No One Gets that Final Rose Without Going On a Few Group Dates
Written by Zennie Trieu
For newcomers to Bachelor Nation and devoted fans of the franchise alike, this summer’s next few weeks of Rachel Lindsay’s “Bachelorette” season will inevitably provide illuminating examples—however heavily produced in a reality TV environment—on how to not only brand oneself as a sought-after significant other, but also on how to present oneself as an ideal addition to a cast, a company, or any professional situation involving communal collaboration.
Whether they are there “for the right reasons” or not, contestants on “The Bachelor”/”The Bachelorette” might be better equipped for finding love—or, at the very least, some sort of bona fide personal fulfillment—by reading Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet before heading to the iconic (or notorious, depending on who you ask) L.A. mansion for their meticulously recorded romantic escapades. In his seventh letter, Rilke warns his dear friend and fellow poet Mr. Kappus of the potent dangers and frequent disasters of immature love: “Young people […] (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment.” When fools rush in, it is the instinct of the youthful or the inexperienced (or the insecure) to rush themselves—and each other—into mutual crushes, intimacy, a relationship, and even a proposal.
Every season of “The Bachelor” franchise accelerates this already hasty tendency of lovers for millions of TV viewers to follow and indulge in. Yet within the show’s manipulated framework, the colorful multitude of behaviors from the competitors reveals just as much about how well new arrivals to a ritual-based group manage themselves—and get along with each other—as it exhibits the participants’ amorous compatibilities with the season’s lead. Because it has been frequently (and very publically) disclosed that, during filming, contestants spend a far more significant amount of time with one another in their room accommodations than on actual dates with the bachelor or bachelorette, it proves useful to analyze—and, of course, learn from—the contenders’ relations with each other in order to evaluate one’s own habits when at work, while performing with an ensemble, or during the intimidating ritual of joining any kind of professional network or community.
Consider previous contestants who have fallen into the hurried and overly eager trap that Rilke cautions against, and note how a narrow-mindedly narcissistic ego right out of the gates—combined with a disrespectful attitude against others in the same boat—can quickly turn the tables, demote “a frontrunner” for marriage to “the villain” of the season, and lead to an ostentatiously one-sided break-up. While these television personas may very well be altered or even entirely fabricated for ratings and buzz, take into account the real-life examples they represent of people that you, unfortunately, do know in your daily life: the self-absorbed actor in your cast or class that always needs to be the center of attention, the coworker who is always complaining or gratuitously crying about something, the person who joins a group with a stubborn or self-centered or strange idea of how things are already going to go and will pretty much prioritize that plan over all else (read: only do that one thing and nothing else), even if it means making others uncomfortable or annoyed or downright angry.
These people are the antithesis of “a pleasure to meet,” “a pleasure to work with”, “a pleasure to be around.” One shared characteristic between these kinds of individuals is that, more than anything else, they are much more focused on sharing (or, as Rilke deems, scattering) themselves for all to see, essentially closing themselves off from being affected and perhaps even changed by others in their office, in their show company, or by their fellow cast members on a reality TV dating program. For that last one, it sometimes even means sacrificing a chance at a connection with the lead bachelor or bachelorette (you know, the whole point) just to be the most talked about contestant of the fleeting week. The more immature and impatient contestants on “The Bachelor” franchise project an impetuous need to assert themselves as fantastic, important, and irresistible to—well, whomever. It depends on who you ask: is it to emphatically woo the season’s lead, or is it more about captivating the audience and raking in potential future sponsors? As viewers, we can never really know. Some of us may even enjoy these boastful or incredulously self-assured competitors—and, during particularly uninteresting seasons, they may even be the primary reason why we tune in each week—but when it comes to our professional realities, these are the personalities we tend to, quite understandably, avoid at all costs.
Actors, talented or not, may come into an audition and nail a monologue, a side, a song, and/or the interview portion. On set, they may only be concentrated on delivering an enchanting or flattering performance to the audience and making a great connection with the director. But crewmembers and other cast members will always remember nightmarish divas on set or in the rehearsal process, and if you are not a person that people are excited to work with, there will always be—sorry to say—another thespian that can deliver that stunning work without any attitude problems.
Employees that join a reputable company may do so for better pay and for a superior image. But when that ceaselessly competitive nature prevents you from being friendly to anyone except your manager or boss, you have lessened the joy of working at that place for everyone involved—including yourself, as that kind of tearing-others-down-to-build-yourself-up momentum is never sustainable in the long-run. Don’t think that clients can’t sniff a ruthlessly opportunistic personality from a mile away—it’s the ultimate turnoff in any business that requires communication and collaboration.
In the dating world, there is the lover who only wants to hang out with his friends and you and never your buddies, or who doesn’t want to watch anything with you but her favorite series, thus disregarding your own desire to share your individuality and eccentricities. You then question why anyone like that would ever enter a relationship—why not just write a memoir to broadcast your idiosyncratic hobbies and thoughts, then hug your giant pillow or teddy bear late at night for warmth? Connection requires sharing and listening—if you’re incapable of that vulnerable latter half, the only person you can be in a relationship with is yourself.
Listening is difficult, risky, even scary. Being that open to take in another human being’s stories, feelings, and opinions—especially if they differ from yours—brings about the real possibility of being changed. Your own mindset might be different after a conversation with that special person; your heart may start to do funny things that you didn’t expect and have never experienced before. You will be a changed person, and in turn might even have altered another person’s life. It’s frightening but undoubtedly remarkable, but it’s something that, as one would expect, takes a lot of time and patience and appreciation for slowness and suspense. On top of that, the rewards are not always guaranteed. This is what makes listening rather unattractive to young people, as Rilke describes:
"That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, […] does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances."
Acting is collaborative, and so is joining the workforce. Both worlds assume that you are ready to learn from others—not just from a CEO or from an esteemed director, but from every person involved, including the gentleman who restocks toilet paper in the restroom and the lady who touches up your make-up. It is just as much about taking in from others as it is about sharing your wonderful talents, your marvelous ideas, and your (hopefully-better-than-this-guy’s) presence. With patience and an appreciation for the sidelines, your time to shine will come. And when that moment happens, there will be colleagues rooting for you, so long as you have been generous in championing the team, not just yourself.
If you’re looking to work with and within a community, it means that your being is not yet complete, but that there’s enough within you to share and add to a group. Let others help you feel more whole in the professional world, and you’ll never have to navigate the waters of post-grad work alone. If you make a mistake, people won’t have time to judge you if they’re happily—and without hesitation—reaching out a helping hand in your direction. You may not have joined a company or cast to make friends, but if you happen to form some great, mutually beneficial, and truly supportive connections along the way, then your landing of a job or role or internship is already a success.
The New York Times’ “Bachelorette” Bible breaks down the basic premise and long-observed patterns of the franchise, including hackneyed tropes and tiredly expected events that occur every season. When something unanticipated seems to occur, such as an initial skeptic realizing (in real time!) how, even in an insanely produced setting, he was able to develop strong feelings (and have his heart broken), it is the franchise at its most extraordinary to watch and most potent for discussion. It’s an instance of a person letting other people in, finally accomplishing what collaborative humans are naturally disposed to do: affect each other, building memories with one another, and having relationships—romantic or platonic or professional—that only confident, selfless people are capable of creating and keeping.