Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage, Cancer

Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage, Cancer March 23, 2012

I didn’t get a chance to write about an issue I know has been burning in many of your minds: This season’s finale of The Bachelor was one of the worst finales in the show’s history of bad finales. The season seemed to end on a high note — on a mountain, with Ben Flajnik, down on his knee asking Courtney Robertson to be his wife. So far, so good. Immediately following that episode, however, ABC aired The Bachelor: After the Final Rose. In an ideal world, this means that we get to see the couple finally holding hands out in the open, and the producers give us a close up of the ring.

But not this season. The happy couple had already broken up — to no one’s surprise. As the season unfolded, every single viewer could see the train wreck slowly happen: Courtney irritated the women with her snide remarks but turned on the charm when she was around Ben. Did I say “charm”? Well, she showed up at his hotel room in a robe, before leading him to the ocean to skinny dip.

After the skinny-dipping incident, Ben spoke to the camera, “There’s just something about her that I really like.”

You think?

(Men, if we’ve learned anything from The Bachelor, it’s this:  Don’t date a woman who says she can’t stand other women and only has “guy friends.” Believe me.)

When The Bachelor debuted, Kathryn Lopez wrote about the new show:

Overall, the show was silly. And we’d be no less if it had never aired . . . If the girls were a little less gorgeous and the setting and set-up a little less ridiculous, it might pass a little more for reality. But for what it was, it wasn’t too bad. Marriage doesn’t often get an endorsement like it on primetime television, with young people who claim to want “true love” and marriage. And they’re doing more handholding and talking, too, than jumping in and out of bed to find it. . . .

If you were among the 18.2 million Bachelor viewers and then turned on ER or Greta or went to sleep, or otherwise got on with your life, I’m not sure you didn’t walk away with a decent feeling about marriage. “The Bachelor” has a point when he defends the whole concept: “People have met in stranger ways. If the right person for you is in a certain place, even on an incredibly crazy show like this, you’ve got to take the chance.”

I think, however, the ensuing ever-popular seasons have misled millions of American women desperate for relationship. Although the contestants still manage to talk about “finding their forever,” the couples fizzle as soon as the hot camera lights are turned off. Aspiring musicians, actors, and, yes, models seek to increase their platform and fame by making a name for themselves on the show. Overnight dates are common and expected. After the proposal, couples usually move in together.

On this season’s After the Final Rose, the producers — probably trying to end on a high note — brought back former Bachelorette Ashley Hebert and her fiancé  J.P.  Perpetually peppy, they chattered about their future plans and how much they loved meeting on the show. (See? Not all of our matches turn out in disaster!) However, when Chris Harrison asked about the possibility of children, Ashley bubbled, “Well, I always thought it would be romantic to walk down the aisle while pregnant!”

And, honestly, how could a reality show designed to create fast marriages have any more moral substance than a Maury Povich show? The premise forces people to make quick decisions based on superficial conversation with the cameras rolling. The wardrobe consultants dress everyone impeccably. Makeup artists are ready to move in to remove any unsightly perspiration or flaws.

Writer Jill Joiner watched this season before going to care for a friend with cancer. A disease like that is the kind of problem that comes up in life, the kind of agony, for which hours of candlelit conversation can’t prepare a couple. The kind of flaw no amount of concealer can hide. “Forever,” Bachelor fans, doesn’t mean “until we shack up and realize that I can’t stand the way he drinks out of the milk carton.” Forever, means through the wedding, births, schools, jobs, layoffs, bounced checks, sleepless nights, new jobs, moves, deployments, grandchildren, car accidents, sicknesses, and even death. That’s why when Jill saw her friend’s husband of three or four decades gently taking care of his wife, she reflected:

His loving deeds will never be broadcast on the local TV channel and (because of his humility) he’ll never relay them to anyone. The tender integrity conveyed in that foot rub could not be captured in ten years of romantic TV shows, no matter how many exotic trips or luxurious surroundings were in the backdrop.

(Read the rest of her moving tribute here.)

True love has to be based on more than chemistry and the ability to pull off small talk. When these terrible challenges emerge, couples should be able to lock arms and face them down together. I doubt there were any roses in that hospital room. No hot tubs. No plush robes. No bottles of wine. No cameras.

But there was an abundance of true, forever, love — that ever-elusive possession millions of American women seek in all the wrong places and through all the wrong channels.

May we all, somehow, find it.

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