
[Excuse me while I laugh.]
On a serious note, even if an IRL partner cheats, we can both pretend it’s not as bad as I think it is. I can pretend he never looked at her the same way he looked at me. That he never kissed her with as much intensity and passion as he did me. I can tell myself four dozen untruths about their “thing” to make myself feel better about his scratching of an itch. But on The Bachelor, each week we see these “relationships” between The Bachelor and the women progress and I cringe when I think of that lucky girl with a fatty rock on her finger watching the love of her life be intimate with someone else. Guys, she will watch the show. Everything will be revealed.
Out of the fifteen previous seasons, eight bachelors got down on one knee to propose a lifetime of commitment. None of them actually jumped the broom. All but one of the couples broke up within months of the show’s airing, which begs the question, “Why do people subject themselves to this public display of heartache and embarrassment when the show can’t make good on its promises?” Or even better. “Why do we watch?”
Besides the obvious reasons why none of us can unglue our eyes from a train wreck, I watch because it provides clarity into why relationships don’t work. You know how you’re dating a guy and you think everything’s going great and then he breaks up with you? And you’re sitting there wondering why, what happened, what’d you do wrong, what could you have done differently? Well, I watch The Bachelor and it becomes all too clear. Nothing happened. I didn’t do anything wrong. I couldn’t have done anything differently. There’s fourteen girls competing for one guy and he can’t choose them all unless he’s moving to TLC to do Sister Wives 2.
So I have to take it on faith that it didn’t work out because he knew something I didn’t know. Just like when I break things off with a guy, I have knowledge that he isn’t privy to having. So when these girls fall apart the moment they climb into the limo, I feel their pain. Breakups suck. But I know something they don’t know about Ben and the other women he’s seeing. I know she dodged a bullet. I know it’s for the best. I know he never loved her, not in the way she loved him. I know she was caught in the production and the magic. I know one day she’ll see the breakup as a gift.
Young people go on The Bachelor because it’s no fun out there being single. Because it’s hard to put yourself through the dating world when it so often doesn’t work out. Because it’s comforting to believe that someone could manipulate life in a way to ensure a happily ever after. And while I would ever do it, I watch because it reminds me that we’re all out there competing for the love and affection of a man or woman because we all just really want to be loved. As I shout at the television, “Stop crying! You’ll be okay. He’s no good for you!!!” the words touch me in an unexpected way and I know I’m talking to myself. I, too, get caught up in the excitement when there’s not a speck of magical production. I need a reminder that this is a thread we all have in common. And it doesn’t hurt to see beautiful, funny, and intelligent women get played out on national television to remind myself that I’m not doing anything wrong.
We don’t do anything to be rejected or accepted. We don’t do anything to be loved. When I like someone, I just like him. It’s hard to articulate why I feel such a deep connection. And in the same vein, if he doesn’t like me, it’s likely not personal even though it feels like the ultimate rejection. Falling in love is mostly chance. The show offers the possibility that might happen but it’s up to them to paddle like hell to stay upright. It’s endless work and that’s why we need the magic, fireworks and Pop Rocks martinis to give us the momentum we need to get us through the patches when we feel like giving up. But that magic has to emerge from the couple themselves. Not from the production, not from the writing, and not from the exotic travels.