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Elizabeth Wurtzel’s The Bachelor Recap: All the Promises Will Be Broken

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Elizabeth Wurtzel’s The Bachelor Recap: All the Promises Will Be Broken

Nothing feels more like escape than to go back on your word

By Elizabeth Wurtzel

It’s time for another season of The Bachelor, America’s pre-eminent reality show for romantic group dates, high-profile rejections, crying pharmaceutical saleswomen, and rendering the phrase “true love” utterly meaningless through ceaseless repetition. This season, we have asked Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch, to confront our favorite national circus nightmare. Join Elizabeth each Tuesday for all the squabbling and hot-tubbing that’s fit to air on ABC. 

Tonight we'll be free/ All the promises will be broken. So exudes Bruce Springsteen in the bridge of "Thunder Road," the triumphant track that opens his 1975 breakthrough album Born To Run. It is a song so exuberant, it has been covered by both Phish and Badly Drawn Boy, and Rolling Stone ranked it #86 of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Indeed, nothing feels more like escape than to go back on your word. Or to give yourself a break in any way, like to make a to-do list and tear it up, undone. Human beings are always looking for an out, but they are also always looking to look heroic, which is why we make promises we can't keep. We feel good when we say we will be awesome, but the follow-through is a tough haul. I am intimately familiar with this aspect of our nature: I am a lawyer. The first rule of law: All the promises will be broken. Attorneys could not be in business if people did not fail to do what they agreed to do all the time – and lawyers are very busy.

The women on The Bachelor often wish they could get some reassurance from Juan Pablo. This week, Andi – who is, yes, an attorney – even said: "If I am able to relinquish control and just trust Juan Pablo, then something really good can come out of it." Juan Pablo is stunningly excellent at telling each of these women what she needs to hear to feel that she is not wasting her time, that she is special. In the mean time, the comely contestants are lounging away in luxe resorts in Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand, so the consolation prize is excellent travel, and whatever collateral benefits accrue to the also-rans on a reality TV show. But only one of these women will win – or "win." Meanwhile, even limited interaction with Juan Pablo, his simply handing over a rose, his asking to be trusted, his few words sealed with wet lip smackeroos – these gestures seem to keep these women from deteriorating into simultaneous menstrual cycle chaos. Now that Miss Brazil is gone, the bathroom has returned to its traditional purpose. It's all daiquiris and bikinis by the pool.

But the thing is: All the promises will be broken. That includes wedding vows half the time. Andi – like the rest of the bachelorettes – does not need to trust Juan Pablo; she needs to trust herself. Since most relationships, including marriage, end in tears, the only safeguard anyone has against disaster is her own constitution. The Bachelor is kind of a bad setup, since people in their twenties are essentially still adolescent in this day and age, and the atmosphere is like sleepaway camp in ball gowns, which would make a hardy person into an emotional wreck. Of course, dating in New York City could do that too. I bet dating in Waukesha, Wisconsin is not so different.

This week Juan Pablo announced that Nikki is a "potential wife." She has a neat trick: She tells him what she wants, instead of asking him how he feels. She has a plan. And really that is all it takes. The other women are waiting for the words, but people say things they don't mean all the time. I love you is sometimes something you say just to make someone happy. Trust me ought to mean the opposite. And I should know, because I am very good with words. But when I'm serious, I do something. 

Image via ABC