Now that divorce is common and kids often grow up being shuttled between two houses, it's easy to become disheartened about the chances of finding true love, but for the hopeless romantics among us, no challenge is too great when it comes to finding The One. Which is why, if anyone happened to drive by my house a couple of weeks ago, they would have seen a girl in a bikini standing on her porch in 45-degree weather holding a digital video camera and talking to herself.
I was auditioning to be a contestant on the 10th season of ABC's The Bachelor, the matchmaking reality show in which one bachelor sifts through a slew of "hopeless romantics" each week. Potential winners get a rose; the truly hopeless get the boot. Eventually, the show is narrowed down to a two-woman, one-man season finale full of overwrought romantic posturing and lots of bawling. The whole thing is hosted by smooth-talking Dallas native Chris Harrison.
As a serious investigative journalist with a finger on the pulse of pop culture, I knew it was my duty to join the thousands of women trying out for roles on this weekly televised national disaster. Besides, it's not like my soul mate was going to turn up at the bottom of my glass during last call at the Goat.
Maybe, just maybe, I could find my true love in front of millions of prime-time viewers. But before there ever was a bikini shot on my porch, there was the first round of auditions at the W Hotel, home to $10 valet parking and Ghostbar, the luxury nightspot with the world's greatest view of a highway.
First off, understand that high-powered, educated career women like me have dates seven nights a week with the most eligible men in town. But if I'm going to go try out for a TV show, I go hard. I decided on my character: career-driven bitch ready to step on as many blond bimbos as it takes. For the first round of auditions at the W, I got dolled up in my professional business-lady best. Nothing says "give me that freaking rose" like a nicely ironed pair of slacks.
There are a lot of rules when it comes to attempting to become a part of reality television, the first of which is to arrive early in order to beat out the teeming hordes of your fellow attention whores. The second rule of reality television auditioning is to listen carefully.
As I filled out forms detailing my most painful heartbreaks (Ryan Landers, 10th grade, dumped me because riding around in his best friend's yellow Geo Storm was more interesting than watching romantic comedies in my parents' living room. I cried for days.), I gleaned several valuable pieces of information: The new Bachelor is "an officer and a gentleman." Andy, a corn-fed boy from Pennsylvania, is a doctor, avid triathlete and naval officer. He is a major hottie. These were all things I could have learned by watching the local news that morning, but I had more important things to do, such as watch funny cat videos online.
I signed the necessary documents, turning over ownership of my soul, firstborn and stuffed sheep collection to ABC in the event I divulged any super-secret goings-on, and waited my turn. One by one, bachelorettes were ushered into meeting rooms. They walked in confident, and they walked out dazed. I can't tell you what happened when I went inside, because I want to keep my stuffed sheep collection.
On the way out, I passed a tall brunette on the stairs.
"They make you take your top off," I told her, wondering just how far these women were willing to go. ABC had asked for no such thing, of course, but what's a good day without striking fear into the heart of your peers?
"All the way?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"Did you do it?" she asked, hesitating on the stairs.
Visibly miffed, possibly shaken, the brunette trudged on. Cruel? Maybe. But this is a competition for lifelong happiness, not mere millions of dollars in prize money. I am career-driven bitch, hear me roar.
Outside, I waited for the valet to bring around my car (with custom dangling front bumper and Pollock-esque bird-poo windshield pattern) and watched dolled-up girls in miniskirts shuffle into the lobby, expressions of nervous hope on their faces. Perhaps I'd been too harsh in judging—and lying about nudity to—my fellow bachelorettes. It does seem ridiculous to go on national television and stand among a pack of 25 women hoping that some self-important jerk you barely know picks you to be his one and only. But is it any stupider—or different—than spending two hours getting dressed, going to a packed bar in a cute top and making eyes at a guy across the room just because he looks good in those jeans?
Friday nights across the country find women claiming, "I just want to dance!" and calling their girlfriends for trips to skeevy nightclubs. But they don't just want to dance. If they just wanted to dance, they'd put on dirty sweatpants and an ex-boyfriend's Alpha-Wang-Omega rush T-shirt and crank up the MOViN' 107.5 FM in their living rooms. No, they want the hottest guy in the joint to buy them two martinis, talk intelligently about the rise and fall of communism in Eastern Europe and marry them in two years. Dear, dear girls, you do not "just want to dance" in 3-inch heels.
So, in reality, the Bachelor folks are doing women a service. They went out and found the cream of the generic dude crop, gave him a wardrobe assistant and created a dating environment in which women are incredibly unlikely to be slipped a roofie and left for dead behind a dance club. Everybody wins—except, of course, those who lose.
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Sadly, more than a week went by and I hadn't heard from the keepers of my soul mate. In the meantime, I'd had a tonsillectomy and was spending my days doped up on liquid painkillers, which helped dull the pain of knowing I'd never get to appear on network TV in a hot tub with 20 other women and one dude. But then, late one evening, my cell phone rang. Los Angeles area code. They wanted me to send in a video.
In my delirium, I managed to round up a camera and squeak out five minutes of Andrea's Awesome Life, starring me, my two cats and a swimsuit I've worn twice in four years. But I'd lost 10 pounds courtesy of the tonsillectomy (existence of a benevolent God confirmed) and figured it would help make a convincing argument against allowing a 23-year-old crazy cat lady to turn into a 93-year-old crazy cat lady dying alone in her smelly apartment.
Then again, the odds aren't so good for Bachelor couples, who have a 33 percent success rate. Counting the two who just united on the Bachelor: Rome, just three of nine pairs are still together.
Of course, I can't tell you what happened next, because that would mean the potential turnover of soul, firstborn, stuffed sheep, etc., but that's how the reality television game goes, right? You commit to having your mind numbed on a regular basis by mindless chatter and vague promises of nudity, only to be disappointed in the end when you find the whole thing's over and you never really cared in the first place. Oh, wait, that's not reality television. That's dating.