The Bachelorette starts every season with a montage of what’s to come. The drama, the travel, and of course the highly anticipated proposal. They show a silhouette of the dramatic moment, where a man gets down on one knee, while on a cliff, next to the ocean or in an old castle. Throughout the course of the season, the show gives us tidbits of the final day. Building anticipation, that through the drama, and the potential couple on dates, only one man will find one woman, to spend the rest of their lives together.
As much as the show reinforces traditional gender norms and highlights the social monogamy our culture has framed as being ideal, both have also taught me a few more subversive lessons:
Watching Becca Kufrin break up with Jason in Thailand after a fun and romantic day illuminated something I like to pretend isn’t true. Jason asked Becca if she was sure about her decision, and her response was “no”. At this point, I was like, “you go girl”, because I found myself watching this sad and surprised man and thinking – “just spend the night with him, maybe something will click”. Becca asked him if she could walk him out, and in that moment, it hit me because you can’t be “nice” and follow your heart. Young girls especially are taught that “being nice” means you can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. They are taught to be aware of the people around them, and make sure not to be in the way. Women are expected to offer to help, to comfort, to emotionally fix. This doesn’t work if you’re trying to “follow your heart” or “listen to your gut”. If you really want to follow your intuition, you must prioritize your feelings above everyone else. I’m not saying be mean: you must listen to people when they talk, use empathy, and tell the truth. But there is no way that is going to align with what everyone else wants. The Bachelorette for all its flaws, does a good job of putting contestants in situations where they must realize this.
We are all polyamorous.
Simply polyamorous means to have multiple loves. Becca tells Chris Harrison that she is in love with two men, and I want to ask her, where do you expect that love to go when you choose one?
I always thought that once I was in a long term committed relationship with someone I really loved, everything else would burn out. But that is not how it works. We might commit to one person, end up finding “the one” at the end of the day and we might not. Either way, as we live our lives, we weave complicated webs of love. The best friend we don’t talk to anymore, the ex we keep in touch with, and the other ex we pretend doesn’t exist, except for when we get drunk and go on Facebook. All these people had things about them that attracted us. We had dynamics of communication that made us feel connected. There are parts of each past relationship that you bring into the present one, and threads that connect you to your past loves, even as you choose monogamy.