A BACH­E­LOR IN PAR­ADISE

Jeremy Freed says The Bach­e­lor is a lie, but it did teach him a few things about re­la­tion­ships.

ELLE (Canada) - - Relationship -

BY LAST WIN­TER, I HAD BE­GUN TO SUS­PECT

that I’d never find true love. I was 34, had been dat­ing con­tin­u­ally since I was 24 and had largely been un­able to make a re­la­tion­ship last for more than a few months. I would start see­ing some­one, be­come in­fat­u­ated and then, re­al­iz­ing that this per­son wasn’t per­fect in ev­ery imag­in­able way, break it off abruptly.

Maybe re­la­tion­ships of the long-term monog­a­mous kind—the kind that lead to mar­riage, joint pet own­er­ship and shared mort­gage pay­ments— aren’t for me, I mused. Or per­haps the ver­sion of love we’ve all been spoon-fed via fairy tales and Kate Hud­son rom­coms sim­ply doesn’t ex­ist—it’s just a lie in­vented by Hol­ly­wood and the Wed­ding In­dus­trial Com­plex to sell us movie tick­ets, di­a­mond rings (which, I take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to point out, are a scam in­vented by di­a­mond com­pa­nies) and over­priced hors d’oeu­vres. I was a lot of fun at wed­dings, as you can imag­ine.

Then I met Anne. She was smart and kind, equally ex­cited about binge­ing on na­chos and go­ing to the opera and laughed sin­cerely at my dad jokes. When she outed her­self as a fan of The Bach­e­lor, I sup­pressed my knee-jerk re­ac­tion of end­ing things then and there. (Poor taste in en­ter­tain­ment had al­ways been a deal breaker for me.)

I had al­ways viewed reality TV as one of the har­bin­gers of the de­cline of hu­man­ity and, as such, had never seen an episode. But I liked Anne. And, to be hon­est, I was cu­ri­ous. De­spite all the sto­ries I’d heard about ugly cries in the backs of limos, beach sex and shade throw­ing, it also ap­peared that, for some peo­ple, this was a sin­cere quest to find “the one.” So I watched it.

Within a few weeks of that first episode, Anne and I had not only made a stand­ing Mon­day-night dou­ble date with host Chris Har­ri­son but were also plac­ing bets on Ju­bilee ver­sus Caila for the fi­nal four and shar­ing recipes for Bach­e­lor- themed pizza roses. (Yup, pizza in the shape of a rose is a thing. Google it.)

Was The Bach­e­lor to me the TV equiv­a­lent of a pim­ple-pop­ping video on YouTube—I just couldn’t look away? Or was I drawn to it be­cause it em­bod­ies that search for the per­fect one-in-a-mil­lion Tina Fey-meets-Bey­oncé mate that I my­self had un­der­taken for so long? The ob­vi­ous short­com­ings of the se­ries aside (and there are many, from its het­eronor­ma­tive premise to a cast with the racial di­ver­sity of a Tay­lor Swift con­cert to the “rich Prince Charm­ing meets con­ven­tion­ally beau­ti­ful princess and they live hap­pily ever af­ter” for­mat), The Bach­e­lor felt fa­mil­iar be­cause it was.

Media critic Jen­nifer L. Pozner, who wrote Reality Bites Back: The Trou­bling Truth About Guilty Plea­sure TV, says the show draws us in with the sac­cha­rine and sim­pli­fied ro­man­tic sto­ry­line that we’ve been told since we were lit­tle. “All this stuff is fairy-tale lan­guage from our child­hood,” she says. “And in that way, it can be seen as com­fort­ing.”

Not to men­tion that the ac­tual dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ences on the show mim­icked some of my own. Swap the Bach­e­lor man­sion for Tin­der and a white-sand beach for a trendy dive bar and you’ve got the last few years of my life, give or take a few he­li­copter rides. This isn’t an ac­ci­dent. At its most ba­sic level, The Bach­e­lor’s formula is much like most real-world re­la­tion­ships: You pick one per­son from many, you feel some­thing for him or her that you don’t for oth­ers, you fight van­ity and in­se­cu­rity to see some­one for who they are and you try to move for­ward to­gether to­ward a shared fu­ture. What the show leaves out (along with the in­con­ve­nient re­al­i­ties of credit-card debt, body fat and po­lit­i­cal views) are the things about peo­ple and re­la­tion­ships that don’t ad­here to a script—which is pretty much ev­ery­thing.

Anne and I have now been to­gether a year, and two im­por­tant things have hap­pened as a re­sult. The first is that I’ve watched a sea­son of The Bach­e­lor, The Bach­e­lorette, Bach­e­lor in Par­adise and more af­ter-shows than I can count.

The se­cond is that I’ve re­al­ized that I don’t want a fairy-tale ro­mance. Anne isn’t per­fect, but I’m cer­tainly not ei­ther—far from it. For me, the dif­fer­ence be­tween this re­la­tion­ship and all the ones that came be­fore it is that I want to know her for who she is and our part­ner­ship for what it is, im­per­fec­tions and all. We’ve never had din­ner in a French château, but we did once spend a lovely week­end to­gether in Pittsburgh. I still think di­a­mond rings are a scam—sorry, Neil Lane—but my thoughts re­gard­ing my prospects for mar­riage and joint pet own­er­ship have changed sig­nif­i­cantly, so I might yet come around.

The only red rose I’ll ever buy for Anne, though, is one made out of pizza. For­tu­nately, she’s into that sort of thing. n

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