The Bachelorette

Edited: Since giving the final rose to Shawn Booth, it has been intriguing to watch this couple on social media. While I don’t agree with their worldview on dating, I have to give credit where it is due. I’m not going to lie, I love seeing their pictures. Granted, they are still on a publicity tour of sorts and not yet entrenched in real life, but, they seem to have mastered an element that many couples lack: fun! There’s no boredom here; just a lot of energy and grabbing life for all its worth while they get to know each other in the “real world.” 

At times, watching ABC’s The Bachelor or The Bachelorette can make you feel like you need a shower to get rid of the “yuk.” Specifically, when the contestants are asked to participate in an activity (usually involving their own nudity) they are clearly not comfortable with, or when the lead makes out with multiple people on a group date, or has sex on a single date when there are still nine guys left, or sex in the fantasy suite with all remaining contestants; it just feels gross. Season 11’s Kaitlyn Bristowe is in this position and the message boards are hot with slander against her. Degrading name calling runs amok with others responding back, “If you don’t like her, or the show, then why watch?” Or, “Why is everyone so shocked she had sex; this is 2015!” And, “Sex is not shameful; women should be allowed the same rules as men.”

Kaitlyn herself said as much in a recent interview on Good Morning America. But one comment from her intrigued me. “I think people can see that I’m an in-the-moment-kind-of-gal.” She went on to say, “I wonder if I would have waited the ten days until the fantasy suite and then not told anyone; I don’t think there would be all the backlash.” During an interview with E! News she said the double standard over sex between men and women “blow my mind,” adding that “I’m 30 years old; I’m a grown woman just trying to be true to myself. Just be who you are.”

I suspect the national conversation is using the wrong rubric to decipher this show and Kaitlyn is caught in the melee. Much of the debate seems to be centered on the question, sex or no sex in a relationship. I disagree with this direction. I think there would be less confusion if the debate was centered on boundaries in a relationship. Here’s why:

The premise of the show is to find a husband. Granted, given the fact the show is filmed at warp speed and the lead must “date” 20 or so men in front of the world in exotic locales wearing fabulous gowns with hair and makeup people following her everywhere she goes, it can be more comedy than serious marriage material. But, the producers have set marriage as the premise of the show and herein lay the problem: the confusion is that people are debating sex in relationships but the show promotes finding a spouse.

A lasting marriage commitment takes trust, protection, safety, conviction, discipline, selflessness, grace, boundaries; this is love. In order to find a healthy spouse for a marriage that lasts the duration, these qualities must be exhibited while dating so you know what you are getting into. In my opinion, this is where Kaitlyn made a mistake and why there is such uproar.

“Living in the moment” is a scary character trait to bring into a marriage. Let’s say the wife goes on a business trip, or works in an office, or frequents a restaurant where there is a Nick type personality –smooth, seductive, no boundaries (she was already dating ten other guys when he barged in; not a lot of respect there)—and this person approaches and reels her in. Does she live in the moment and give in because her body is revving at 1000 rpm’s from the attention? Would she expect her husband to understand?

A man or woman in that position might say, “Well, I wouldn’t do that when I’m married, but when I’m single I must explore every option.” Male or female, cheating is cheating. This isn’t about a double standard that men can sow their oats but women cannot. No. This is about the character of a future spouse.

Character is not something you turn on and off. The ability to say no, to deny your own pleasure for the sake of another, is a muscle that must be exercised over and over. Boundaries are hard to set and hard to follow; they must be exercised over and over. The way to develop a strong ethic of protection and security in a marriage is to not give in when land mines present themselves but practice over and over the decisions that protect the relationship. Decisions, and the ensuing behavior, determine a person’s character.

Again from the Good Morning America interview, Kaitlyn said, “Well, I’ve never dated 20 people at the same time before.” And when asked about her self-proclaimed title “the make out bandit” and the reactions from the guys, she stated, “Well, I wonder if they remember what show they’re on.”

Whether they like it or not, the bachelor or bachelorette is in a position to exhibit marriage-type character while they are dating because marriage is the thesis of the show: give one of them the final rose to be your spouse. If the show was titled, “Dating in 2015,” I don’t believe there would be the uproar that is going on now because nothing would be at stake. There are other reality shows with lots of sex going on but they haven’t hit the radar the way Kaitlyn’s night with Nick has because, technically, she cheated on the other men and especially Shawn B in her efforts to find a husband. Which is why I believe the national discussion is on the wrong track.

Instinctively there is a part of us that knows that marriage is more than sex. Sure, it’s the perk, the fun part, but not the glue that holds it together when finances take a dive, or illness takes over, or kids have problems at school or are born with physical disabilities, or somebody dies. It takes character to navigate the challenges and tragedies of real life. It takes wisdom and maturity to handle familial divorce and issues of low self-esteem, rejection, abandonment, and finding your purpose in life. Sleeping with someone only confirms the lust of physical intimacy, not if he or she will be able to stand strong in the rain or in a complete wipeout.

The argument could be made that “It’s only a TV show, out for ratings and not to be taken seriously.” True. I would agree with that. BUT, considering that the show itself provides a Neal Lane engagement ring during the final episode, and that the lead says over and over throughout the season, “I’m here to find a husband (or wife),” that thesis changes everything and the conversation needs to adjust accordingly. If it were a show about dating, we could discuss the merits of sex or no sex; but because it’s billed as finding a marriage partner, the viewers expect the contestants to act like potential mates, not just people who are dating; hence the fallout over Kaitlyn and Nick’s sex.

