I'm no fool; I know that all the "love" found on The Bachelor and its female companion, The Bachelorette is -- at most -- skin deep. I know that the contestants' "journeys" are entirely staged and unnatural so when they finally find "love" at the end of the show, it is primarily based on whether or not they were able to overcome their fear of heights on a rock climbing date (a frequent metaphor for overcoming fears in a relationship). And yet, when I watched Jef's proposal to Emily Sunday night, I couldn't help but feel like these two crazy kids might make it, and that perhaps, I would be able to find my own Jef one day.
I'm not a stranger to love. I found puppy love with my first boyfriend in high school, and even though I ended up heartbroken in the end (real heartbroken, not reality TV show "heartbroken"), I felt optimistic that one day I might find love again. Yet, much like Chris on this season, I had felt a little piece of what real love must feel like and then had it taken away so I built up walls around me to protect my heart and began to feel perpetually pessimistic about love, especially in unusual circumstances like The Bachelorette.
In the beginning of Emily's season, I couldn't help but remain cynical. Emily was just on the heels of being dumped by Brad Womack on Season 15 of The Bachelor, and Emily believed that the best way to find love again, after losing love on a reality TV show, was to go on a reality TV show. And the bachelors seemed the typical fare -- handsome, professional, emotionally unstable -- and even though Emily claimed to "have her guard up," I couldn't help but roll my eyes because I knew, all of America knew, she didn't really or she wouldn't be on this show. As the season progressed, however, I could feel my cynicism begin to fade as we were introduced to this season's standout, Jef Holm. Jef started out as the mysterious-entrepreneurial-skateboard riding-bouffant wearing-hipster-Mormon whom I was sure was going to place third because, well, he was just too normal, and normal people just don't win these kinds of shows.
But Jef actually asked Emily questions about life outside of the show (What? Life doesn't end when the cameras stop rolling?). He even talked about Ricki, Emily's adorable 6-year-old daughter, as if she would exist outside of Bachelorette world and you could see that Emily was seeing what all of America was seeing: someone so thoughtful and seemingly stable had slipped through the cracks at the ABC casting call. As Emily and Jef slowly warmed up to each other, I slowly warmed up to the idea that love was possible in the strangest of circumstances.
So when Jef got down on one knee to propose, and Emily paused for a full 10 seconds before answering, I was yelling at the TV, "Say 'yes' dammit! Can't you see that he loves you?!" And at the After the Final Rose special following the finale, it became apparent that Emily and Jef were still in love in real life with pictures of family vacations to prove it! To see that these two people on a fairly lowbrow reality TV show could actually be a normal couple made me hopeful for myself. It was as if I had been on a journey to find love where it didn't end with a final rose, but the belief that maybe I, too, could believe in love.