Sometime this past December, I met a solid group of girls. They were authentic, funny, thoughtful, kind, down-to-earth, and they liked to have a good time. In January, when they invited me to their weekly viewings of “The Bachelor,” my initial reaction was a cross between a laugh and a scoff. Me and reality TV? That’s cute. But I thought it would be a great way to spend more time with them, so I figured, why not?
A few weeks into it, I was hooked. I was filling out a bracket, discussing the merits of Kendall versus baby Bekah, and making fun of Krystal, the fitness coach from San Diego with a ridiculously breathy, valley girl voice, on a regular basis. When I watched the finale last Thursday, my mouth dropped open more than once in surprise, concern, and disbelief.
For the naysayers out there, let me tell you: I was once one of you. But somehow, over the course of the last two months, I became more invested in this show. Granted, I still think the premise of it is absolutely ridiculous (Who goes from zero to engaged in two months?! In what world is it acceptable to date 29 women at once?), but as I met the women, I got drawn into their stories. I never liked Arie, the bachelor for this season. He’s bland, boring, and there’s very little depth there. And I found it harder to watch the episodes near the end of the show, where multiple women’s hearts and emotions were getting invested in this person. But surprisingly, I found a few lessons through the course of this scripted, ridiculous, and laughable show.
1. Friends can be found in the most unlikely of places. In my mind, being on The Bachelor breaks the eighth amendment about cruel and unusual punishment. You put 29 women together in a giant sorority house, go on “group dates” (i.e. one dude and many women), your books are confiscated when you arrive on set, and somehow you’re supposed to retain your sanity? Not only did (most of) the women remain sane, but many of them developed some impressive friendships with each other. The finale was aired in the studio with a live audience, including some of the women from the show. It was touching to see the way they supported each other and Becca K., especially after Arie dropped her like a lukewarm potato.
2. Don’t let your past haunt your present. It became a running joke for us: What other traumatic events happened to Annaliese in her childhood? In one of the earlier episodes, she struggled on a group date with bumper cars because of something terrible that happened with them when she was younger. Later, she had trouble playing with dogs on another group date because of another traumatic experience from her youth. Annaliese was so haunted by these experiences that she couldn’t let go of them and enjoy the moment. Needless to say, she didn’t make it very far.
3. Call out the crazy ones. Without a doubt, Krystal was the villain of the season. Between her aggressive hunt for Arie’s affection, her disrespect for the other women on the show, and the childish temper tantrums, she made very few friends. In the beginning, most of the women either tiptoed around her or ignored her. By the middle of the season, some of the more vocal women (go Kendall and Caroline!) were calling her out on her behavior and letting her know, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t right. Standing up to a bully can be hard, but at the end of the day, someone has to do it.
4. When you care about someone, take the risk and be vulnerable. Kendall, one of my favorites, embodied this one best. She recognized that she had a hard time letting people in, and she was open about this struggle with Arie. She found it hard to share her feelings and open her heart up to possible heartbreak. But in the end, she valued what she and Arie had, and she cared enough about the potential of what could be to overcome those fears and let him in. When we take a risk, it may not always lead us where we want, but chances are it will take us where we need to be. (In Kendall’s case, Arie couldn’t get over that she wouldn’t be ready for a proposal after two months (gasp!) and sent her home. She’s better off for that.)
5. Everyone has a story. This has long been a key element of my personal philosophy, and I think it’s what actually hooked me. Every single woman on the show had their own story, their own experiences, their own backgrounds, and was a unique individual. Granted, some of them were sent home before we got to actually know them or their stories. But for the women who stayed, we got to learn a little bit about what made them tick. We heard Chelsie talking about life as a single mom. We learned that baby Bekah, despite being the youngest on the show, had a maturity and insight beyond her years. We witnessed Becca K.’s pain as she shared about her father dying of cancer and how her tight-knit family overcame that together. Sure, the show is about as unrealistic as you can get and there never seemed to be much substance to anyone’s relationship with Arie. But throughout the season, we got to see glimpses of who each of these women truly are – and that’s something that can’t be faked.
6. No matter how many cool places the ladies on the show get to travel to, one should never apply to be a contestant. Seriously. I may or may not have been tempted to apply after watching this season. Not because of the inane, five minute conversations upon which absurd ideas of love were based, but rather, because of the travel opportunities. In this season alone, the show went to Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Tuscany, Pisa, Paris, and Peru. One of the women went on a one-on-one date to Machu Picchu, which has been on my bucket list for ages. I was a little jealous until I actually read the eligibility rules, and decided I’d rather travel without hidden cameras, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you don’t believe me, just read rule number ten here.
There you have it, folks. On one hand, The Bachelor represents some of the worst of American television. Trivial conversations, fake friendships, and unrealistic and unsustainable views of love abound in this show. However, when we look a little deeper, I think we can find some nuggets of wisdom that we can all use in our own lives. And if you think you might be able to learn even more by being on the show, I mean it: Take ten minutes and read those rules to see what you’re signing up for. At the very least, you’ll get a few laughs out of them.