The downfall of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette is that they are heavy on lust and intimacy and weak on character and yet they bill it as finding a marriage partner. Much has been said for their horrible track record of actual marriages. If they are serious about getting people married, they should nix the foo-foo activities like sumo wrestling and song writing and replace them with some serious competitions that would require the contestants to use decision making skills, teamwork skills, business skills, and God-forbid exhibit some boundaries and character along the way. Human behavior is fascinating and it would be great to see a real test of character, a real test of the emotions. It’s easy to give in to lust; anyone can do that. But who is strong enough to deny themselves for another?

The kind of person we all want to be married to is someone we can trust, someone we can depend on to do the right thing, someone who will protect what we have together and not throw it away because they were “in the moment.”

–Tara Schiro is the co-author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live”  Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. www.NoArmsNoLegsNoProblem.com

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Better to Give than to Receive?

My reflection in the mirror reminded me that it was a good day to visit the local bookstores; something I had been putting off. It’s far easier to market your creation anonymously through the internet or through the postal service. No face-to-face rejection that way. But I was back home from a fitting that morning for a new TV show set in the 80’s and when I passed the giant mirror in the living room that gentle voice in my head was clear: you’re already dressed; now’s a good time to go. I couldn’t argue with that logic. I was dressed with nothing else on my schedule for the day. Might as well conquer my discomfort and go out to make things happen. I signed three copies of my book, kissed the top of the dog’s head, told her to wish me luck, and headed out. She yawned from her perch on the middle step of the staircase.

The first stop was to the hospital bookstore down the street. I’m thinking it would be good to target as many of these across the country as possible. How better to bring hope and inspiration than a book about a man who’s seen his fair share of tragedy? A book about a man with no arms or legs living a joy-filled life of substance and independence, that’s how. It’s so much easier to chat up someone else’s story of grace and redemption.

It surprised me that the bookstore was in the same place and was the same size as it was nineteen years ago when I delivered my first child. The hospital itself has expanded greatly. The bookstore still reminds me of a closet. Six or eight ladies shopped in the small space. I decided to browse the shelves before making the pitch.

“I’m sorry ma’am, we can only accept credit cards for purchases $5.00 and over.”

“I don’t have any cash!”

“We can’t take your card unless your charge is at least $5.00.”

“Is there an ATM nearby?”

“No. The nearest is the shopping center down the street.”

“That’s ridiculous! You’re losing a lot of sales! Who wants to be in a hospital anyway? I can’t believe you have that policy! I guess I’ll buy something I don’t need!”

The lady walked over to the card rack with much pomp-and-circumstance. She was shaking with anger and continued to complain under her breath. I remembered the $5.00 bill I had in my wallet; or, rather, that voice reminded me that I had a $5.00 bill in my wallet. I reached in my purse, pulled out the $5 and put it in the lady’s hand. She refused.

“Here. Just pay it forward.”

“What?! No! I don’t need it! There are so many people who actually need it!”

“Take it. Just pay it forward.”

“I don’t need it! I have money! Just not cash in my wallet! There are so many people who are less fortunate! I don’t need it! Give it to people who really need it!”

“I didn’t say you were poor, nor would I assume that you were. It’s just that I have been in your position and it’s very frustrating and people have helped me so just take it and pay it forward.”

The customer beside us nodded in agreement and said “me too” but I wasn’t sure why she was beet-red with embarrassment. Everyone was watching and listening. Not that they could help it in that closet-space of a store.

“If you would just have an ATM or get rid of that policy we wouldn’t need all this,” she said, finally waving my $5 in the air and walking back to the counter. “You’re losing so much business. It’s not friendly at all. No one wants to be in this hospital!”

“Here’s your change,” the cashier said to the lady.

“Put it in the drawer so the next person that doesn’t have cash can use it.”

“I can’t do that, but I can put it in this box.”

“Fine! Just put it in the box!” And turning to me, “Is it okay to put it in the box!” She didn’t seem like she was asking; her exclamation was more of a “good riddance” to the money, like she would contract leprosy if she had any more to do with that $5. She fled immediately and the cashier dropped the change into the donation box.

The attention was turned to me. Kind of a, “soo, what is it you need?” kind of look.

I proceeded to tell the cashier that I wrote a book, handed her a copy, and asked the policy of selling books in the store. They sell whatever is donated and the proceeds go to them. Fine. I left the copy with them and said I would bring more.

It struck me later in the day after I had uneventfully visited Barnes & Noble and The Open Book, that in order to give, someone must receive. Whether its money, a cooked meal, a gift, an errand, a task, a favor, or even a compliment, love can’t be given unless it’s received.

It’s humbling to receive and sometimes humiliating. If we are insecure, receiving can cause us to feel unworthy, unorganized, weak, or like we had a personal failure and now someone has to help us. It is as if we are less-than the other person and are therefore needy and incapable. Refusing an act of love is selfish and stops the flow of giving.

However, if we are secure in God’s grace, to receive isn’t a failure but a success. To receive is to acknowledge we are loved, that we are seen and not forgotten, that someone has our back, that we are not alone in our journey. To receive is to be strong in courage and the wisdom of knowing that the person giving to you is extending of themselves in a sacrificial way; they are breaking through their own discomfort of reaching out with love and kindness.

Receiving love is a selfless act. It’s not about the cooked meal, the gift, the errand, the task, the favor, or the compliment. Receiving loves the person who gave. Through the grace of God, receiving reciprocates by accepting the love and loving back. Both the giver and receiver will continue to pay-it-forward.

–Tara Schiro is the co-author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live”  available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. More info can be found at www.NoArmsNoLegsNoProblem.com