Choices, choices…

The HauteWife’s boyfriend has a confession to make…

I watch The Bachelor. And The Bachelorette. But I draw the line at The Proposal; it tramples on everything good and decent about relationships, more than the other two anyway.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of The Bachelor, it’s a reality television series that starts with an eligible bachelor and twenty-five to thirty potential women suitors. Over the course of ten weeks the bachelor eliminates suitors left and right until there’s just one remaining. Week-ending cocktail parties culminate in a rose ceremony where the bachelor hands out roses to those women who will still be there the next week; no rose means a woman is going home. If all goes according to script, he makes a marriage proposal at the end of the final episode, and she accepts. The Bachelorette is the same show with the genders swapped, but the guy still proposes. (For ease of gendered language I’ll talk about The Bachelorette unless it’s clear I’m not.)

There is much to hate about this show, starting with its premise. The unquestioned assumptions include heterosexual romantic attraction and lifelong monogamous commitments. I have nothing against heterosexual lifelong monogamous relationships, but these assumptions are expected to hold even in the context of young and inexperienced people who, by the estimation of past participants, might spend as much as seventy-two hours in each other’s presence by the time an engagement ring is offered. That time includes cocktail parties, group dates (the bachelorette and three to a dozen men, one of whom gets a pre-ceremony rose), two-on-one dates (one man gets a rose, the other gets sent home), and one-on-one dates (the man gets a rose or goes home).

I’m confident nobody in the history of the show has had a discussion about the perimeter of monogamy; by that I mean what attitudes and behaviors are expected (or tolerated) within a monogamous relationship and what things constitute relationship-ending transgressions.

The part of the show that I love to hate has nothing to do with these wildly romantic and unrealistic expectations. The shit that gets me talking back to the TV and muttering under my breath is the part where the suitors treat the process as a competition. The last-survivor-on-the-island set-up and the hand-picked cast, genetically engineered to foment conflict, don’t help. Women on The Bachelor treat each other as either friends or rivals with no middle ground. Men on The Bachelorette incessantly chest thump and opine on the qualities that make them better than the other men and thus more deserving to get the next rose.

Here’s the thing. Whether it’s real life or a made-for-television adaptation, people get to choose who they’re attracted to and with whom they want to explore building a relationship. Men often fall into a fallacy that goes something like this: “She wants a man who has X, Y, and Z qualities. I have X, Y, and Z, and U, V, and W too. She should want me.” This is a manifestation of male entitlement.

The Bachelorette incarnation of this line of thinking is: “I have all these desirable qualities that my rival Brodoofus doesn’t have. Therefore I am superior to Brodoofus. She should give me a rose and not him.” Never mind that he probably has no clue what qualities she finds desirable, so he’s substituted his idea of what she should want, qualities that are conveniently identical to those he possesses.

All of these guys are blindsided, bothered, and bewildered when the woman doesn’t choose them. Guys out there in Internetland, I’m here to tell you: She doesn’t have to choose you. Period. In case you missed it:

She doesn’t have to choose you.

You remind her of an uncle in a bad way. You have the same annoying habit as an ex. You are too tall/short/fat/thin/angular/round. Your mansplaining is infuriating. She doesn’t like the smell of your man musk. You treat wait staff poorly. Your kisses don’t give her butterflies. You’re awkward around children. A gut check came back as a no. Her best friend/sibling/parent doesn’t like you.

It doesn’t matter what it is. If she isn’t feeling an attraction there’s no résumé you can provide that will change her mind. She doesn’t owe you an explanation. You deserve to be treated with respect when she says no thank you, but you can’t expect an answer to “why not me?” that will make any sense to you. If, after a rejection, you try to argue your case about why she should choose you, you’ve exponentially increased the odds she never will.

Every relationship ends until one doesn’t, or perhaps more than one if you’re polyamorous and fortunate. A relationship that ends before it gets started represents a great deal of time you don’t have to invest in that person. It may be disappointing, but it’s a gift. If it helps, remind yourself that for every unattached person you encounter it’s almost certain that somebody, somewhere, is sick of their shit.

And until you find that special person or persons for mutually beneficial relationship bliss, be yourself. Don’t be one of those suitors on reality television who primp and preen and promenade for the cameras. When the cameras are packed up, who will you be then?

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t mention Bachelor in Paradise, I consider it a different beast. Still momogamo- and heteronormative, but multiple men and women hand out roses, and multiple couples may end up in some version of together at the end. It’s populated entirely by Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise alums who ought to know better but come back anyway for another few soul-baring minutes in front of cameras with their unrealistic hopes and dreams. It’s a popcorn-worthy car wreck. Of course I watch this show, too.

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