In Screaming & Scrolling, writer Jill Gutowitz explores pop culture through a humorous, honest, and critical lens.
It is my firm belief that watching The Bachelor or The Bachelorette isn’t shameful. I find it legitimately relaxing to kick off my shoes at the end of the day, turn the TV on, and watch a group of beautiful people fight for the right to marry one giant dodo. I love it. It’s a real treat. But you know what I love more? When the female contestants on The Bachelor fall in love with each other—which I was led to believe just happened again, for the third time in Bachelor history. Unfortunately, it was just a very fun, totally cool joke (Reader, it was not fun or cool).
Last week, 25-year old Jasmine Nguyen, who was a contestant on Peter’s season (the current one) of The Bachelor, posted a photo of herself with 28-year old Alexa Rae Caves, another contestant from Peter’s season, and captioned it “Spoiler: we did find love after all.” She has since changed the caption, and Caves has clarified that, despite her identifying as sexually fluid, Nguyen is straight and they are just friends.
“I wasn’t going to address this because I thought it would just blow over,” Caves said on Instagram stories. “But I see now I’m getting a lot of questions and the story seems to be getting bigger. We don’t want to mislead anyone. Jay and I are not dating. She’s one of my best friends. I’m sorry to get your hopes up! That would be a great story. She really just thought that was a cute caption and didn’t think much of it. Jay is beautiful, kind, down to earth and very straight. Here’s to our friendship.”
Well, shucks. As a gay fan of The Bachelor—a phrase that is inherently discordant, as The Bachelor-verse has historically boxed out queer people—I’m feeling thorny about this. I don’t find it funny or cute or endearing when women “joke” about another woman being their “wife,” or their “girlfriend,” or—to borrow a harrowing phrase from my traumatic adolescence—their “lesbian lover.” Like, wouldn’t it be hilarious if two people of the same gender were actually—wait for it, because this is the punchline—a couple?! Wouldn’t it be hysterical if two women dated—wait for it, wait for it—EACH OTHER?! What a fun prank! Oops, we’re dating! Two girls! Jokes!! PRANK!!!
You know what would actually be cool? Having the safety of, or the ability to slide in and out of the cutesy joke of being a same-sex couple, completely unscathed. But as a lesbian, that’s not my reality. Holding hands with a woman in public can be scary—it can have real repercussions. Scarring ones. Violent ones. Practically every same-sex couple has experienced this—I know I have. Even online, posting photos as an out person can have consequences. I have the privilege of existing in a supportive family and environment, but I still often field abusive comments online from Angry Republicans and whomstever-the-fuck.
Maybe I’m a little more worked up about two Bachelor contestants and a dumb caption than I need to be, sure. But know that when Nguyen first posted that photo, I went full googly-eyed lesbian spiral down a hole of queer Bachelordom. If Nguyen and Caves actually were in a relationship, they’d be the third public WLW couple to meet in the Bachelor Extended Cinematic Universe (BECU).
In 2018, two female contestants left The Bachelor: Vietnam because they had fallen in love with each other while on the show. Two years earlier, two former Bachelor: Australia contestants fell in love after competing against each other on the show. What I’m saying is, this is a thing. It’s not only a thing that has happened on The Bachelor, but it happens—plural! So, when Nguyen posted that photo, and fellow Bachelor Nation star Clay Harbor stoked the fire by posting a photo of the duo to his Instagram Story, captioned “My favorite #bachelornation couple,” and another one with him between Nguyen and Caves, captioned, “Love triangle”—I believed them! Because why wouldn’t I?!
Last year, Bachelor in Paradise aired a monumental (using this term lightly) storyline in which Demi Burnett, of Colton’s season, got engaged to a woman she met right before she joined Paradise. Though airing a queer storyline in 2019 isn’t or shouldn’t be “monumental,” it was for Bachelor Nation, a nation—similar to America—that is often regressive, overtly Christian, and has operated under the assumption that queer people don’t exist.
This is not funny. I feel very much like the “she doesn’t even go here” girl from Mean Girls right now, standing in front of a group of people and weeping as onlookers laugh openly at me, but I don’t care. I am that girl, and I will continue to be that girl until the BECU finally drops the bisexual dating show that’s so far overdue, it’s almost embarrassing. I mean, seriously—the BECU just expanded itself to include a show called Listen To Your Heart—a show for MUSICIANS to meet and fall in love. Musicians!! Finally, representation for musicians—something we desperately needed and clamored for.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue