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February 26, 2004

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Love in the Age of the Bachelorette

Kevin Drum and Robin were both philosophizing today about The Bachelorette and illusions of attachment. Robin, apparently, was taken in by the show; he believed for a few moments that there was real devotion forming. Then, one of the Bachelorette’s suitors proposed, and the thing was so insincere and hammy that the facade was shattered.

I actually think that real emotion does happen on these shows. I really believe that the contestants or whatever you call them feel “in love” by the end of it. Their version of “in love” is strange, synthetic, and fleeting, but it’s not imaginary. I would argue that the same thing happened in high school when I went away for a week or two for special programs and retreats and whatnot. I’ll never forget the NYLC in Washington, D.C., specifically, although this happened in micro all throughout high school.

A few hundred students attended the National Young Leaders Conference, but they split us up into groups of 20 or so for the week. We had field trips and learned about democracy and crafted bills and elected people and whatnot. By the end of the week, we were Frnds4Evr. This group of 20 people was just the tightest, most amazing, most meant-for-each-other group of buddies the world had ever seen, and these relationships would never die.

Oh wait.

Eight years after that week was over, I still remember Katie Sparnecht, and dancing with Pat Germann on the last night, and quietly wanting this Polish guy Dave Swaintek, who was not-so-quietly hooking up with this girl Ashley. I remember Mormon Will, and my soft-spoken friend Mike. I knew these folks for (I think) nine days. There was enough genuine attachment there that vivid pictures of these folks are stuck in my minds. But the friendships were strange, synthetic, and fleeting.

Hasn’t that ever happened to you?

mthompson-sig.gif
Posted February 26, 2004 at 11:51 | Comments (7) | Permasnark
File under: Media Galaxy

Comments

My friend Len often cites a social axiom known as Plunck's Constant (named after some kid named Plunck, I guess): People get freaky on trips.

NYLC definitely wasn't the only youth retreat where people forged seemingly-indestructible bonds of friendship (and romance!) in fourteen days. My version was the Michigan Summer Institute. I still remember Lesley, Esther (the Asparagus Queen of something-something county!), Alton Pelowski (who I still know, incredibly), Supendeep Dosanjh -- and I can vividly picture so many more whose names I've forgotten. Especially the Peer Group Leaders (read: camp counselors) who were like rock stars.

Yeah, it was pretty intense.

But I think I disagree that this is the dynamic I saw on The Bachelorette. The attachments formed between teenagers during these programs, while bizarre, are also naive and spontaneous; each group honestly believes it has bonded in a totally new, totally amazing way.

But on The Bachelorette, what ultimately freaked me out was how conscious they all were of their roles in the pre-ordained drama.

In the end, it seemed like this dude Ian only proposed because he realized it would be a bad ending to the show if he didn't. Matthew, his rejected rival, delivered a soliloquy in the limo that was regurgitated, I think, from every movie and TV drama he had ever watched: "Was I wrong. To put myself on the line? To make myself. Vulnerable. Like that?"

Whaddya think? Weren't we different?

Posted by: Robin on February 27, 2004 at 02:17 PM

god yes. i think it's because there is a finite number of choices... rather than being paralyzed by (ha ha) an infinite set of options, when you're at "camp" or "summer program" or "reality television" or what have you, there are a mere dozen (or so) potential, um, possibilities. so it takes very little time to determine the best match(es), and the rest of the summer (or series) is devoted to, er, cultivating *those* relationships, rather than the relentless, interminable (futile?) pursuit of an ideal.

Vive le marché du snarque!

Post this, o mighty Snarkmatrix.

Just this summer I attended the wedding of a girl who I met at NYLC. Ours was the Garfield group and we worked together to publish a whopping two issues of the "Garfield Gazette."

Two years after the conference we briefly dated, even though she lived half a continent away.

Aw, summer programs.

Posted by: Dan on March 1, 2004 at 03:58 PM

Man, did they really have so many groups that they needed to work their way down the presidential prestige ladder to Garfield?

(Or am I just ignorant, and Garfield is in fact an unsung paragon of presidential virtue?)

And how did it feel to be the Garfield group when other kids were throwing down with Lincoln and Roosevelt?

Posted by: Robin on March 1, 2004 at 05:09 PM

I can't remember all the groups that year. But I'm certain there was also a McKinley group. So I think they were doing an "assassinated/died-in-office" theme for the groups.

Cheery, eh?

Posted by: Dan on March 1, 2004 at 05:50 PM

Well, it certainly underscores the theme of service to, and sacrifice for, one's country.

Either that or the theme of wow, medical care was really poor in previous centuries.

Posted by: Robin on March 1, 2004 at 07:58 PM

Very good site, congratulations!

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