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July 19, 2012

The Men Tell All—Until We Shut Them Up

As Emily Maynard nears handing off her last rose on this Sunday's season finale, the Bachelorette's quest for perfection might be leading her to choose a dishonest mate.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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On Monday’s The Men Tell All, we experienced another homage to Emily Maynard, a woman who's quickly becoming one of America's favorite famous females. What's not to love? Emily is gorgeous, sweet, maternal, and generally inoffensive, which is pretty remarkable when one considers how frequently she drops the f-bomb.

I'm supportive of Emily and her quest to find a partner and father for her daughter: who wouldn't want to see a woman so earnestly seeking love find it?

There is, however, one feature of Emily's personality and televised romance that I can’t reconcile: how swiftly she discards men who express concern over whether Emily + Ricki = happy ending.

I don't care if you're the Bachelorette or an average Joe: you have complexities and flaws, and your would-be partner should know about them before long-term commitments are made. Whether that's possible on reality TV is a discussion for another day, but Emily has demonstrated that she genuinely wants to find the right person to slot into her life. So why is she offended when her suitors express their own doubts?

Those doubts have revolved around Emily's daughter, Ricki, a concededly sensitive subject. Not too sensitive for Emily to leave her daughter out of the spotlight; just sensitive enough that Emily halts her rose-wearing boyfriends from expressing concerns about their interest in step-parenting. Emily's equally resistant to hesitations men express about her.

Although Ryan lacked eloquence during the show and on Monday's stage, he tried to convey that he wasn't completely sure about Emily becoming his wife. This uncertainty never goes over well on the Bachelor or Bachelorette, which is ironic when one considers that every season begins with one person dating 25 members of the opposite sex. Dating multiple people is allowed when you're the Bachelor or Bachelorette. Talk about dating someone else as one of the suitors, and you're out.

The entire country, as evidenced by Monday's show, exclusively roots for Emily—openly ridiculing those men communicating honest, albeit hurtful, concerns. Ryan conceded that he wasn't sure that Emily was the woman for him: this revelation caused great annoyance among viewers. The men who shared that they had reservations about becoming stepfathers were skewered on the spot…and again and again.   

The show simultaneously rewards those individuals who fall hard and fast, regardless of their sincerity. We see audience women cooing as Chris tears up over his failed romance with Emily minutes after watching commercials of him kissing at least three different women on the upcoming season of Bachelor Pad.

On reflection, I suppose insanity and one-sidedness are endemic to the Bachelor franchise. I discussed the way the show's innate imbalance negatively impacts women in a recent piece for The Huffington Post and hoped that Emily might counteract these disparities. Unfortunately, she's hinted at the fact that she’ll uproot her daughter and life to relocate to Jef or Arie, and she’s doing damage of another variety.

By insisting that she and her daughter are anything but the perfect package, she's foreclosing honest conversations between potential partners, which sets a bad precedent for future relationships (on and off television). I'm not saying that Kalon was her man. The guy is a calculating, arrogant nightmare of an individual, but at least he made a position and attempted to stand by it. It wasn't, I should add, a ridiculous one to take; it just so happened that he presented it in offensive terms. In the same way that Emily didn't plan to become a single parent to Ricki, most twenty-somethings aren't looking to find a partner with children. If it happens, it happens, but it's not on the average person's to-do list. The more reasonable of Emily's suitors expressed simultaneous excitement and nervousness over becoming stepfathers, but something tells me restrained optimism isn't what this country wants.

That I continue to watch The Bachelorette says it all…


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