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The Bachelor has been on television for more than twenty seasons. I watched the early seasons with my roommates in college, but quickly lost interest as the show was clearly staged and lacked authenticity and, quite frankly, any redeemable qualities. But the show’s newest iteration is The Golden Bachelor, with the bachelor and female contestants all in their 60s and 70s. I wondered if that would be a better version of the show. The man at the center, Gerry Turner, is 72 years old. In the first show, he explains his story, which includes being married for many years to his wife, who then died quite suddenly. Gerry shows pictures and cries as he talks about his love for his wife and family. But then Gerry pivots, as he explains that it’s been six years since his wife passed and he is ready to find love again, along with the support of his two grown daughters. This raises some questions, such as… why go on a reality show to find love? But I was intrigued to see a reality show that might better capture what a search for love looks like with a man and women that are in their 60s and 70s, instead of their 20s.
After meeting all 22 women, Gerry remarks how accomplished and admirable they all are. I don’t necessarily disagree. But I was surprised to see that all of the 22 women featured on the show were remarkably thin and fit. A few had gray hair, but most did not. Most had had work done on their faces to hide the signs of aging. Gerry seems a very nice man, and so did the women. But I was quite disappointed to see a parade of mature women in their 60s and 70s that were trying to fit some ideal of fitness and appearance for women in the 30s and 40s. Are women in their 60s and 70s only “valuable” and “admirable” and “accomplished” if they also look like they are aging backwards? That is a ridiculous standard. The more I age, the more happy I am to reject the impossible standards of beauty and attractiveness and to embrace my own. Isn’t it better to be the person that laughs at the idea that I need to look or act a certain way to be valuable? When I was a kid, I paid attention to the women, in particular, and the way they talked about themselves, their bodies, and their appearance. I loved the way that many of the women I admired most rejected the ideas of what the world told them they needed to be, and instead embraced themselves and who God created them to be.
Perhaps the joy of youth is freedom, but I remember the constraints I felt by classmates and peers to look and act a certain way. Growing into adulthood, I recognized the joy of knowing who I was, and who I was not. So to see women in their 60s and 70s that are upheld on a reality show as accomplished and poised and valuable because of certain type of look and personality, I’m disappointed. Of course I realize the show is staged and cast in a certain way. I guess you can have a “good personality,” to be on The Golden Bachelor, but ALL the women, not just a few, need to be extremely physically fit and thin to get cast. How disappointing.
The joy of leaving youth behind is to reject all the ridiculous standards that the world places on us, especially with regards to appearance. This current generation of Gen Z and even the younger Gen Alpha are much more honest about their struggles with mental health, which is applaudable. And yet the pervasive and pernicious pressure to look a certain way and to have a the right kind of personality to be accepted is more visible than ever. Wouldn’t it be great to have a “reality” show that actually showed a group of women (and men) that rejected all notions of what is “valuable” and “on brand” but instead had bodies of all shapes and sizes and personalities to match? What if we showcased women who were comfortable in their own skin instead of held captive by a youth obsessed culture that only values older women who “look hot” or are considered “attractive”?