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.
On a seaside date in Marseille, former pro-baseball player Josh tells Andi that he feels judged because he is an athlete. He has told her this many times before—actually, every time the two of them have had a conversation, that is what it has been. The gist of their relationship is getting beyond the prejudice. Of course, all of life is about changing your mind about what you used to think—or becoming sure you were right all along. There is not a lot more to it. And there is nothing more to dating: it’s all a back-and-forth between doubt and hope. There is not much to any interaction except convincing whoever you are talking to that you are fun to talk to—or to buy what you are selling—and I am sick of Josh’s angle: I don’t hate him because he is good-looking, but I am starting to dislike him because he has nothing to say besides, “Don’t hate me because I’m good-looking.” Andi has nothing against athletes. Andi has nothing against anybody. She’s an enthusiast. She’s in love with love.
But I don’t blame Josh. I feel like you’re judging me is just something to say. It’s a line. It’s also a way to connect. Later in the date Josh tells Andi that the next time he says I love you he wants it to be to the woman he will marry, he wants to really mean it. Which is also a line. And he also really means it. Just because he has said it before, on every first date he has ever been on maybe, and he will likely say it again, and people say it all the time, does not mean it is not heartfelt and true. A lot of the things we say that are nonsense also happen to be deeply felt. We are pathetic, we are trying desperately to make some kind of point, we are doing our best, and most of what we feel is obvious and dull. We aspire to be better than we are at all capable of, and really what we want is not so interesting: we want to mean it when we say I love you. I mean: really.
When the men of The Bachelorette are alone, without Andi, they really mean it and they are suddenly sharp. Not their brains — their elbows and everything else. There are sharp edges everywhere in this room full of he-men with their girly cocktails in their lounge attire. They are so competitive that they accuse each other of being competitive and fight about that. There is nothing they won’t fight about: they fight about fighting. They all think that Nick is the frontrunner, and I agree. Nick is a software guy, and Andi liked him the most that first night, maybe because he was dapper in his polka-dot tie, which is to say he is smart and has good taste. The rest of the men don’t only hate Nick for being in the lead—they are accusing him of it, like it’s a bad thing. Which is crazy, except that they all just want any reason to fight. Men are gladiatorial—they would rather wrestle lions, but they will settle for their own kind. These bachelors are all more in love with Andi than they actually are because they are fighting over her, which is another reason to fight.
It’s a reason to fight, and to say anything. Poor Josh does not have a lot to say, which is why he keeps saying the same thing over and over. He is correct to believe he is being judged. We are all being judged, all the time: that’s life. If no one is judging you, be very insulted, because it means you are being ignored. It means you go home without a rose. The fight is over.