55: Men Choosing Women

In 55 days I will be 30

Every single woman is emaciated with bad posture except for two African American women who stand on opposite ends of the stage, hands on hips, turning away from the camera.

“41 year old life coach Alona is sick of being Alone-A.”

This is a pageantry of dullards.

“Clara is really proud of her calves.” A camera pans to Clara’s calves.

These women are Apparently Real. They aren’t real. He won’t be real either. He is a Mystery Man. He is Potential. He is not even here.

These are actors, fake people, I remind myself and then I forget and then I remind myself and then I forget–

The women walk down a huge flight of stairs. They aren’t perfect.  They aren’t even “Good” at “This”. Their awkward descents onto the stage make me: Are they real?

No. Real women are more interesting than this, this blonde woman in roller skates, slowly side-stepping her way down the spiralling, never-ending staircase to the stage, staring at the camera with an open-mouthed agonized smile, surely prepared to die for a man she has never met.  “Dana is a 35 year old baton twirler…”

It can’t be real.  Unless one of these women audibly farts, I will not believe that any of this is real.

My head throbs. I prefer to believe that reality TV is real because if it isn’t real, the writing is terrible which is much more upsetting to me.

“Monica has a dog named Toby and loves to bedazzle her clothes.  She also loves to surf but she is afraid of the ocean!”

Monica will win. Something about her is already winning.  She will win.

She wears a pink gown, knotted at the hip so that the fabric cascades along either side of a tauntingly vagina-grazing slit.

Monica is  somehow obviously better than the other eleven women on stage.

She is cute.

She isn’t beautiful.  I don’t want to photograph her, I don’t want to have sex with her, I don’t wonder about her ethnicity, if the camera pans away, I don’t think “oh wait, go back, I wasn’t done staring at that woman.” She just seems likeable and her face is small.  She is cute.  Cute will win.

The women position themselves in front of a “Pod”. There is a man in The Pod.  His name is Mike.  The women cannot see him.  No one can see him.  He is here to find a wife.  His wife is one of these women on stage.

“MIKE IT’S TIME TO PUT SEVEN WOMEN THROUGH TO THE NEXT ROUND.”

Monica is chosen first.

 

I have the flu.  So does my mother.  We lie in bed all day and then eventually on the couch all night, side by side.

After three episodes of Queer Eye, mom announces, “this show is getting weird, ok,” as if it weren’t the most redundant, episodic, predictable televised homage to ego-building that it has every right to be, as if suddenly, in the arc of this television series, something has gone terribly wrong, as if we are now watching truckers give head to geriatric dyalisis patients, as if “Getting Weird” is just something that inherently happens when men decide to help each other she says, “It’s just getting weirder and weirder.”

I turn off Netflix.

It is 9:30 PM.

We are now watching the second half of The Bachelorette.

“Is this still the gay guys?”  Mom is not paying attention.  She is on the floor.  She is using a foam roller to help an old knee injury.  My dog, Mordechai, watches intently.

I decide to make pasta.  There is something about a very thin woman in a tight red dress, two belts cinching her already tiny waist, sitting across from a suitor who says “can I tell you something” while he leans in, whispers in her ear and then suddenly kisses her, there is something about all this Love Me Immediately nonsense that makes me want pasta. There is something about this being Her show and yet He is choosing to kiss her.  There is something about her confessing to the camera, “I can’t tell if he’s kissing me because he wants to or just because it’s time”.  I want pasta.

“There is green sauce in the fridge you can have,” mom offers. “It’s still good if there is no white stuff on top. In the cheese drawer.”

The flu makes this ok.

The container in the cheese drawer reads “BASIL PESTO SAUCE”. I open it.

“There is no white stuff on top,” I tell my mother.

“ok, you can have that.”

Without questioning my options I throw the barely-ok green sauce onto my pasta. I empty the container into my pot of freshly cooked noodles, an indulgence unfamiliar. I could have eaten dad’s cake. I could have found secret mom chocolate somewhere. I could have indulged in a usual way. Instead: I made a pot of pasta.

I rinse the BASIL PESTO SAUCE container for recycling.  As green flakes and olive oil fall to the drain, I notice:  White Stuff.  White stuff frosts the rim of the container.

“there’s some white stuff” I murmer to my mother, almost crying.

“WHAT?”

“Nothing nothing nothing nothing, I will walk Mordy.  Come on Mordy.”

Mordy is watching my mother.

“MORDY MORDY COME ON.”

“I can walk him,” my mother says in response to my out-of-nowhere dead-pasta-grief.

“NO!” I really don’t like when Mordy ignores me in favour of obeying my mother.  His preference for her in this moment may come from my YELLING HIS NAME but I still think it’s shitty when my authority over him is undermined by Mom’s cheese treats and wonderfully loving mom tactics. “MORDY COME ON YOU HAVE TO POO”

 

“Rhonda is a motivational speaker and an author. When she isn’t writing and speaking, she is tending to her doll collection.”

“HER DOG COLLECTION?” Mom is lying on her stomach, lifting one leg at a time.

“Her doll collection.”

“She’s not even skinny!”

