go joey go

An Ode To The Bachelor

The show is formulaic, but damn do I love it.

Ariela Basson/Scary Mommy; Getty Images, ABC
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I vividly remember watching Trista Rehn choose Ryan Sutter as her Bachelor in 2003. A bunch of us sat huddled around the small, very deep, un-high def TV in the common room of a college dorm watching the first season of The Bachelorette. It wasn’t awe, exactly, that we watched with, but it was an emotion none of us could put a finger to. I certainly couldn’t. Never in a million years would I want to meet my spouse this way (funny, then, that I met him at college), and never would I want lines dropped on me like the ones dropped on the contestants for decades to come. And yet, I sat, totally engaged in what I was watching.

I’d like to say that my love affair with The Bachelor franchise continued since then, but that would be a lie. College life got in the way, and then real life after that. It was, in my mind, anti-feminist, anti-human, almost, to watch these people parade their “feelings” in front of cameras, only to have it fizzle out weeks later once the cameras were gone.

So I grew up, had two boys of my own, and didn’t pay the franchise much mind in the years since. That is, until Gerry the “Golden” Bachelor showed up this fall.

From the second I saw the promos for The Golden Bachelor, I knew I’d watch this golden oldie take a second stab at love. Sure, he was maybe too perfect — and, truly, god bless the internet for trying to take him down once we all fell in love with him — but there’s something about watching someone not much younger than your own father find his groove, be awkward and silly and kind, that got me hooked. It was charming to watch a group of successful older women show us younger gens what it is to be supportive of and show up for each other, and to explore their wants and needs unabashedly.

On the night of the live finale, I kicked my entire family out of the TV room, poured myself a glass of red wine and hunkered down, ready to get.in.my.feels. I’m #teamLeslie all the damn way.

Though The Golden Wedding admittedly made me cringe a bit, the show overall certainly hit a nerve. And just like that, I was IN IT all over again. And so I went back to basics, as it were; there was no question in my mind that I’d be watching the next season of The Bachelor. (And, because it’s a formula, I’ll watch the rejected contestant on The Bachelorette and so on.)

I’m now deeeeep in with Joey’s season of The Bachelor. I watch it with a near-religious fanaticism. I follow them on Instagram. I was emotional when Lexi spoke about her infertility and made the mistake of telling my husband why I was crying only to be met with a stupefied gaze. I want to give Joey a hug, as if he’s my (admittedly insanely good-looking) younger brother asking for advice. Like Gerry, Joey seems to be a “soft man,” a la Jason Kelce; both of them show emotion well and listen intently to the women.

To be clear, I know this is all for show. I know there are entire mechanisms behind the production of this mega-hit. I am a *fully aware* viewer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like getting swept up into the fantasy.

The fantasy — and later, as is usually the case — of falling in love and those first few months of bliss. The thought of being young enough (to be fair, I am only 41, but Daisy and Kelsey seem so young to me, what with their amount of collagen and energy) to have time on your hands, to explore, to enjoy unfiltered happiness seems so far away to me now. It was so long ago.

The show is a juggernaut for a reason. In an increasingly unpredictable world, it’s steady and unchanging. There are no real twists, no real turns. Therein lies why it’s been on TV for practically my entire adult life: It’s a live-action, “real life,” low(ish)-stakes soap opera with tons of beautiful people who know how to cry on cue. It’s no wonder, really, that I’ve found it again. The formula is perfect for a mom like me who wants her entertainment packaged in a neat little bow (though 10pm end times are difficult when I wake up as early as I do these days). And, sure, I’m likely no longer the target demo for the producers. But I won’t let that stop me. I’m back in it, this time for good.

Kate is the Editor-in-Chief at Scary Mommy, helping to bring the stories you know and love to you daily. Before joining BDG, Kate spent 11 years at HuffPost, most recently serving as the Senior Editor for Parenting and Culture, overseeing all parenting and streaming coverage. She has also worked at WSJ. Magazine, House & Garden and InStyle. She’s a native New Yorker and a graduate of Davidson College. She lives in Westchester with her husband, two boys and dog (send help!).