I am somewhat ashamed to admit that my subject here is what I have considered scintilating entertainment over the past six weeks. In my own snobbish way, I pride myself on having an accute discriminatory sense when it comes to my television selections. But, like so many other women, and a few men (I don’t think my husband will admit it, but I’ve seen him watching), I have been strangely compelled to view this season’s television trainwreck known as “The Bachelor”. I justify my obsession with this emotional circus because it comes on after my real favorite show and it’s just so easy to keep watching. Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic and this is what entices me to keep watching to see if someone can really find true love through the smorgassboard approach. To be perfectly honest, I think the spectator in me is stimulated by the gladiator-like contest for attention. And, it seems that the contest in the end, is really about how much a heart can endure.
Every week, I found myself favoring some of the bachelorettes, while assigning less than sincere motives to others. Somewhere in the midst of the game, I think I noticed a few genuine women who seemed to be putting their hearts on the line for all the world to see. My own personal favorite was Bevin. I was amazed by the aplomb with which she somehow managed what appeared to be amazing chemistry with this guy who was dating a bunch of other women, right in front of her face. I’ve only watched segments of other seasons of this show, but I was always fascinated to see who the guy picked in the end. Would he go for the super-sexy, gold-digging temptress? Or would the lesser beauty with the bigger heart triumph? I think that this year’s bachelor did a good job, and surprisingly, it seemed he saw through the manipulations and the drama that are sure to come when a man is dating more than one woman at a time.
As I sat on my sofa and watched the agony that Tessa (the winner) went through, and the confidence that Bevin (the runner up) displayed, in the face of their reality, I found empathy in my heart for them. Most of us have been in a situation which boiled down to the same set of human emotions: we were so scared to risk our feelings in a game of romance, and yet we did, only to be burned in the end. It’s like big emotional stress test. Jump on the treadmill of love and see how much your little romantic heart can withstand!
My inner spectator was jumping for joy this season because it was high drama straight to the finish line. The bachelor could choose to chase Tessa, who was playing hard to get, or he could get Bevin’s heart served to him on a platter. Maybe that sounds harsh, but as I watched all of Tessa’s reservations, all the complaints that she made about how “hard” it was, about how she just wasn’t any good at all these games and she should leave, I thought about human nature. It is our human instinct to protect our vulnerabilities, and rarely do we admit those vulnerabilities to someone who has the power to hurt us. Maybe the poor girl who was so scared, was really the smart girl, and she was calculating every move to get the ring. And then Bevin was wearing her heart on her sleeve, because that’s just how she is. She was always so honest and blunt, but was that too much honesty and not enough calculation to save the affair?
You couldn’t help but like this girl even more when the bachelor broke things off. I was cheering her on as she handled her rejection with true dignity, even though she must have been so mortified to have confessed her feelings so vehemently just a day before, only to have them turned down. Here she had spent months of her life, and hours of her day, working to this end, just to gain a broken heart. In some bizarre way, I was proud of her composure. She cried prettily, and you got the sense that the hurt was just too deep to even cry too much.
The part that astonished me, and the facet of this drama which inspired me to write such a lengthy commentary, was that after the dust settled, after that bachelor had professed his love for her, and after he broke her poor little honest heart the next day. After the show was edited, and produced, and aired on primetime, they just had to bring that sweet girl back to see if she could handle just a little more heartbreak. Not only was she forced to sit and watch footage of her dates and romance with the bachelor, she also was brought face to face with the man who had broken her heart. Again, that strange sense of pride surfaced to see one of my own gender handle that situation with nothing but absolute honor. There were some tears, but she could never be enticed to say anything unkind, or catty, because her feelings had been so deep that she still had them. She still cared! I developed more respect for her in that moment than I had all season. The other girls sat and talked about how they were misled, or how they would have had a different conversation, or assigned blame somewhere else. But, Bevin kept a stiff upper lip and even though she didn’t get the rose, she came out of the whole thing smelling like a rose.
There is no scale to measure heartbreak, especially the angst of a bad breakup. There is no way of knowing the emotional history of a heart, or the degree of feeling one must have in order to feel sorrow when rejected. So much of what amuses us is the drama in the lives of others, whether real or or a fictional tale. And, from the plateau of a happy marriage, I look back on all those years of dating, and breaking up, and misplaced affections. I don’t miss that at all. But it’s good to know, the human heart, and the emotions that govern it are much stronger than we often give it credit for. In the meantime, as much as I hate to admit it, this show has provided some great entertainment at someone else’s expense. You get all the drama, and none of the pain of a personal experience. So, I was sad to see it end, and I’m sure I’ll tune in for the next season.