The Bachelor Is A Stupid Dumb Show And I Hate It
My mom and I started watching The Bachelor in its third season, when handsome douchebag millionaire Andrew Firestone proposed to bright-eyed blonde Jen Schefft amid a candlelit sea of crimson roses. It was 2003, and I was 14 years old.
For years, we’d cozy up to the television with an ice cream sundae while my dad tried his best to avoid us for 1 to 2 hours. I cherished this ritual, and especially the time with Mom — but in college I stopped admitting to even a passing familiarity with the show, for fear it might somehow undermine my feminist authority. I’ve since stopped giving a shit.
The Bachelor is a stupid dumb show, but it does several things well: first, it’s entertaining. This, certainly, is the most problematic of its (limited) merits, given that it often entertains at the expense of one or several persons — and, in some cases, persons with potential dependency or mental health issues.
That being said, I also believe The Bachelor franchise helps human adults better learn the requirements — both of themselves and of others—for forming meaningful connections. Relationships are critical to the human experience, no matter your creed, sex, or propensity for spending entire weekends in the comforting embrace of a Netflix account, and we certainly spend our entire lives learning how to better ourselves and our connections with the ones we love. I’m sure many (though not all) contestants leave the Bachelor mansion with a better understanding of themselves, their needs, and the complicated ways in which they relate to other people.
Lastly, and most critically, The Bachelor helps me believe in a world where real, meaningful connections are possible to find. My definition of love has changed drastically since I was 14 (um, thank god). I recognize now that love isn’t all billowing chiffon and lambent light and passionate whispers. I also recognize — and have been so very grateful to find — that a robustly fulfilling life comprises many different kinds of love, not the least of which being the love of one’s self.
But when yet another season’s Bachelor promos inevitably hit the airwaves (and they will, guys, they always will… the constant, beating drum that marches us steadily toward death), I find myself — between eye rolls and guttural scoffs and sheer disbelief at the wacky cast of characters Chris Harrison has managed to assemble this time — hoping. Hoping that two of these beautiful clowns will find in each other that impossible thing we can never quite capture in verse. That tense, uncomfortable, wonderful tickle that makes brights brighter and lights lighter and the whole world feel just a little more musical.
So imagine my surprise when, after enduring 17 seasons of this miserable show I will never stop watching, I finally see — watch, on a screen, in the comfort of my own home — two human people, despite the cameras and the scripting and the gratuitously tanned torsos, create a visible, vivid connection. A connection so undeniably meaningful that, as I watched its dissolution in the final episode of a season whose outcome I’d known since before the first episode aired (thanks, Reality Steve), moved me to tears.
Love is fucking hard, guys. It is hard-ass work to relate to another human being as openly and selflessly as you possibly can, to meet someone else’s needs while remaining aware of your own. Nothing about this is easy, or even easy to find — I mean, christ, I can count the number of people I would want to get stuck in an elevator with on one hand — but that just makes it all the more worthwhile should you be one of the lucky sons-of-bitches who find a perfect partner in this world.
Today, I watched two boring dumb idiots let that chance pass them by, and I wept in a way that especially didn’t make sense given how little I’d invested into this season and its vanilla-ass Bachelor (sorry, Chris Soules). I watched Becca’s physical discomfort as she struggled to articulate her thoughts and feelings, and I watched Chris’s heart break when he didn’t get the reassurance he was looking for.
I also watched Whitney, wide-eyed, eager, hopeful Whitney — the same expression I’ve oft worn in the company of men I wasn’t right for — confidently profess her love, her trust, her desire to get married and have babies and be all of the things Chris came here hoping he would find.
Whitney was a sure thing, and by choosing her Chris privileged stability and certainty over passion — not an unreasonable choice by any measure. Choosing Becca would have been a terrifying risk. Unfortunately for Chris (and for Whitney), saying and doing all the right things doesn’t mean you’ll be excited to wake up next to someone in 50-some years.
Love is about taking risks — being vulnerable. Literally the worst thing that can happen to you by admitting or pursuing love is rejection, which frankly isn’t even that bad, because what is the point of loving madly and wholly if not to be loved madly and wholly in return. And I’ve been rejected a lot (I’m looking at you, all of you), so I oughta know.
I had a boyfriend once who loved me exactly the way I’d always wanted, who expressed his feelings openly and often and surprised me with flowers and made countless gestures toward my happiness. But you know what? I dumped him on a lark for a long-haired guitarist I fell vividly in love with. And though I regret breaking the heart of someone for whom I cared deeply, I realize now that what we had — though wonderful and stable and pure — simply wasn’t love, at least not the sort of love I’d like to share with my eventual partner. The sort of love that awakens you to the very possibilities of being alive. A day hasn’t passed when I wonder if I made the right decision (and not because I’m happily married to a long-haired guitarist).
Love is a deeply unique and wondrous feeling — every person has different needs, certainly, but should you find yourself bubbling with remarkable love, and should that person bubble right back at you, you should do everything in your power to wander through life with that person until death himself should part you.
If you’re reading this and you’re in love, cherish that freaking person. Marry that person tomorrow, if that’s your thing, or write a darling little love song or author a poem or do an extra load of laundry or however you choose to show you care. Shout your weirdo human love from the goddamn rooftops, because life is short and you should have as many adventures on this earth as you can before you turn into a ghost or aliens blow up the planet for fuel.
The human experience is strange as shit. The best you can hope for is to pump as much stupid love out of your heart as you possibly can.
And tune in Mondays, 8/7c on ABC.
(Sorry for the swears, Mom.)