You may know me as the overly emotional, slightly dramatic virgin from this season of The Bachelor. I am emotional. I am dramatic. I am a virgin. However, I’m a lot more than those adjectives. I like to think of my portrayal on The Bachelor as a caricature of myself. Despite being overwhelmed by social media hate at times, I learned to find humor in that caricature. But that wasn’t the only life lesson I learned during my time on America’s most popular dating show. Read on.
1. A Sense of Humor Is Essential
Remember that episode where I sat eating corn on the cob and drinking champagne on the couch while wearing a princess dress? When you’re on a reality TV show and decide to dress up like a Disney Princess, make sure to do it in a way that people know it’s mostly a joke. I learned that dry, irreverent humor doesn’t always come across as intended on TV.
Some of the girls thought I went Ashley S. nuts that night, but when you’re stuck in the mansion dateless night after dateless night without TV, Internet, or your cell phone you can get a little stir crazy. I thought it would be funny to do a little Cinderella skit. Kelsey was right about me liking to play dress up. Play dress up with a full camera crew? Heck, yeah! I’m going to have too much fun with my kids one day.
Kaitlyn always knew not to take me too seriously. She always says, “What I love most about you is that you’re the first to laugh at yourself.” It’s so important to learn to laugh at yourself, especially when you’re in the situation I was in. My laugh-cry received a bit of social media attention. For those of you who are unfamiliar with laughing and crying at the same time, it’s usually a result of crying so hard and finding your emotional outburst to be hilariously ridiculous. Therefore, the laugh-cry. Kaitlyn’s ability to have fun in any situation is one of the reasons I think she’ll make a great Bachelorette. (More on that drama later.) You should’ve seen that girl sneaking into tents with a red demon mask on during the camping date.
We would play the “Post-It Note game” at night in the mansion. If you’re not familiar with the game, someone writes a famous person or character’s name on a Post-It, sticks it on your forehead, and you have to ask the group of players “yes” or “no” questions until you correctly guess who “you are.” We would sit around the family room playing this game and cracking up for hours. When we weren’t playing this or the vegetable game (ask Becca), lying by the pool, or sharing stories, we were eating. Which leads me to…
2. Try Not to Gain “The Bachelor 10”
The mansion’s fully stocked kitchen was delivered to Malibu from heaven.
You don’t often see us eating on camera. Chewing isn’t a hot look apparently, and the cameramen bestow us with privacy at this time. By the way, you are rarely conscious of the camera after the first 24 hours, unless you’re gossiping with your friends. In that case, get that thing out of my face!
Ashley S. introduced me to spaghetti squash. Tara made awesome tacos. The Bachelor girls are obsessed with Sriracha. We had a couple of huge jars in the kitchen full of junk food, most notably peanut butter M&Ms and Chris Soules’s favorite, Oreos. The couple pound jar would empty within a few days.
When we got to hotels, we ate even more. We had boxes of Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops in the suites and three buffet style meals a day. It’s hard to pick up the salad tongs when you’ve got pulled pork sandwiches and macaroni and cheese sitting right next to it. I never chose salad. I always chose the massive brownies. Somehow I only gained five pounds. The scale went up a bit more for others.
3. Choose Your Words Carefully
I don’t regret clogging my arteries as much as I regret how I behaved when Jordyn reappeared in Santa Fe. I didn’t think she took Chris or The Bachelor process seriously during her time at the mansion. When she walked in and took precious Chris-time away from us, I lost my cool. (Who are we kidding? I’m never cool.) I said, “We shouldn’t be nice to her.” In the moment, my anger was completely directed towards Jordyn and not at all towards the object of my affection. (After all, he made the decision to keep her around for the group date.) So lesson learned: When I get emotional, sometimes words come out of my mouth — overly dramatic or brutally honest words — that I’ll later regret. My filter should have been set to 100 percent, but it was more penetrable than ever. (That’s what the virgin said.)
If I were to ever be in a similar situation again, I would remember to take a breath before each statement. Silence can be powerful too. I’d also consider Botoxing my entire face to prevent the expressions you saw during Women Tell All. Just kidding — those looks were more powerful and more entertaining than any words I could say.
