During a supremely crap week when adult life feels too hard and annoying, squatting in The Bachelor’s mansion full of eyelash-endowed sister wives can look better than anything on your own personal agenda. You may begin to consider the perks of being a contestant, start thinking it’s a funny idea over a tumbler of scotch, convince yourself it would make for a great story, maybe download a PDF of the application off the Internet.
It’s like threatening to move to Canada during a rocky election year.
My own competitive nature rose up during a rose ceremony (when sentences write themselves) and I thought to myself, “Strategically, like if this were Survivor, I could win the show.”
Season 19 Finale Spoiler Alert: I did not win.
Season 19 Spoiler Alert in general: I did not apply.
I couldn’t bear to disappoint the show’s host, Chris Harrison.
Harrison has the demeanor of an exhausted substitute teacher who temps for a 7th grade class on a deserted island. He is weary from the things that he’s seen, the drama he’s heard, the notes he’s had to confiscate and the desks he’s had to separate. A paradox of the career path he’s chosen, his job is made easier when contestants file into the problematic roles they’ve been assigned: the crazy one, the back-stabber, the cry-a-lot-er, the trouble maker. These are the school’s varsity football stars — a school whose alumni donations rely on the success of the team.
And then there’d be me: the woman with no juicy plot line for the producers to lean into, no cinematic-gold-bone to throw Harrison save for the fact that I’d complain as though I were a grandma feeling a draft in a restaurant. In a way that’s super boring for TV, I’d mess everything up.
To begin with, I do not find Ben attractive. No worries if he feels the same way back! But each contestant falling in crush at first impression is critical to the show’s success. It encourages groupthink.
Everyone in their solo interview: “He’s 100% my future husband I can just tell.”
Me: “I mean he’s fine. He seems like someone with mildly-above-average dental hygiene.”
Harrison: “Your tap water energy is bringing team moral down.”
Second, I hate Vegas. If there’s anything you have to be more stoked about for on The Bachelor than a helicopter ride, it’s Vegas. (“Hi Mr. Harrison, me again. Hate to bug you, but we have a problem.”)
Group activities — of which there are plenty — are tolerable. They’re not my favorite things ever, but I can hang. What I cannot handle is the collective cheering and shouting. Clapping in tandem with anyone other than a toddler is high on my list of 20 Most Personal Hells.
(Cue Harrison off-camera, “Stop making this weird and just pretend you’re having fun.”)
All of the crying would make me supremely uncomfortable. There are so many things to consider: Should I hug her? Should I ask first? How do I know when to stop patting her back? If everyone’s partnered-up crying and one real sobber is stuck with me, guess who will have to jump in to help? Harrison.
A lot of people comment on the whitewashed, misogynistic set-up of the show: one always-white man, a harem of (mostly white) women, all on their knees in the fantasy suite begging for one stem of the supermarket’s most cliché flower. Of course I have a problem with this. Of course I’d need to take a Night One tally among my new sister wives to see who noticed. Of course I’d want to whisper into the ears of all the girls who didn’t “come here to make friends” that Ben didn’t really come here to find a wife. I’d tell anyone who would listen that this show we all signed up for — as a joke — is an attack on our emotional well-being and our careers. I’d ask why no one seems creeped out by the possibility of a group STD outbreak, and I’d need to know — before going into this whole thing — that there was a game plan ready in case someone gets lice.
*Ring ring* “Oh Chris Harrisonnn?”
Did you know that in addition to tv-hosting, Chris Harrison is an author? In 2004 he wrote a book called, “Jenny, Her Own Story.” It was written from the narrative of a dog. Empathy wrapped in larger meaning? I didn’t read it. I don’t know. But maybe he, like the hypothetical me, is just doing this all for the anecdote. A real investigative journalist out on the field. No wonder he seems tired. I salute him. So until he writes his tell-all, this one’s for us both.
Collages by Emily Zirmis.