For those of you who, for some reason, don’t watch “The Bachelorette” on television, it’s a show where 25 young dudes show up to try to win the hand, along with other body parts, of a young woman. Each week a few of them are sent packing. Those who the Bachlorette awards roses in the weekly Rose Ceremony are allowed to stay. The show is fun to watch because you see guys who look good with their shirts off and stubbled chins being all too human. It’s interesting to view the show as a morality play, with the different characters representing different virtues and, better yet, vices. It’s enjoyable to see the Good Guy win the girl after about three months of ritualized foreplay.
More importantly, “The Bachelorette,” and its kissing cousin, “The Bachelor,” is valuable because of what it teaches us. Here are a few things I learned about negotiating social relationships.
· Be open about your feelings. The cool guys who don’t open up emotionally get sent home. But not right away – the drunks and boring guys go home first, then the cool guys, while the emotionally open guys hang in until the end. Of course, being emotionally open means it hurts more when you are booted, which is also fun to watch.
· I should not be on this program. (See above.)
· Don’t drink too much, if drunkenness brings out your inner asshole. Don’t drink too little, if sobriety reveals how shy or boring or prudish you really are.
· Kiss well. This is important. The guys on the show all understand this one. I suspect it’s not as important as emotional openness, but good kissing probably keeps some guys on the show longer than they deserve. Kim had me at our first kiss – I remember it to this day.
· If you have a possible weakness in your resume, admit it – but not too soon. Being perfect is a turn-off. You need to make it clear that it is difficult to admit it, but because you care so much, because you are so honest, etc. Be selective, however. Don’t admit that you cheated repeatedly on your previous girlfriend, or that you still have a girlfriend, or that you have an STD. “I already have a kid,” more common with the women candidates on “The Bachelor,” has never sent anyone home. I’m not sure, however, that any man or woman with a kid has been awarded The Final Rose. A more common weakness among the males is “I have difficulty opening up emotionally,” a confession that the Bachelorette has already figured out, so there is nothing to lose in openly admitting it. I’ve had to pretend to have flaws and weaknesses in order to keep Kim interested.
· If offered a key to the Fantasy Suite, take it. On the program the Fantasy Suite means only one thing – an off-camera all-nighter for the finalists. But in our lives there are lots of different fantasies available, and we should accept them when offered.
· Don’t be petty. The assholes on the program are the ones who get caught up in small-minded jealous competitive games. I’d call it being “catty” except the men do it as much as the women. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Guys who are the targets of catty behavior tend to stay longer – unless they deserve it.
· Recognize the rituals. At the end of the Rose Ceremony on every episode, the host Chris Harrison comes out to announce, “Gentlemen, this is the final rose.” Are we to believe that these guys who have been watching the roses distributed to their fortunate buddies don’t know that there’s only one left, and the odds are that they won’t get it? Of course not. It’s a ritual, and they can take some comfort in being part of it. Similarly, when Kim tells me about once a week, “You never listen,” or “You only vacuum the middle of the room,” I recognize that I am participating in a long tradition of wives talking to their husbands. This provides some comfort to me, though I can’t say that it does much for Kim.
· You are being filmed. This is obviously true on the tv show, but with the widespread use of smart phones, it’s equally true of real life. If you do something stupid, look for it on YouTube. Behavior in the Fantasy Suite is an exception to this rule.
· Eat the food. In a typical scene in the program, a couple meets for dinner, has a sip of wine, and then launches into a deep conversation about their feelings, their relationship history, etc., while their dinner is getting cold! Then they go off to dance or make out or ride in a helicopter. Presumably the camera crew gets to polish off the food. I hope so. On the other hand, if you are interviewing and/or trying to impress your potential spouse, you probably won’t taste the food anyway. They may be using the same uneaten pork chop in every episode, so they are probably wise not to eat it.
· I am getting old. No, I am old. The people on the show are the age of my grandkids. This is where my Fantasy Suite learning comes into play. Pretend.
I trust that the above provides sufficient justification for my guilty pleasure. Another justification: watching with Kim and Genne’ and learning from their shrewd insights into the character and motivation of men and women who are courting in public. I grew up playing catch with my brother and arguing about who is “dead” in our toy gunfights, while most girls grow up negotiating social relationships using dolls and then their friends. Who is likely to be more sensitive to relationships? So, guys, learn wherever we can!