4. Men Need Things Spelled Out
As you may recall, the first time I tried to tell Chris that I am a virgin, it didn’t really go so smoothly. And yes, I learned never again to tell a man that I’m “freaking innocent” while (really) sucking face with him in a tent. It probably confused poor Chris, as it was a bit paradoxical. I truly believed in that moment that Chris understood what I meant. Now I know, though, that men appreciate clear, concise explanations. Like, “Read my lips: I am a virgin.”
The tent scene was one of the moments I dreaded watching back the most. Besides the awkward conversation, though, that make-out session was one of my favorite moments with Chris. (Teehee — sorry, Whit! Xoxo)
5. It Really Is the Journey, Not the Destination
I would write about how wonderful each day was in my Bachelor diary, which admittedly doesn’t read much differently than my high school diary. I remember driving back to the hotel from the rafting on the Rio Grande. It was sunset and the rocky, mountainous landscape of New Mexico was stunning; I was surrounded by people I loved; Chris wasn’t there (Haha). I had developed such strong relationships with the girls and the producers in such a fast amount of time, and I knew in the moment that I was experiencing the best times of my life.
In Bachelor-land, you’re very conscious that every day might be your last. We all too often look back and think, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” The Bachelor taught me to appreciate moments as I’m experiencing them.
Your odds of receiving the final rose are slim. Some people go into the process thinking, “I’m not here to make friends.” Let me tell you, the ride is much more worthwhile if you do. I may not have left with Chris, but I did find unromantic love. I have great friendships from the show. Now not a day goes by without me texting at least one of my “sister wives,” as Jimmy Kimmel described us.
I was friends with both of next season’s Bachelorettes: Kaitlyn and Britt. It’s awkward to see them have to compete, yet again, for affection. It’ll be heartbreaking to have to see one of them be rejected on TV, yet again. If I were solely a viewer, I’d be excited for this twist. But knowing the girls and the stress and emotions they’ll go through, I feel for them.
I have to admit it, I’m #TeamKaitlyn. I think Kaitlyn’s snarky, bold, and outgoing personality is a twist alone for The Bachelorette franchise. She defines modern, cool chick. She’s gorgeous, hilarious, and completely authentic. She has a unique, entertaining way of narrating her experiences on the show and her feelings. Kaitlyn can criticize and speak the truth without it coming across as harsh or mean-spirited. I know she’s there to find a man to marry. I texted her the day after Chris sent her home and told her that she had my vote for Bachelorette.
Alright, so now that my girl crush on Kaitlyn is out in the open now…
6. As the Song Says, Let It Go
I’m a control freak. I like to make a plan and stick to the plan. In Bachelor-land, you don’t know what’s going on… ever. You don’t know what time you’ll be rudely awaken by a hand flicking the bedroom lights on. You don’t know where your limo is taking you on the way to a date. You definitely don’t know what kind of connections The Bachelor is forming with the other girls in the house. I had to learn to go with the flow and follow other people’s plans. I had to become comfortable with the unknown. When I came back to real reality, I found myself much more easy-going and spontaneous.
I also had to let my guard down on the show. When I like a guy, I tend to create a moat around my heart. I don’t know why, I just do. In Bachelor-land hard-to-get doesn’t work. In “real life,” you’re not supposed to reveal your feelings too soon. Society norms often suggest that strong feelings will drive your love interest away. There’s not enough time for that with The Bachelor. If you’re closed off and aren’t discussing your feelings, you probably won’t be sticking around long. I found this to be a refreshing change. In Bachelor-land, you don’t play those types of games.
Once I got used to being more open with my feelings, I felt cleansed. You open your heart up during in-the-moment interviews with the producers and Chris quickly. By week two, I was saying that The Bachelor process was like being in therapy. There are no distractions in the Bachelor mansion, besides food and the Post-It Note game. This allows you to focus on your feelings. When you become extremely in touch with your emotions and you’re also becoming comfortable expressing yourself to those around you, tears flow. Despite my trail of tears, I was an open book and I’m glad I was so emotionally honest.
So I made a fool of myself in front of millions of viewers. So now the country has seen my ugly Kim Kardashian-like cry. So I walked away without a husband. The Bachelor may just seem like a silly reality show to some, but my experience on the show helped me grow, mature, and learn important life lessons. I wouldn’t take it back for anything — no matter how many mean tweets I received about my eyelashes.
Read more from Ashley at her beauty blog, duchesskimberly.com.