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One of my greatest pleasures in life is watching The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or by far the best of all, Bachelor in Paradise. I turn Bachelor night into date night with the hubs, and we analyze the compatibility of the ladies; or I pour myself a giant glass of red wine, chat with my friends online, and analyze every detail of the dates. Then I cross-reference Twitter comments with my favorite spoiler reports.
On shows where multiple women vie for the love of one man, the men cast as the main bachelor usually have a few dreamy qualities, including stunning good looks, the perfect family, a dream job, and most of all, he's ready to dedicate the rest of his life to his future wife. I admit, there've been a few duds, but I can't help but dream of a life full of helicopter rides and Caribbean vacations.
That's why, when I met a real life reality-show bachelor, I was already planning out our perfect life together.
About a year ago, I was invited to a TV network's press preview of their upcoming shows. I had just spent an exhausting day at work, my friend had bailed on me, it was a cold winter day, and I did not feel like going. But I was fully single with nothing else to do, so I forced myself to walk the three blocks it took to get there from work and committed myself to 30 minutes of mingling.
The event was at a quiet bar in midtown, decorated in red velvet, with champagne greeting me at the door. Within a few minutes, I situated myself near the small stage, There was a five-minute video presentation of the network's new shows, during which I sucked back another glass of champagne to cure my awkwardness. I was planning my exit when a reality-show bachelor competition came up in the video.
This new bachelor met all the criteria: super-hot, super-rich, and super-ready to settle down. But what made this bachelor show different was the show was hosted by his pastor, and his mother helped select the ladies. If that didn't say serious marriage material, I don't know what did. I was almost in love.
There was a montage of aggressive women initiating sex in the pool, sex in the hot tub, sex in the bedroom, and sex on their dates. I felt bad for him — the ladies were vultures, and he needed me to save him, I thought. As it ended with a possible proposal, I sucked down another glass of champagne, mesmerized by the new show.
The lights at the event turned up. Lo and behold, the bachelor, Donnie*, his mother, and his pastor were in the room and ready to mingle with us. Donnie was even better looking in person, and I admired him from across the room with a group of online journalists who'd let me latch on to them.
After another glass of champagne, I took off my cardigan and mustered the guts to walk over to Donnie. It's my job to talk to talent to see if I want to book them on TV shows, so I kept it professional and fun
"I have to know, did you find love?" I asked.
He laughed. "Are you kidding?"
"So you didn't?"
He smirked. "I legally can't tell you."
And with that, he pulled me onto the dance floor. I was spinning, literally and figuratively. Yes, I'm a television producer and know that reality shows are "produced," but I held out hope that at least the love shows had a kernel of truth. How can you fake love? I can't — I've tried. He obviously wasn't in love. Maybe we'd fall in love.
The more we danced, the more I planned out our life. I'd meet his mother and his pastor that night, I'd spend every weekend commuting to his house an hour-and-a-half away, and we'd get married and have beautiful babies. I was simultaneously crushed that the show wasn't real and riding the high of having met my very own bachelor.
I wanted to leave him wanting more, so I left the dance floor sooner than I wanted and rejoined my new journalist friends. The girls crowded around me, expressing jealousy and asking for details. I was trying to figure out what were lies and what were the truths.
Ultimately, I determined he did not find love on the show; it wasn't even in the realm of possibilities. The show was completely fake. And he was single.
Two hours later, I put the cardigan on, tried to make eye contact with Donnie, and when that didn't work, I walked to the door. I was almost out when he grabbed me and asked for my number.
Days went by and Donnie never called. Eventually, his show stopped airing and I forgot about him.
Winter turned to spring and I met Thomas, the love of my life, now my husband. It was a whirlwind romance — no previous love had ever compared, and we married quickly. I fell head over heels and talked about it to the point of exhaustion. My Twitter feed and Instagram were virtual love letters to my husband.
So imagine my surprise when, a year later, Donnie tweeted at me.
Mr. Bachelor's tweet was confusing and misspelled: "umm just say your message ans your number didn't work."
I was amused and confused. My name changed after I got married — did Donnie not notice that? My timeline was full of photos of my husband and me. Did he miss that, too? I chose to ignore the tweet.
A day or two later, Donnie connected with me on LinkedIn. Thomas and I speculated about his intentions. What was he doing? Then I received a message on LinkedIn: "I would never find love on that show and cant understand how or why we didn't connect. feels like I missed out on something special, did you give me your card or number. cell is 302-XXX-XXXX, if your comfortable of course".
Old me, the unmarried but possibly-in-a-relationship me, would have continued the conversation with him and walked the line of potentially cheating. But this version of me was happy and basking in the glow of being a newlywed.
There's no way Donnie did not know I was married at this point. Maybe he wanted to do business together since I worked in television? I was confused, but I responded by telling him how flattered I was and that I was now happily married.
He responded, "I know I saw that and very happy for you and him. I might have done you a favor or maybe not. I was getting pulled in so many directions with that and with my personal life. But since then I've starting creating some show ideas and looking to get back in tv and have a very interesting book coming out. Anyway we can talk? Maybe all isn't lost for us atleast doing some business together".
I never responded to that message, but I did tease my husband and bask in the glory that Donnie was mine if I wanted him.
It was like having my very own version of a dating reality show, full of lies, manipulation, and smoke and mirrors. After all of this, I'm still hopeful, or delusional, that bachelor-based reality show could end in true love with the right casting. I'll be watching.