Talk of the Quad: Bowdoin Bachelors and Bachelorettes
I have recently found a new solace for my brain in Bowdoin’s constant parade of raucous academia: “The Bachelor.” This is not my first interaction with ABC’s reality dating show where one person simultaneously dates 25 roommates in a month long scramble to find love. I attempted to get on the bandwagon last year, but found myself unable to stomach the premise. For me, it represented a total abandoning of healthy relationships and finding real love. One year later, I decided to give it a shot, recognizing that despite the tag as “reality television,” this is not how life works. However, as I watch more and more episodes, I have begun to notice ways in which the scripted Bachelor/Bachelorette culture of romance has seeped into reality, even here at Bowdoin.
Upon reviewing candidates on seasons of both the Bachelor and the Bachelorette, there is only one true constant: they are all wickedly good-looking people. While this makes for more profitable TV, it reinforces the narrative that the most important factor in any sort of romantic relationship, from making out to marriage, is physical attraction. I think that it is safe to say that there is not a ton of emotional discovery on the shows. By the time contestants are proposing, they have spent maybe five hours of one-on-one time together.
While I don’t believe that the Bachelor/Bachelorette are the social artifacts that drive the core of our romantic culture here at Bowdoin, the framework of these shows provides an extreme that can make our own behaviors a little more apparent. While most of the people here aren’t planning on going from meeting to matrimony in five short weeks, there is a culture of romance that relies disproportionately on the physical, and sidelines any sort of emotional connection as an added bonus.
The first time I became aware of this at Bowdoin was a Friday night out last year. Personally, I really value weekend nights and going out as an opportunity to meet new people and maybe to spend more time getting to know my smile-n-wavers: people that I’ve been introduced to and say hello to, but have never actually talked to. I was in a basement and saw someone spill their drink all over one of my smile-n-wavers. I went up to ask if she was alright, and she cut me off in the middle of my inquiry to give me the once over before informing me that she was “not interested in hooking up with me.” At the time I was largely thrown off and walked away, because this person apparently had a very goal-driven night.
Except perhaps the brusqueness, I don’t think that this is a wholly uncommon interaction here. I think that people view their nights out as a condensed version of the Bachelor, where the goal is to find love through physical attraction. The fact that the first thing this person thought was happening when someone approached her was that they were swooping in for some undisclosed physical mouth assault is troubling. Dating and romance were things that had never crossed my mind with regards to this person. Her once-over scan deemed me not a physically apt enough candidate to engage in any sort of romance.
What is troubling here is that I believe that there are huge parts of attraction that originate in people’s personalities, their humor and whether you enjoy being around them. I don’t want to deny that being physically attracted to someone is important in physical intimacy and that there are plenty of physically intimate situations that don’t necessitate a deep emotional connection. But I think that approaching your romantic life based solely on a lustful desire of pure physical attraction is really damaging. Many people go into spaces that have potential for finding some iteration of romance, filter out potential partners based on the presence, or lack thereof, of immediate attraction, and hope that perhaps over a conversation at breakfast the following morning they might find some emotional overlap.
Additionally, although my experiences as a straight male have been with women here at Bowdoin, this is absolutely a phenomenon that goes in all directions. I honestly don’t think that any group is necessarily guiltier than another, and that everyone could benefit from thinking about this a little more.
I believe that many more people could find the sorts of relationships they are looking for if, as a campus, we separate ourselves from considering the Bachelor/Bachelorette as television that represents reality. Thinking someone is physically attractive may not have any bearing on what one looks for in relationships (most people choose friends, people they like spending time with, based on traits other than physical attractiveness). But looking for someone who you emotionally connect with, and finding that attractive, will most probably result in a stronger foundation for anything from a hook-up to a committed relationship.
Simon Cann is a member of the Class of 2019.