The Bachelor: when you don't conform

I have a confession to make. I watch The Bachelor. And The Bachelorette. I think it might be my guiltiest pleasure, but I just can't help myself. Mindless, crazy, reality television is sometimes awesome. Glad I got that off my chest.

This season of the Bachelor was one of the most controversial. Juan Pablo is pretty much a d*ck. I won't go into all the details, but over the course of the show he's shamed the women he hooked up with, repeatedly used his daughter for questionable decisions and behavior, said "vulgar" things to women, and generally came across as an emotionally stunted boy-man.

All that being said, the finale really struck me (I swear this is going somewhere). For those of you that missed it, he didn't propose. He gave the woman who had professed her love for him the rose, and told her he liked her a lot. On the "After the Final Rose" he was repeatedly pressured to tell his girlfriend that he loved her - questioned over and over about what his real feelings for her are, whether he loves her, why can't he just TELL HER THAT HE LOVES HER?? The hysteria and panic that accompanied this obsession with love really creeped me out.

Here's the thing: he was a d*ck. He wasn't a great man. He used the excuse "I'm just being honest" way too often to excuse bad behavior and mean comments. BUT. Can we stop for a moment and respect the fact that he didn't succumb to the pressure to propose? That sometimes real love stories take years to develop? That it's actually way more offensive for a man to propose because he's "supposed to"?

I love The Bachelor. It's ridiculous. But the extent to which the producers cling to this fairytale, this quest for love, this perfect ending is really quite frightening to me. Hopefully audiences know better than to trust in it. But when a host is looking at a couple who are dating, with one person who has said "I love you" and the other who hasn't and says in all seriousness "I don't know what I'm looking at!!" - what does that tell people? Are you kidding?? There are probably thousands of couples around the world experiencing and living that situation. Relationships are very often unbalanced. They continue to function. They continue to be happy. They're valid.

I guess where I'm going here is that I get really sad when the wedding industry (including wedding reality shows) so strongly perpetuates this fairy tale. That things have to be a certain way. That love looks a certain way. That love has to be clean, black & white, in love or not in love. I think it makes those in uncertain situations feel even worse, or doubt themselves. It makes the people who want a proposal from their partner anxious. It makes the person about to say "I love you" even more fearful that it might not be returned. More broadly, it plays into all these notions of perfection when it comes to weddings - the perfect day, the perfect dress, the perfect ring. I'm so tired of it.

I get that I'm talking about a really silly reality show. But it's on national television. And I think even ridiculous shows should draw the line somewhere and recognize that the world (and your crazy show) won't and doesn't fall apart when relationships are messy, unbalanced, and imperfect.

Juan Pablo, you're quite the d*ck, but I'm glad you didn't propose if you weren't feeling it.