Last night, veteran Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise contestant Nick Viall began his journey on The Bachelor's 21st season. Greeted by 30 women, 15 of whom happened to be wearing red dresses, Nick seemed earnest in his quest to find a woman with whom he can spend the rest of his life. He's a smart guy, and has definitely improved himself since his first appearance in the franchise two years ago. Though he's no Sean Lowe (former Bachelor star and forever love of my life), Nick is the kind of romantic hopeful that America will be able to root for. His adorable comment about wanting to "give America a happy ending," which led him to blush in embarrassment after realizing what he'd just said, was one example last night of the kind of wordy-but-sincere Bachelor we can look forward to cheering on.
Of course, this season's cast of eager women did not disappoint with their limo entrances. There was Lacey, the girl who rode in on a camel because she'd "heard you like a good hump." Then of course, there was professional basketball dancer Jasmine, who brought Neil Lane along with a couple of engagement rings to make sure Nick got his proposal this time around. The best of the night? Well, who wasn't obsessed with dolphin-shark Alexis, the girl in the shark costume who hilariously (and perhaps sincerely?) insisted she was a dolphin the whole night? ( Hey Alexis, just so you know, sharks have gils, mammals dolphinately do not!)
Yes, the world of The Bachelor is as rich as ever with engaging contestants, bloated cocktail parties, crying cast members, and, of course, drama. But, these constants of the show were simply the hilarious and familiar backdrop of what really stood out about the episode. Of the 30 contestants 36 year-old Nick Viall met last night, only three of them were 30 years-old or older. 16 of the women were 25 years-old or younger, and four of those women were 23 years-old. Watching 23 year-old Hailey ask Nick, "do you know what a girl wearing underwear says?", When he said "no," she replied, "me neither" I couldn't help but wonder what 23-year-old girls, my age, were doing on this show.
Sure, the dating world is hard. Relationships suck, and plenty of the time they end in disaster. But are these young women in their early twenties so fed-up, so done with the real world dating scene, that they have to turn to America's most well-known match-making show to find true love? After all, the world watched Carrie Bradshaw search well into her thirties for the "perfect" guy, and Rachel Green of Friends and Robin Scherbatsky of How I Met Your Mother didn't find their "Mr. Rights" until their thirties as well. Ok, so maybe some of these Bachelor girls are truly ready to settle down with The One at 23, but shouldn't you give it a little more time out there in Tinder and Bumble land before breaking out the big guns? Come on ladies, stop making me feel like such a dating failure for being mid-way through 23 and not yet booking Disneyworld for my dream-wedding.
And then there's the whole "I'm dating a guy who's dating 30 other women thing." It's never been that big a deal on The Bachelor franchise shows. They've somehow always managed to somewhat tastefully gloss over the multiple sexual partners and kissing more than five people within a 2 hour timespan issues, among others. But, beyond the world of The Bachelor, out here in reality, where there aren't red roses to be fought over and helicopters to be taken away from bad dates in, isn't dating more than one person at the same time just as much of an issue? How many times have you found yourself caught up in a situation where the guy or girl couldn't quite choose between you and someone else? How many times have you cried over the person you wanted to be with not being able to make up his/her mind? How many real-life Bachelor contestants are there right now, out there in the world, frustrated and teary-eyed because the person they think is "The One" isn't sure if they agree?
Well, maybe getting too much into your own dating life isn't exactly what you want to do when watching sappy and outrageous fantastical dates on The Bachelor, but honestly I have always found myself considering my own circumstances while (yes-I admit it) never missing an episode of the Bachelor franchise. After all, when you see Nick Viall, worn-down and cautious after putting his heart out there twice before, don't you identify with his reluctance and fear about being rejected again? When you watch the dolphin shark girl walk around so confidently in her costume without worrying about whether Nick can see her body or will think she's too crazy, don't you wish you could be that carefree and self-assured? And, as will hopefully happen for Nick and one lucky lady at the end of this season, when you watch the Bachelor get down on one knee in the extremely beautiful exotic location of wherever to propose to the girl he's fallen completely in love with after like three dates, even though it's ridiculous and rushed and possibly going to end in a break up within the year, don't you too get teary-eyed, if not for just a second, seeing how happy and in love they seem to be?
Maybe The Bachelor isn't real, and maybe most relationships on it aren't meant to last a lifetime, but every once in a while, it produces a couple with real love between them. And perhaps the reason this show is now on its 21st season is because at the heart of it all, even with the drama and the staging and everything else that's not-quite-real, aren't most of us looking just as earnestly for "The One" as Nick Viall is?
So here's to the new Bachelor, Nick Viall. Though it's been rocky getting here, may your journey be filled with more ups than downs, but still with enough drama and tears and fighting to keep us watching. And of course, may you find that girl you've been searching so long for! So here'ss to watching Nick's adventure and maybe learning a little bit about ourselves along the way. Happy Bachelor season, everyone!