Tuesday, June 26, 2012

an unapologetic confession of my love for the bachelorette

One of the great many guilty pleasures of my life is the quality television program known as The Bachelorette... or as I like to call it, The Every-Woman's-Fantasy-World-Tour-Of-Dates-With-Hot-Eye-Candy-And-A-Side-Of-Maybe-Possibly-Falling-In-Love-Under-The-Intense-Pressure-Of-24-7-Camera-Supervision-Ette. (How they didn't go with that title I'll never know.)

Really though, please ignore my sarcasm because I need you guys to fully understand my unabashed love for the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise. I know how much flack this show gets from people (just fyi, when I say people I'm more specifically referring to the one person I share a house with) but I have watched pretty much every season from the show's inception religiously (except for those weird seasons in the middle with that prince and the British dude... or was it a British prince? Oh, I can't remember. Apparently back then I had better things to do. Now, I most certainly do not.)

As you all know, the Bachelor/ette is widely regarded as mindless TV that will turn your brain to mush, as well as a godsend for cynics everywhere just dying for some fodder, but right here, right now, I am going to tell you why frankly I don't give a damn, and why I will continue to watch for as long as the show is on.

Last night my friend Brittany came over to watch an episode because the man of my household is currently out of town on a business trip (obviously, since The Bachelorette is most often overruled when deciding on common TV programming to enjoy.) Britt and I sat on the couch and for two hours we both had giddy grins on our faces. Of course there was ample sarcastic commentary making fun of the guys that cry for no reason and the boring drones that "didn't see it coming" when Emily sent them packing, but mostly we laughed and swooned and ooohhed and ahhhed. Throughout the whole episode I was texting with my girlfriends back and forth trading our opinions of how each date went, and I started to think, Why do women love this show so much? Why do I love this show so much?

Equally as entertaining to think about is why guys dislike it so much. In one rare occasion a few weeks ago, Jason and Brittany's boyfriend, Sean, were both over working on some video editing while I somehow snuck an episode of The Bachelorette on. (Pretty sure it was that glorious few days between the NBA Semi-finals and Finals where all the women in the country breathe a collective sigh of relief because their TVs are free again for a brief stretch of time.) Anyway, ladies, if you've ever watched the show with men, it's absolutely TERRIBLE and it takes all the fun out of the experience. As any girl knows, there is nothing worse than trying to indulge in a little guilty pleasure television with boys whispering criticisms over your shoulder. Are these guys for real? This show is so stupid. Did that guy really just say he could 'fall for this girl?' SHUT UP! I'm trying to witness the beauty of love here and you're ruining it!

When boys see the show, all they see are extravagant dates, scripted confessionals and disingenuous people. And I get that. There are probably alot of people that watch the show and see that. But that is the facade - the exterior. It's called production. Men, believe it or not, but women are actually quite capable of bearing witness to all sorts of fantasy dates without actually expecting you to fly us over a volcano or propose to us at the foot of the Swiss Alps. Let's all be completely honest with ourselves here. Would we line up every week to watch men and women take bike rides, exercise together, argue over chores and fall asleep watching a movie on the couch? Real life sometimes makes for some lackluster television. So I understand that a little fantasy is a necessary evil for the show to be on television. But that's not what keeps me coming back.

When I watch the show, I focus on all that production for just long enough to be entertained by it and then I let it fade, trying to zero in on the more basic foundation of what's going on. Which is always just simply a person wanting to share their life with someone. I choose to believe that each Bachelor or Bachelorette truly and honestly wants a companion. Whether they understand the magnitude and depth of what a companion for life means, I'm not sure. But I'm less concerned with the forever part of the show to be honest with you. I think the forever part of a relationship is hard to grasp whether you're finding love on TV or finding love here in the real world. Still, wanting to share your life with someone for however long is a truth that everyone can relate to, and it takes vulnerability.

I understand that alot of those shows are scripted, but you can't script a date. You can't script chemistry, and I believe that when you see two people on the show engaged in conversation, they are not sitting across from each other spouting off memorized lines. Last night's episode that I watched with Brittany was a perfect example of why I love the show. Emily and one of her would-be suitors, Jef Holm, had a true and real, honest-to-goodness date. They were in Prague and purchased these silly little marionettes that were supposed to be representative of one another. Then, using the puppets, they basically reenacted their relationship up to that point for each other. Now, does this sound absurd and ridiculous? Absolutely. But like I said, if you strip away where they were and what they were doing, at the heart of it you just saw two people trying to make each other laugh and relive the memories of their short relationship together. I think anyone that's been in a relationship can relate to that. 

And you know what? It was absolutely adorable and charming. Because it was real. The extravagance and even the situation was all staged and planned, but the people were real and the emotions exchanged were real. Brittany and I watched and literally laughed for ten minutes out loud with huge smiles on our faces. And in that moment I realized what the allure is for me. Why it's such a guilty pleasure and why it brings me such happiness. It reminded me of one of my first dates with Jason. It was almost like I could feel Emily's love grow for Jef through the TV, and it brought me back to those moments early on in my relationship when Jason would make me laugh so hard my sides hurt and my love would grow for him too. 

In fact, the whole show is a reminder of what it feels like to fall in love. And as cheesy as it sounds, that is why I watch. Maybe it's different for every woman. Maybe some women do watch the show and take it at face value. They think some seemingly perfect prince charming is going to sweep them off their feet and ride away in a helicopter bound for Bermuda. But that's not it for me. The show makes me feel good because it reaffirms my faith in what I have and takes me back to the beginning. The nerves, the deep conversations, discovering the quirks in each other's personalities - all the excitement that comes with new love. And while I would never trade the comfort, trust, and security that comes with being in a relationship for over two years, by golly it's just nice sometimes to be reminded of the beginning! What happens in the end with the Bachelor/Bachelorette couples is of no consequence to me. People that experience love fall out of it all the time. Real couples that meet under the most mundane circumstances can realize down the road that they aren't right for each other. But like I said, it's not about the end for me, it's about the beginning.

Love is a relative term. It's not constant. It's not concrete. It's not some universal state of being that is experienced uniformly by everyone on the planet. It's completely subjective. I resent those that tell others they just "think" they're in love. In some cases, if people "feel" or "think" they're in love, sometimes that simply means they are. We all experience it in different ways, at different times, so who am I to judge? I think it's perfectly plausible to think that people that have known each other for only a matter of weeks and have traveled the world together with cameras in their faces can experience falling in love. Because it's real to them, and that's all that matters. 

I'm not some blubbering woman who believes in fairy tales as we know them. But I do believe there's a bit of a fairy tale in every happy relationship, and I watch The Bachelorette each week because it makes me feel close to that magic. It helps me see the fairy tale in my own relationship. And because simply put, I love love

Say what you will about the show, but I will continue to watch season after season and I won't apologize for it. Any reminder of what it feels like to fall in love is a good reminder in my book. 

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