Admission: so, on one level, I can totally get behind the whole concept of The Bachelor. There's no one perfect person out there for any of us: why not choose from a selection of twenty-five telegenic types within your range of age and attractiveness and pick one as a fiancée? And why not broadcast the whole thing for an audience of millions, with someone else responsible for your wardrobe, makeup and maybe some dialogue?
Okay, don't answer that.
All I'm saying is that in theory, it's not such a terrible idea. But in practice, the formula ain't working so well. In fifteen seasons, the show has produced exactly one wedding. The latest disappointment is Brad Womack: an Austin bar owner who returned for his second tour after famously declining to give anyone that fatal "final rose" the first time around. This season he did: to Emily Maynard. I know their demise isn't quite official, but when one half of a celebrity couple publicly admits things aren't going so well, you might as well consider the divorce papers signed.
So what's the problem? How come The Bachelor producers can make such compelling television -- close to fifteen million viewers tuned in to the latest finale -- but can't find Brad Womack a wife?
A few weeks ago I went to a party with my boyfriend, and noticed him talking to an attractive woman. One thing I appreciate about my boyfriend is that he is an exceptional conversationalist: he can talk to just about anyone. One thing I don't always appreciate is that "just about anyone" sometimes includes attractive women.
"I don't care if you talk to her," I told him when we next got a moment alone, apropos of nothing besides my own internal monologue. Desperately, I tried to play the role of Not Ever Jealous, Completely Confident Girlfriend. "You can make out with her if you want, I don't care, whatever."
Apparently my performance was less than convincing.
"You don't mean that," he replied, guilting me into matching his candor: "Okay fine, you're right, I don't."
In other words, I -- like many emotive humans -- get uncomfortably, absurdly jealous for literally no reason. So I can only imagine the predicament of those Bachelor couples: for whom the early stages of commitment are punctuated by regularly televised images of half the pair making out with someone else.
"Monday nights became a nightmare for them," a friend of Emily's told Life & Style magazine -- that reliable resource of all things essential and important. Shocking that Emily found it difficult to watch her fiancee profess (and display) his affections for a dozen-plus other women on a weekly basis. Who in god's name wants to watch their significant other being intimate with someone else? It's bad enough to know, intellectually, that our partners have had others. But to have to see it? In full, two-dimensional color? With commercials? I'd sooner spend six weeks in Los Angeles freeway traffic than be subjected to such a thing.
Who knows why Brad and Emily are breaking up, if they in fact even are. Who knows why any of reality television's marriages have failed or fizzled; all relationships, even those regularly splashed on magazine covers, maintain their own sort of mystery. I can imagine lots of potential reasons.
But I wouldn't be surprised if that was one. We all know that our significant others have, in their lifetimes, been attracted to other people. But, for the rest of us, it's a whole lot easier to pretend that they haven't.
Follow Elizabeth Tannen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/odysseydater