When The Bachelor premiered in 2002 I was 37 years old. My now ex-husband and I looked forward to every episode, rushed to the TV to catch the beginning (remember, it was the pre-DVR era), and could barely wait to see how things panned out, and which girl would get that fairytale engagement and happy ending.
I stopped watching The Bachelor a couple years later, and believe it or not, 14 years later, I'm once again watching The Bachelor (season 20), thanks to my kids. So, now I'm a 50 year-old divorced woman, divorce blogger, and dating columnist who is tuning in weekly to a show about dating, relationships and love with my impressionable pre-teen daughter. And, I have to say I am cringing. A lot. Why?
Because one of the most important things I am teaching my daughter (drilling it in her head, actually) is being completely counterbalanced every Monday night. What is it? The importance of self-esteem. Let me explain.
The Bachelor consists of several twenty-something girls--all very attractive and successful, but who come with the typical insecurities of girls their age. Then you have this one guy who is picture perfect--the high school quarterback who grew up in a quaint town with nice parents, went to college and now has a successful career. Not to mention he's very good-looking, charming, sweet and adorable.
But as perfect as Ben appears, I find it shocking that all of these girls are in love with him. What I mean by that is, they all THINK they are in love with him. How is that possible? Why is it that the girls have to hope Ben chooses them? Because that's what the producers of The Bachelor want them to do? Because the girls want to "win" and become famous? Or, has each girl convinced herself that she honestly loves Ben? I mean, Ben is a catch, but how is it possible that every girl has fallen for him? (which is the case in every season of That Bachelor) It isn't. Which means, some of the girls (probably most of them) are settling. And by the way, this is no reflection on Ben. But every girl cannot possibly think he is her soul mate. It's impossible. That's why I feel like it's a scripted show that although is very entertaining, is sending a bad message to women, which is "You're lucky if he chooses you." It's messing with women's self-esteem.
Just once, I'd like to see one of the girls say to Ben, "You know what? You're a nice guy, you're cute, you're smart, you're kind, but you're not right for me." In other words, dig deep to find their self-esteem, take a deep breath, hold their shoulders back and break up. I guarantee if one girl--just one girl had the guts to be true to herself and do this, she would be a huge hit with viewers. She would land her own show and become America's sweetheart--America's independent, confident beauty who had the guts to do the right thing. The honest thing.
When women are dating (no matter what age) they often have the same mentality as the girls on The Bachelor. What I mean by that is, they go on dates with this attitude that they hope the guy likes them. "I hope he thinks I'm pretty. I hope he thinks I'm smart. I hope he wants to go out with me again." And like The Bachelor, "I hope he chooses me."
Why aren't these women thinking, "I hope I like him. I hope we click. I hope have a lot in common. I hope I want to kiss him at the end of the night." In other words, people with higher self-esteem are more focused on whether or not there is a match--not whether or not they will meet the expectations of their dates.
Dating at any age isn't easy. I get that. But if you go into your dates with better self-esteem, a couple things will happen. First, the men will pick up on it and find you so much more attractive. And secondly, I'm not saying you should play games or be dishonest and pretend you don't have interest in your dates, but having the guts to be honest with yourself will lead you to the man who is truly right for you.
I'm not sure which girl will get the final rose on this season's The Bachelor, but I will say, I hope whoever she is really loves Ben, and not just the idea of "winning" the show or the satisfaction of knowing he chose her. The latter is probably the reason most of The Bachelor couples have broken up shortly after the show ended. Because once the competition (not to mention the beach vacation) is over, the girls probably realize they aren't in love. And why is that? Hopefully because they realize they compromised something: their self-esteem.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.