Dating For Eternity
12:30 pm, January 7th | by Sarah Devlin
On the phone, Courtney sounded very similar to many of the contestants on The Bachelor and its spinoff The Bachelorette, both of which I have watched faithfully for years. The most recent season of The Bachelorette featured Emily Maynard, a single mother, sort-of-widow and former Bachelor contestant.
It’s typical for a new season of The Bachelor/ette to feature a cast-off contestant from the previous season, given their built-in audience recognition. Emily was different — she actually “won” her season of The Bachelor, but broke off her engagement with fellow Bachelor-repeater Brad Womack, who had failed to choose anyone on his first season in 2007. Brad was the catalyst for the chain of rejected contestants returning for a “second chance at love” that has driven the show for the past six years. If repeatedly chasing after love on camera is a disease, Brad Womack is Patient Zero.Emily chose Jef-With-One-F Holm at the end of her season, a blonde and rather courtly philanthropist and entrepreneur who also happened to be raised Mormon. Emily visited Jef in St. George, Utah, toward the end of the season and met his family without anyone making a single mention of his faith, other than noting his parents’ absence due to “charity work” they were doing in South Carolina.
The other frontrunner for Emily’s heart at the end of her season was dark-haired, Dutch-born Arie Luyendyk. Theirs was the perfect love triangle: the sweet, family-minded Jef who bought presents for Emily’s daughter and told Emily “We have to bridle our passion” (Alma 38:12) when presented with a key to a “Fantasy Suite” at the end of a dinner date (in Bachelor parlance, “Fantasy Suite” is the polite term for “someone’s vagina”), competing against Arie, a racecar driver just like Emily’s late fiancé and, by the looks of it, a hypnotizing kisser.
Eventually, after a few more dates and no sex (that we knew of), Emily dumped Arie in “Dinah’s Botanic and Historic Garden” in Curacao and picked Jef to pop the question. It’s another time-honored tradition on the show that even when it’s a woman doing the choosing, the final two men propose to her. He asked and she accepted. Jef’s approach — somewhat cool, unafraid of words like “forever” and “responsibility” and presumably sourced at least in part from his Mormon upbringing — had won out. According to Instagram and Twitter, the two of them and Emily’s daughter Ricki were blissfully happy. They broke off their engagement five months later.
The Mormon Bachelor was created by Erin Elton and Aubrey Laidlaw, two young women who were both frustrated by the conventions of traditional Mormon dating. Laidlaw had also auditioned unsuccessfully for ABC’s The Bachelor, and served as the web series’ guinea pig. She married the man she chose at the end of her season and had a baby with him within the year. Initially I was drawn to write about “The Mormon Bachelor” as it was a dating show created by women, both raised in a religion that places a high premium on marriage and family. I thought that might be a recipe for success in contrast with the ABC series, which often seems confused about whether its mission is a successful match or the ritual humiliation of its cast.
Moreover, from the beginning The Mormon Bachelor had a success rate comparable to its TV counterpart, whose 17th season, featuring the third runner up for Emily’s hand, insurance agent Sean Lowe, debuts tonight on ABC. The Bachelor has produced only one marriage, between Jason Mesnick and Molly Malaney (and even then, only after Jason eliminated Molly in the finale and proposed to Melissa Rycroft, only to break up with her on the reunion special and ask Molly for a second chance, leading to a televised wedding for Jason and Molly and a stint on Dancing With The Stars for Melissa).
The Bachelorette has been more successful in its eight seasons, producing the successful match of Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter in its first season nine years ago, as well as Ashley Hebert and JP Rosenbaum, who were married in a televised ceremony on December 16th, 2012. Even Bachelor Pad, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette’s younger and sluttier TV sibling, has produced a marriage between former contestants Holly Durst (from Matt Grant’s season of The Bachelor) and Blake Julian (from Ashley Hebert’s season), though the union only came about after Holly refused to reconcile with ex-fiancé Michael Stagliano (from Jillian Harris’s season) on the show — whose twin brother, incidentally, married one of Brad Womack’s original rejected finalists, Deanna Pappas, off-camera. Confused? I should mention that the dating pool of The Bachelor/ette universe is both polluted and crowded.
Similar to The Bachelor/ette, after three seasons The Mormon Bachelor had produced a successful match on its first try, though it wasn’t so successful on its second and third. Of course, one of the things setting the first season apart was that it was the woman doing the choosing. As I watched the fourth season of The Mormon Bachelor, I began to suspect the same phenomenon was at work that I had seen over and over on The Bachelor, when the availability of so many women turns even the nicest guy into a bit of hound. Dating so many ladies at once seems to excite and confuse these men in equal measure, and so I find it unsurprising that the woman who often wins the Bachelor’s hand is the same woman the other contestants typically accuse of “leading him on.”