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'The Bachelor' Dad & Me

photo via Instagram
photo via Instagram

I vowed that this year I would not get sucked in. At 30 years old, it seemed high time to let go of my obsession with The Bachelor. After all, I have a child now. I’m a grown-up. And I know most of that nonsense isn’t real.

But then, the commercials began. ABC splashed that sexy Latino across my television screen, declared this the month of “Juanuary” and seduced me with previews of all the craziness about to come.

I hate to admit it, but I have been a devotee of The Bachelor franchise since the very first season. This embarrasses me to no end. I was 18 when Alex dumped Trista at the made-for-TV proposal altar, and I hung onto every scene as she got her sweet revenge on The Bachelorette. I bought into the fairy tale she had with Ryan. So much so, that clearly the names of these total strangers are still ingrained into my psyche all these years later.

Humiliating. But here's something even more so.

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When I was 24, I auditioned for the show myself. Not because I wanted to find love—marriage wasn’t really a priority at that point in my life—but because I wanted to be reality TV famous, and I was all about the free travel. The 24-year-old version of me knew how to aim high.

I actually made it through several rounds of the casting process. Let’s face it; I was pretty much their ideal contestant—young, decent looking and just the slightest bit crazy. For a minute there, it almost looked as though I was going to get my shot at single dad Jason Mesnick. But in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. I received an email from the producers which said:

“We know that finding love is no easy feat and appreciate your willingness to show us a small glimpse of the wonderful and unique person you are. At this time, the casting department has decided not to include you as a participant in this upcoming season. While our show is one way for people to find love, it is not the only way and we encourage you to never give up on love, or finding the Bachelor who is especially for you.”

I had to laugh at the assumption that not making The Bachelor might convince me to give up on love. It was that year when I finally started watching the show with a more skeptical eye. And I realized there are basically two lenses you can look at The Bachelor through: those of a dreamer, or those of a skeptic.

The Dreamer's Version

There are those who watch this show because they want the fairy tale, and ABC is very good at selling that. Let’s take Juan Pablo, this year’s bachelor, for instance. The man is sexy personified. An ex-pro athlete with a killer body and a panty-dropping accent to match. I am a single mom to a 10-month-old, so it is safe to say I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with the opposite sex lately. But Juan Pablo? He is absolutely my cup of tea. The stuff that fantasies are made of, in fact. I kind of want to bite him. Nothing too crazy. Just a little nibble.

You get the picture.

Which begs the question, should parents even be going on this show in the first place?

Then you add in the single dad angle, and he suddenly becomes that much hotter. A man who dotes on his daughter and clearly loves being a father? Yes, please. Where do I sign up? Maybe it’s the single mom in me, but there is something just so hot about that. In the sweetest way possible, of course. I would personally love to meet a good, stable, single dad who adores kids and can’t wait to have more.

And that is how ABC begins to build its fairy tale.

The Skeptic's Reality

Here is the truth, however, from a skeptic’s perspective: Out of the 17 previous seasons of The Bachelor thus far, only one has resulted in an actual marriage. And that guy (Jason Mesnick—the bachelor I actually would have had the pleasure of meeting myself) proposed to one girl, and then changed his mind six weeks later and dumped her on national television before asking his runner-up for a second chance. Yes, they eventually got married. And yes, they seem incredibly happy. But, come on ... that was no fairy tale ending. And the whole final episode where all of this went down just reeked of producer manipulation. Meanwhile, Mesnick's son—who played a pretty integral part in filming, and had presumably spent a fair amount of time with lady No. 1 before that whole relationship went up in flames—was in the middle of all of it. Not just the make-believe relationships themselves, but also the tabloids and followup stories that came after.

It wasn’t exactly the kind of mess you would want your child to be exposed to.

Which begs the question, should parents even be going on this show in the first place? To become The Bachelor, you have to first go on The Bachelorette. That’s six weeks of fighting with 25 other guys for the attention of one woman, during which time you can’t see your kid at all.

Oh, you didn’t catch that? This whole fairy tale—meeting, dating, falling in love and getting engaged—is supposed to happen over the course of just six weeks. Seems realistic, right?

I am a very live-and-let-live kind of girl, and I think that most of the time parents are making the best decisions they can. But I’ve got to admit, I can’t imagine being away from my daughter for six weeks—certainly not for something as silly as a reality television show. And that is where the “good dad” façade begins to fade.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure Juan Pablo loves his kid. But let’s be real, there are likely ulterior motives to his going on this show. It doesn’t all have to do with love, I’ll tell you that much for sure. He is making choices, choices to be separated from his daughter, and choices to bring her into the middle of this craziness when he is not. Because if his season is anything like seasons past where children have been involved, she will be trotted right out toward the end to meet her potential new step-mommies (yes, she will likely meet more than one—on camera) in order to play her part in this whole love-on-reality-TV farce.

Because that’s totally healthy.

The kid is 4 years old. I think we can all probably agree that this isn’t necessarily the best scenario to involve a young child. And the way Juan Pablo has been pimping out his daddy status, saying in every interview that his primary goal is to find a stepmother for his daughter; it all becomes just a little more icky. It's as though he is spitting out sound bites, rather than speaking from the heart.

Where I Stand

I suppose when it comes to watching this show, I personally volley back and forth between wanting to buy into the fairy tale, and embracing my inner skeptic. I know that the vast majority of this isn’t real. I get that the producers are selling us a story, and that most of these people are simply playing a part. Or they are being edited into a part they didn’t realize they had signed up for. But still, every year, I get sucked in.

It could be the girls, and the crazy antics some of them come up with. This year there has already been a psychotic massage therapist, who for some reason decided to rub massage oil all over Juan Pablo’s jacket in what I have to assume she thought was a sensual way. Then there was the self-professed free-spirit who sauntered in with no shoes and started immediately spouting hippy-dippy nonsense. There were also three—possibly four—girls who cried in the very first episode.

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If you are crying on the first night, I promise you, you are not stable enough to go on this show in the first place.

Then there was Juan Pablo, who I have to admit lost a touch of his sexiness with episode one, talking in sedated tones the entire night and missing clear signals from the one girl who obviously wasn’t interested in him. It was awkward. He was awkward.

But maybe that’s why I watch. Not for the fairy tale, but for the cringe-worthy moments you can’t make up. Except, somebody did, in a producer’s chair, directing this whole sideshow they are passing off as reality TV from start to finish.

It isn’t real, and it isn’t a fairy tale.

But it sure is entertaining.

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