It’s time for another episode of The Bachelorette, America’s pre-eminent reality show for romantic group dates, high-profile rejections, barely concealed male rage, 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 of her opinions on the squabbling and hot-tubbing that’s fit to air on ABC.
It is all personal. Everything is very personal. Never tell someone that it was nothing personal: the bell tolls for thee.
Reality TV is deeply personal. The Bachelorette is ultramega deeply personal. Andi’s quest for true love is revealing of so many truths, and it must resonate differently depending on where you are. I am mostly reminded that human beings are poorly designed: when we are in our twenties, we are fired up about dating and marriage, but we are excessive and silly and not in any position to choose a life partner. Andi is 26 and excited–crazy–about men, which is exactly why she wants a wedding. Every 26-year-old wants a wedding. But it’s a bad idea. And yet, by the time it’s a good idea, it’s harder to have a family, it’s harder to compromise about this and that, and love is less interesting. It is exactly because you are a harder person that you will make a wiser choice. But there are fewer balloons and firecrackers, and who cares? Marriage becomes a good idea and not what you are dying to do with the seat of your pants. As I like to point out, youth is not wasted on the young so much as maturity is wasted on the old. It is no fair.
If you get the feeling life is no fair, you are onto something. Even the wicked get worse than they deserve. But what can you do? Go sue No Fair. There is quite a class action suit to be filed against it.
This week there were two nights of The Bachelorette, and it is ongoingly striking how perfect Andi is. Perfect is an absolute, and yet there are degrees of Andi’s perfection, because she always says the right thing, and it just gets better. She is surely the best date ever. Some guy tells her about how his brother ODed and died, and she makes him feel like he was fun to be with. Another man gushes way into turn-off territory, and she appreciates the attention. Someone else is unduly self-effacing, and she goes on and on about how awesome he is. She plays basketball with the WNBA in Connecticut and rides a bicycle along the boardwalk in Santa Barbara. She rappels down a skyscraper in the snow and dresses up like an old lady and sits on a park bench. She is creative about her days and nights out. She says y’all all the time, mostly when there is no reason to say it at all, y’all. She has freckles and a big smile. She is so much more compelling than Juan Pablo.
But that makes sense. The scheme of The Bachelorette is more natural than The Bachelor. Women are meant to choose among competing suitors. Just because everything is haywire and that is not what happens so much anymore does not mean it isn’t the best way. Men enjoy the pursuit. A bunch of women in a house waiting to be chosen like on The Bachelor makes no sense: any man would be just as happy to have a harem, and women don’t know how to fight fair. Andi loves charming her dates to see how they charm her in return, because she wants to find out who is the best of all. Women believe one such person exists. Men accept that convention, but they would be fine to just take the whole caravansary. The Bachelor was so much less interesting because much less was at stake.
Eric Hill exited The Bachelorette this week after having an argument with Andi. He walked out of the hotel and walked into an orange taxi and that was the end. Eric is the guy whose occupation is “explorer” and he was determined to visit every country on earth within 1,200 days and break a world record. He was Andi’s first one-on-one date, and she was excited about him – as any woman would be – as any girl would be: Eric was a heartthrob. But he was obviously used to being the center of attention, and he did not like group dates or any situation where he was one of many. He became uppity. He had words with Andi, and accused her of being impersonal. Actually, he accused her of having a poker face.
Andi believes she is real. This is reality TV.
Eric stormed off. And into the sunset.
The permanent sunset. After leaving the set, Eric Hill returned to his home in Draper, Utah and died in a paragliding accident sometime after. If he and Andi had not argued, and Eric had not left The Bachelorette, this fatal mishap would not have occurred. Even though death is the only thing that can never be beside the point, for the purposes of this narrative, it is. Eric should not have left, because he and Andi could not have had a heated conversation that ended in tears if they did not have strong feelings for each other. She really liked him. Really liked him.
In real life, a couple of days would have gone by, and Andi and Eric would have talked again. I know it: their disagreement was silly and excessive, like all things age 26. But because The Bachelorette is an artificial situation that was not to be. Instead, the result was a final end. Death is the most personal thing of all.
Image via ABC