Riding Coattails: Blinders Off!

“You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet.”
–Cher, Clueless

It’s been almost a week since Jen Schefft said no to both of her remaining suitors, John Paul and Jerry. Even though I was a huge John Paul fan, I predicted that Jerry would be the last man standing and indeed he was. However, after listening to (and initially interrupting) his heartfelt proposal, Jen asked Jerry to hold that thought and told him she needed more time to make a decision. In the show’s finale last Monday, Jen gave her answer live and shocked a whole lot of people. And while I understand that this season of The Bachelorette, with its charismatic leading woman and team of strapping young studs, came to a conclusion that disappointed many, I was actually pleased with the results.

I’m a big romantic and have been happily married for almost five years. I love being in love and I enjoy watching other people experience the same kind of happiness I’ve been lucky enough to have with my husband. And while I believe it’s possible to meet one’s match and make things work after knowing each other for only a short time, those situations are the exception rather than the norm. From what I’ve seen among my friends, couples who force things to move along too quickly often end up getting burned. Two people can have the best of intentions and a fiery chemistry, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be compatible for the long haul. And one of the best ways to find the person that fits is to spend loads of time together. I cringed as Jen’s best friend Michelle told her, “Don’t try to think about what the outcome is.” That’s the worst love advice I’ve ever heard.

I also agree with John Paul’s oft-repeated sentiment that love requires a certain degree of “blind faith.” People and circumstances can change. Even the strongest love cannot always withstand the difficulties that life presents us. But for Pete’s sake, there’s no need to jump into marriage with a near stranger just so that America can heave a wistful sigh and murmur, “Ain’t love grand?”

Reality dating shows intrigue me because the producers are trying to forge lasting relationships in a candlelit vacuum. The participants take leave from their jobs, ditch their daily lives, and cut off almost all contact from their families and friends to embark on a quest for true love. It’s like some twisted sociological experiment and the subjects are asked to jump through a number of ridiculous hoops to arrive at a destination that may not even exist once the experience ends. I mean, Jen’s beaus had to play basketball, race to the top of the Empire State Building, write her cheesy love letters, and endure the humiliation of getting dumped on national television (except Fabrice, of course). But what puzzles me even more than the nutcases who created this scenario are the people who are willing to put themselves through this.

For what? Jerry himself stated in one of the earlier episodes that he was not suffering for female companionship back in L.A. I would wager that the other guys were in similar positions, given that they were all attractive, upstanding citizens with jobs, homes, and good teeth. And Jen firmly stated that she wasn’t interested in dating men who got on the show to be famous or launch their acting careers. OK, then who do you expect will come on the show? With less than a 4% chance of emerging with the girl in hand, these guys would have better odds settling down with some random woman they met at the laundromat or in their Cajun cookery class.

And what about Jen? I hold an enormous amount of respect for her because she must have been under tremendous pressure to accept Jerry’s proposal. And if she didn’t dig any of the 25 guys on the show, fine. I thought that it was mean-spirited of one of the audience members to ask her what it was going to take to satisfy her, implying that she didn’t consider them good enough to be her husband. The quality of the guys was clearly not the issue. It was the totally manufactured, pressure cooker environment that freaked Jen out, and understandably so. While I didn’t take pleasure from watching Jen cry, I wasn’t surprised by it, either. Her reaction to the situation was healthy and her final decision was a wise one. It took a lot of courage to walk away from that, especially knowing that she was hurting two worthy men in the process.

I can shower Jen with sympathy, but I am also incredibly curious as to why she agreed to do this show again in the first place. Perhaps she thought that if she were in the driver’s seat, the outcome would be successful. Or maybe she felt that since she was already in the public eye, with rumors about her dating Apprentice winner Bill Rancic, she may as well stay there and let ABC foot the bill for another really nice ring. But given the amount of abuse she has taken in the press and by the show’s butt hole host, Chris Harrison, I can’t imagine that she considers the experience worth it.

As for the boys, I was impressed with their conduct during the finale. Both John Paul and Jerry spoke kindly about Jen and graciously wished her well. Jerry was even able to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, telling the audience, “I’m dating Andrew. Sorry, Fabrice.” John Paul appeared to be enjoying his celebrity status when he walked onto the set, throwing his arms up in the air and grinning as he watched a replay of Jen dumping him. I have no doubt that both dudes will go on to find the woman of their dreams. And maybe Jen’s real problem is that she’s searching for the exact same thing and just doesn’t know it yet. Just a theory, folks.

SirLinksalot: The Bachelorette