I enjoy blasting Tove Lo’s song I’m Coming while watching the new reality show Too Hot to Handle (the link compares the show's premise to our current pandemic's isolation as well as Kantian ethics), a show about gorgeous nymphomaniacs stuck on an island who can’t have sex. When after 12 hours the producers initiate the sex ban, the girls start crying and the boys are more saddened that self-gratification is also prohibited. Most of the modelesque contestants stare at each other in bewilderment until the Jesus-hottie from Boulder shouts out, “We can’t even masturbate!” Abstinence is one thing, but banning the act of emission is purely criminal.

Their horror is completely fabricated as in staged, albeit real to them, hence a continuation of fake-reality shows like The Bachelor, season 21 with Nick Viall, that I detailed in NOT YET.  Since I haven’t written in two weeks, and have no intention to start, I’ll be lazy and drop that portion from my novel right here:

   …they turned on an episode of The Bachelor. The syndicated series was halfway through its 21st season with a guy named Nick. Aaron was keenly aware of its manipulative and malignant societal impact, reducing any viewer’s Emotional Stability rating by a few points, but he loved watching unscripted drama. Aaron understood that film/stage/television actors emoted a fake condition that came naturally to the players of The Bachelor/Bachelorette where real tears flowed. 

Tears on screen proved to be cathartic for Aaron, regardless of his mental unhealth, crying at odd moments like during the cat food commercials or the opening credits of the show. The real reason Aaron loved the show was because of Rachel L., who would later be the first Black woman to star in The Bachelorette. As the name indicated, The Bachelor centered on a man who Aaron only tolerated to discover more about women. The star of the show, Nicholas V., that crafty ol’ St. Nick, represented the perfect date, the Perfect Guy, despite the obvious fact that he’s a player, as in a pimp-player and not a board game-player, because he’s kissing, groping, and holding hands with other women directly in view of his main love interest. Nothing drives a woman crazier than being ignored by a man, or at least that’s how modern television depicts its masculine heroes. Add alcohol, promoted liberally by producers, and it’s like gas to a fire. Add interviews, demanded frequently during a menstrual cycle, and it’s like napalm!

Aaron was flabbergasted that anyone would desire and sign up for such a horrid and uncertain experience. The attention and self-promotion probably served as the only ontological validation of people’s existence in this age of social media. And the money was decent.

Aaron secretly resented the star of The Bachelor and he often wondered how any other guy in Bachelor Nation could ever compete with The Guy. The Guy is always super romantic with detailed and planned dates of helicopter rides, boat trips, scuba dives, dancing in the street, and shopping around the historic district because apparently women love a man who arranges detailed plans. Yet, the best quality is that he Listens. The Guy keenly Listens with intense, soul-penetrating-heart-felt-eye-contact, the most romantic action a man can do for a woman. With keen hearing and held gazes, the women are helpless and fall dramatically in love on camera, in front of millions of national viewers. Sadly, the Guy is so distracted by the attention of 29 other women that he doesn’t have time to reciprocate her pronouncement of love, maybe a gentle gesture or a held hand would suffice, but it’s that Listening-with-eye-contact that crushes every time. Of course, the major flaw is that they never fight. Not even when he dumps her. He simply looks away at a perfectly timed moment, captured in a hi-definition close-up, with his still-Listening-but-averted-eye-contact, and the world discovers she’s not the One when he says,

  “I care so much for you, but ___;” or,

    “You are the sweetest, kindest person, but___;” or,

      “I’ve had so much fun with you, but___;” or,

        “You’re perfect, but___;” or,

          “You deserve to be happy (just not with me).”

And soon the viewer realizes The Guy is a master Dumper. Taking one big dump on America. And we can’t turn away. Without a single fight, the drama is not between the Guy and his date, instead the tension exists between the women who are competing for his attention, which ultimately plummets them over the emotional edge. The elimination process is also unfair to the Guy because the poor bastard has to break up repeatedly with 29 women in similar fashion saying,

  “I just don’t feel this in my heart;” or,

    “I just don’t see a long-term commitment with you;” or,

      “My heart is just leading me somewhere else;” or,

        “This just isn’t, like, going anywhere;” or,

          “I just have to be true to myself and I just don’t feel that with you;” or,

            “You deserve better;” or,

              “It’s not you, it’s me (but obviously it’s you).”

It’s the “but” at the end or the “just” at the beginning that signals uncertainty and the inevitable downfall which always occurs a few minutes after the woman reveals her affection for The Guy by saying the words the entire Bachelor franchise centers around:  “I love you” or more importantly  “I don’t love you”. His courteous response is to dump her quickly as the camera rushes up to seize the hi-def close-up of her big-teary-eyed-emotional-breakdown and Aaron wants to reach through the screen and strangle the Guy for being an asshole for the 29th time. But that’s why viewers keep watching, not because anyone wants the Guy to ultimately find happiness, but instead for the terribly cruel emotional journey to find true love. Viewers only want a happy ending when the trip was a nightmare.

For weeks, Aaron watched it alone, every Monday night after locking the door and turning off the phone. He even disconnected the Christmas lights still decorating the window frame still up in February to prevent any side glare on the screen of his weekly dose of emotional dumpage. When Zoë came home from her friend’s house, he offered to re-watch Episode One but she was in one of her anti-gender, anti-normative, feminist phases.

Instead of sitting next to him on the sagging yellow couch, she stormed out of the room and screamed, “If I got a rose, I’d throw it down at his stupid feet, look right at the camera and yell, ‘Fŭck the Patriarchy!’”