Y’all. I have a confession to make. It’s deep. It’s dark. It’s something I never thought I would admit to the public. But here goes.
A couple weeks ago, I watched an episode of The Bachelorette. If that wasn’t shocking enough, I took it one step further and I liked it. I’ve watched every episode so far this season, so I guess you could say I’m officially hooked.
You may be thinking, “Gasp! Courtney, no!” Believe me. I still kind of think that about myself. The whole idea behind The Bachelor and The Bachelorette used to make me queasy (okay, it still does). One dude with two dozen ladies all vying for his attention? It puts my feminist bristles up just thinking about it. But then they had to go and reverse it so that there was one lady with two dozen guys vying for her attention. Equality, right? Wrong! Basically, the dudes have to prove their “manliness” by doing macho things like saving the Bachelorette (this season the bachelorette is a woman named JoJo) from a burning building or playing a game of flag football (which included tackling) to determine who gets to go on a date with her.
I can’t count the number of times the guys have threatened to pummel each other or called each other “little bitch” or engaged in some other chauvinistic thing when they feel like their territory with JoJo has been crossed. Let’s also keep in mind that there were literally four men of color out of twenty-six contestants. I looked through photos of them to verify this number, and it turns out that one of the black men was practically cut out of the first episode and never seen of or heard from again.
I’ve been watching the show with my friend, Kolbe (whom you may remember from this post where she shared five tips for beginning runners), and when a message came on the screen about casting calls in Dallas, I jokingly said, “You want to audition?” She said, “I won’t make it.” And when I asked why, she said, “Because they only pick white people.” Yikes.
So how did this happen?
I was over at Kolbe’s apartment. The season finale of Dancing with the Stars had just ended, and the first episode of this season’s Bachelorette was set to air right afterward. We were just hanging out after DWTS ended, chatting, and I said, “Why don’t we check out what’s happening with The Bachelorette.”
If you’re like me and have never watched this show, the first episode is where our bachelorette meets the contestants. Each one pulls up in a separate limo in front of a mansion where they’ll all be living together for the duration of the filming process. At the end of each episode, JoJo hands out roses. If you get a rose, you stay. If you don’t, you go. Pretty simple. But as you can imagine, the first night is all about making a big impression.
Kolbe and I died laughing at pretty much every single dude. One came out in a Santa Claus outfit. One came out with a guitar because he’d written a song for her (he’s done this several times already throughout the season, and it’s extremely irritating). All of them had super cheesy things to say to her. Like, you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. And, I didn’t come here for a rose. I came here for a relationship. I think I covered my eyes at one point. It was so hard to watch.
Kolbe pointed out that it was much like a car accident. We knew we should look away, but we just couldn’t stop ourselves from watching with horrified fascination.
By the end of it though, we were yelling at the screen, telling JoJo which guys she should keep and which she should toss.
As I’ve come back week after week to follow along JoJo’s love saga, I’ve had to stop and ask myself why I’m enjoying the show so much. Part of it is to laugh at how fake it is and how ridiculous the whole concept is, but deep down, I know that’s not enough to keep me glued to the screen.
Here’s what I’ve decided.
Yes, there’s an obscene amount of fanfare. Like, JoJo’s glamorous wardrobe for every single occasion, “first dates” where JoJo and the guy of the week end up making out onstage at a huge concert, the decked-out mansion the guys are staying in, or whimsical rides in a passenger plane as JoJo’s voice over explains her feelings about the men. But despite all this fake crap, I still respect JoJo.
She really goes for it. Whether she genuinely believes what she’s saying or whether she’s an incredible actress, I’m there with her. She’s in a room with several men, most of whom are acting like complete buffoons, and she makes everyone comfortable. She keeps everything breezy and fun. She has a ton of confidence, and she’s not afraid of putting the guys in their place when they say something crappy (for instance, when one of the contestants told her she was being “naggy,” she put a stop to that real quick.)
On top of that, she’s kind to all of the guys she has to let down. In one episode, she knew in her heart that the guy she was on the date with wasn’t “the one,” so instead of keeping him on the show, pretending like he still had a chance, and making him wait until the rose ceremony where she would inevitably dump him, she shared her feelings. She told him that while she cared about him as a person, they weren’t the kind of feelings that would sustain a deep, meaningful relationship. I mean, how many of us have the guts to be that real with someone? It’s hard to hurt a guy, even when we know deep down, that we aren’t compatible. I respected JoJo so much in that moment for her bravery and her honesty.
Also, throughout each episode the fellas have a chance to go on a one-on-one date with her. I’m sure the producers instruct JoJo to ask them personal questions so that they have juicy material, but when she does, it feels natural. Plus, she really listens to what they say and responds thoughtfully. It’s made me think about my own approach to guys, to dating, and to relationships in general.
If I had to describe myself when meeting new people, my top three adjectives would be shy, awkward, and extremely introverted. Throw some sexual attraction into that mix, and I’m done for. There’s only the smallest hope that I can put myself out there enough to let the guy know I’ve noticed him, much less that I’m actually interested. Obviously, this is a huge problem when it comes to meeting people.
The show is fake as hell, and it has sexism issues and racial inequity issues it needs to deal with, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t important life lessons to glean from it. I’ve been single for a year and a half now and have hardly been dating at all. But lately I’ve been feeling that bit of restlessness inside that tells me I might be ready. The Bachelorette reminds me that when I do jump back into that arena, I have to put myself out there and risk looking like a fool. I have to risk showing that I care. It’s scary. Rejection hurts. And relationships are hard, no matter what stage we’re in.
Despite my dating fears, I’m going to be like JoJo and muster my deepest, strongest confidence to just go for it. As Confucius says, I must go into this with my whole heart, or not go at all.
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