I watch The Bachelor, I am embarrassed to admit.
Like millions of Americans, I spent months of Monday evenings watching what I believed was Juan Pablo’s quest to find ‘the One’ from a bevy of lovely ladies.
This is time I will never get back.
I could have done something more ‘productive’, I guess. I could have practiced yoga. I could have read a good book. I could have scrubbed bathroom grouting with a toothbrush until it was mildew-free, as bright and sparkling as the morning sunrise.
Maybe, when I’m older, I’ll count up these hours and think—hell, I could have learned Portuguese or learned how to kayak or created a new kind of healthy breakfast pastry for the toaster! And maybe not.
You see, this season, The Bachelor threw us all for a loop. Pretty early on, it became apparent that our Bachelor was not looking for a marriage or committed partnership, as everybody was originally led to believe.
This season took the Happily Ever after fantasy and turned it on its pretty little head.
What happens when even supposed Prince Charming wants a Princess with Benefits rather than a big wedding? (Or, as the case may be, a few Princesses with Benefits?)
Is Juan Pablo just being honest—or being, ahem, kind of a jerk?
Some of the women, like Sharleen and Andi, got out of there early, like canaries from a collapsing coal mine.
Others, like Clare and Nikki, stuck around longer, convinced they could ‘change’ his mind if only they did something differently. Maybe he could get to know them better. Or maybe leprechauns would emerge from the sky or hell would freeze over.
Like gamblers throwing the dice, they believed all they needed was one more dice throw.
It was painful to watch. When Clare finally worked up the cojones to walk away, the studio audience burst into applause.
The producers attempted to create a fairytale with The Bachelor. The scenery was breathtaking. The dates were spectacular—no lukewarm cups of Starbucks coffee here. There was horseback riding on the beach, helicopter rides, bungee jumping from big bridges. There were fancy clothes and flawless hair and makeup despite crying and frolicking in humid, tropical paradises. And the handsome prince…
There are plenty of reasons to hate on the show. Yes, it is probably scripted. Yes, the premise is blatantly sexist, especially in this day in age.
A bunch of women ‘competing’ for a guy? Puh-lease.
It relies on an anachronistic view of gender roles that still permeate parts of the American psyche. Men are supposed to be dashing and protective and always say the ‘right’ thing and have six-pack abs. And women are supposed to always look great and be happy and never be too ambitious and never, ever—god forbid—call out your man on his sh*t, because then nobody will ever marry you. It’s just not ‘nice’, you know?
We see few men or women of color on the show. There has never been a gay Bachelor or Bachelorette. The show is ageist. And everybody looks like a bikini or Speedo model.
Nevertheless, I was on the edge of my seat during some of the last episodes. I wanted to hug Andi. I wanted to throw my shoe at the television when our Bachelor refused to tell ‘winner’ Nikki he loved her. I wanted to yell at Nikki, because she was clearly looking for a more committed partnership. (They are probably contractually obligated to appear together.) I wanted to yell at Juan Pablo for saying ‘it’s okay’ when it clearly wasn’t.
Yet, how many of us in Dating Land can relate?
Have we ever dated somebody who misrepresented himself or herself, perhaps unconsciously, to get what he or she wanted in the moment? How did we feel when we found out? Used? Relieved to finally know? Have we ever ignored our intuition about somebody—and why? Have we ever tried to ‘change’ somebody?
Have we judged somebody based on a set of preconceived notions—looks or accomplishments, perhaps—before we really got a chance to know him or her? What is being honest—and what is just being a jerk?
Cheesy or not, there’s a lot we can learn from The Bachelor.
1. Prince Charming doesn’t exist. (P.S. Walt Disney lied.)
Nobody is going come galloping on a white horse to complete, rescue or otherwise ‘’save’ me, despite what Disney fairytales or our multibillion dollar wedding industry would have me believe. What I will expect from another person is a healthy dose of courtesy, compassion and understanding. I am the only person who can ‘save’ myself.
2. I will follow my intuition.
Does spending time with somebody make me feel a little bit ‘off’? Do I feel a pit in my stomach, tightness in my shoulders, or a desire to scrunch up my face? This is not surprising, because the limbic system, seat of reptilian intuition, picks up on stuff before the conscious mind does.
Body language counts for at least 90 percent of human communication.
Do you know what I found interesting on the show? That so many of the women continued to smile and be ‘nice’ while exhibiting body language that actually signaled fear, anger or frustration. At one point, I thought demons would burst from the ladies’ chests, so great were their attempts to contain their own feelings.
This is not surprising. So many of we women have been culturally conditioned to be ‘nice’ and ‘pleasing’ at all costs, especially when the stakes are high, as with a new boyfriend—so much, in fact, that we ignore the ‘unpleasant’ feelings meant to protect us in the first place! This is, in reality, not ‘nice’ at all—to ourselves or anybody else! We’re being untruthful.
3. I will stop blaming myself.
Have you ever dated anybody who misrepresented his or her intentions to get what he or she wanted in the moment? Maybe you liked them so much you weren’t able to see it, at least in the beginning? Do you sometimes mistrust your judgment as a result? You’ve learned and matured as a result of the situation.
4. I will like, respect and nurture myself.
The bedrock of healthy relationships, both romantic and platonic, is that one like and respect oneself, first and foremost.
While compromise is an essential part of a relationship, becoming the other person, or catering to the other’s every whim, is not healthy. I have had friends who have sought love, attention and approval from everywhere but within, and became completely engulfed in relationships. When the relationships ended, the results weren’t pretty.
What else have we learned from America’s guiltiest TV-watching pleasure? I’d love to know!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise