You know that old proverb? “Time heals all wounds — but if you’re feeling anxious to fix a broken heart, just audition to be a contestant on ABC’s The Bachelor.”
— Confucius or Marilyn Monroe. Something like that.
I guess people do weird shit when they go through break ups. I can’t even classify what I was dealing with as such a thing. So maybe auditioning to be on a reality dating show wasn’t that out of the norm?
I had been boomeranging that cliche “Are they? Aren’t they?” with a guy I was grossly, sadly, listening-to-Bright-Eyes-over in love with. And he simply didn’t return it.
That was a hard truth I had to accept. He could say he loved me until the sun exploded, but it just wasn’t enough. Because when someone really, really likes you, they want you. They are all in. I was all in for him. But he couldn’t get there for me.
And it was goddamn awful.
One night, he came to my apartment and we walked down the block to a local bar. It was the last night before he left for a portion of the summer on a comedy tour. I gave him a handwritten card with STRICT instructions to not open it until right before his first show. I had it sectioned off: “Read this if you’re nervous” and “Read this if you’re so stoked and you’re doing push ups right now” and “Read this if you want to come home.” I was just really proud of him and I wanted him to know that. As unhealthy as it was, we had become dependent on one another, and not just physically — but emotionally too. It was an addiction, and it took a long time for me to realize this.
But before he officially left, he mentioned a friend of his thought our relationship was leading me on. I was silent. He tried again, “Do you think I’m leading you on?”
I thought back to nights in his bed, holding hands and explaining where scars on our bodies came from. Yes. Yes, you dumbass, I would agree.
And I dropped the inevitable question: “Do you really not see a future with us?”
And he did what he did best. He avoided it and ran his pretty mouth in circles. Not now. He had too many issues. He just couldn’t be that person right now. No. He can’t.
So he boarded a plane with my love letter in his backpack and I locked myself in the bathroom with the fan at full capacity to muffle my crying from my three roommates.
It had long been a running joke in my apartment that I should audition for the next season of The Bachelor. I was prone to getting drunk at parties and challenging any nearby Bro to a rap battle (and I’d usually win). I got off on making a fool of myself, so long as it resulted in laughter from my friends or anyone nearby. I was basically great editing fodder for the “Weird Girl” character in the house.
In the midst of my melodramatic heartbreak, I decided to look up auditions. And sure enough, the next one was 40 minutes from where I lived. The next weekend. I asked my BFF, Johanna Mort, if she would accompany and she angelically agreed.
And there, I decided, I would get on with my life in the most logical way possible: by auditioning for The Bachelor.
The auditions were being held at a Westin Hotel and I kept comparing the whole scenario to check-ins at pageants. It was a lobby of beautiful, spray-tanned women smiling and making pleasant small talk. There was the odd feeling of competition, that everyone was being polite and friendly, but still sizing up everyone in the room.
“I swear, this is exactly what orientation is like at pageants,” I commented to Johanna, my moral support for the day. It all seemed so ridiculous that we decided we were just going to accept being part of the joke. We had listened to a CD on the drive down full of fluffed up Katy Perry songs and I prepared to be a giant, living, breathing LOL. I was an LOL in human form, broken-hearted and auditioning for The Bachelor because, you know, LOL.
I sat next to a woman in her mid-to-late thirties and we exchanged pleasantries. She commented on how young I looked (I was) and it felt slightly territorial. She said she’d auditioned twice before. I kind of wanted to hug her. She was REALLY there for love. It wasn’t an LOL like it was to me, a story to tell of how I decided instead of binging on Netflix, I auditioned for a dating show. That’s the thing that struck me the most — how many women were there because they honestly felt this was the last thing that could help. There was a hunger for love that hung in the air. It made me feel uncomfortable.
I filled out a questionnaire with the typical inquiries about my income (I lied), my job (I lied), what I was looking for (sadly honest), etc. Then groups of women were lined up and each had an individual photo taken. We sat around for most of it, chatting and waiting for names to be called. I started picking out the girls that were “Bachelor” material. And then felt kind of sick with myself. Nothing makes you really recognize your own natural superficiality like being in a room of good looking women and mentally picking out the ones that would “make it on TV.” It didn’t feel good.
The next step in the process was taking small groups of women upstairs to the actual audition room. There was one man there, I assume auditioning for the next season of The Bachelorette prematurely, and in the elevator he proudly announced, “I auditioned for The Amazing Race and Survivor.” A woman next to me commented, “Oh, I auditioned for Survivor too!” These seemed like weird tidbits to just offer. Like, we get it. You want to be on a reality show.
I was eventually brought into a room with a camera and one woman working it. She was very friendly, had a pixie haircut, and seemed like someone I would want to hang out with. Can you imagine? “Girl auditions for The Bachelor, befriends the stand-in camerawoman instead.”
She asked me questions similar to those on the survey I filled out. I started lying through my teeth because what could I say? I’m a 22 year old who graduated from college last month and I’m just really bored right now? Yeah, not going to cut it. I claimed I was employed as a writer (Hey ABC, I am now!!!!) and that I traveled internationally as a spoken word poet. She asked why I wanted to find love through a TV show. I laughed, “I mean, it’s hard any way you slice it, so I don’t see why this would be all that different.”
I made her laugh a few times, we talked about film school, I complimented her haircut, yaddayadda. All in all, it was very casual and conversational. She thanked me and I left to go join Johanna.
We hopped back in the car, gorged on seafood, and spent the rest of the day at the beach.
It was a weird, hilarious experience and the best thing I learned? It isn’t searching for romantic love again that helps heal an aching heart; it’s the moments with your friends and loved ones — those who have been there all along. It’s the laughter with Johanna when we retell the story. It’s the sheer strangeness of that whole day. I didn’t get a rose, but I got something better: a really ridiculous memory with my best friend.
Plus, can you really imagine me with Farmer Chris? Again, a giant LOL.