I don’t see the connection mom is making but I agree.

Rhonda takes the mic. This is her turn to tell Mike something important about herself. “Hi Mike.” Big smile. Applause. For this portion of the show, the women are being asked to reveal very personal information while standing on stage in swimwear.

One of them mentions how she feels vulnerable on stage in a bathing suit.  Mom points out her cellulite.

Another one mentions her lifelong (she is 24) struggle with depression and anxiety.  Mom looks right at me, points and shakes her head in one of those slow “This really means something because you can relate and she’s just like you” head shakes.

“Clearly I’m over it!” says the formerly depressed candidate, referring to her bathing suit (mom calls it “proud lingerie”).

Rhonda is a curvy black woman in a one piece bathing suit with a towel-like skirt wrapped around her pretty amazing buttocks. I hear an echo from that place in my brain I call “FROZEN THOUGHTS THAT WILL KILL ME, “when she isn’t speaking and writing she is with her doll collection”.

She says, “I am really happy to be here because three years ago I wouldn’t have been able to stand on stage in a bathing suit.”  Her smile grows, blazing white teeth, plump but satisfying jawline, “I am on a weight loss journey.”

The screen behind Rhonda displays a picture of her in a larger version of her body.  The crowd goes nutty for her weight loss.

Rhonda will not make it to the next round.

 

I leave the house through the garage. I did not lock the door to the house because I did not want to go upstairs and get my keys.

As the garage opens, I picture someone standing there with a gun.  A man. He shoots me in the face.  He enters the house through the door that I have not locked.

Everyone dies.

I am on the driveway.  I am fine.

Mordy won’t walk anywhere.

“Come on.  You have to pee. Can you pee. Please pee.”

Mordy looks up at me. I kneel to the ground. “I have the flu. And I love you very much. But if you don’t walk, I am going to tuggies.”  Tuggies is our word for “PULL STRENUOUSLY”. “Do you want me to tuggies?”

Mordy licks my face.

I tuggies.  I tuggies Mordy up a half a block. I yell at him.  I turn around.  I try another block, more tuggies.  Half a block.  More yelling.

Every time I look at Mordy, he is solid, sturdy, not moving.  Everytime I look up, I see another murderer. I see white masked images following me. I instantly know they aren’t real.  But, why are they here?

I become frightened. I become someone in need of something immediate.

COME ON, MORDY, TUGGIES COME ON JUST WALK TUGGIES

Eventually he pees on a very particular patch of grass.

I give him a handful of cookies.

We walk home.

 

Monica is the last woman to make a speech about something very important to her.

She is the only woman wearing a bikini without shorts or a skirt.

She has a surfer’s body: Strong, tiny.

She picks up the microphone, “oh my god, this is so funny, I’m talking into a mic to Mike.” She smiles. She seems to be at her best friend’s wedding or at her own wedding or just: Somewhere more intimate than national television. “And thatthe kind of comment that has kept me single.”

She makes everyone laugh while wearing a necklace and a chain around her stomach.

I am not listening to her.

I am wondering how on Earth it is this easy for her to win at whatever the fuck is going on in this television program.

The host has the women march in a circle around the stage.

My body is throbbing with fluish exhaustion. My head falls to the side as I will myself to stay awake to watch this weird little Freak Show For The Sake Of Filling Airtime.  Someone is making money but is anyone falling in love?

Recently, my father remarked to me that television is different now because there are way too many channels.  We are coming up with turdish (my word, not his) programming just to fill up all the airtime we have invented. There aren’t enough sports.  There isn’t enough news. Let’s just get married, then. Let’s get married or find a way to get married, televise it and not worry about the effects this has on Love, Romance and Western Domesticity.

“MIKE, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO SAY TO THESE WOMEN BEFORE YOU MAKE THE DECISION THAT WILL BRING YOU CLOSER TO THE WOMAN YOU WILL MARRY.”

“Yes, I see bravery out on the streets everyday,” we can’t see Mike but we know and we, for some reason trust, that he is a cop, “and none of that bravery in those dangerous circumstances compares to what all of you just did up here for me tonight.”

The crowd cheers.  The camera zooms out quickly to a wide shot of the audience.

“It’s all women in that crowd.” Another mom truth bomb.

 

I bring Mordy inside.  He runs to my mom.

“Did he poop?”

“No.” I lie on the couch.

The image on the television is scrambled.  It appears to be broken. I suddenly feel very upset.

In the past thirty minutes I have cried over pasta, run away from imaginary murderers, tuggied my dog around the neighbourhood while yelling at him to pee and nearly cried, again, this time over the momentarily broken cable. The flu, maybe. Or, maybe it’s the end of the day and I feel the way I feel at the end of every day: I haven’t gotten what I want and I don’t know what I want and I want everything.

 

There are three women left.  Monica, a blonde lady and a woman we keep calling “The Woman in White”.

Mike’s best friend is invited on stage to ask each woman one question. Following his line of questioning, he will be allowed into The Pod to help Mike talk things over.

Mike’s best friend is short. His suit is way too big for him.  He is bald.

“I think Mike might not be that good looking.” I tell my mom.

In the process of watching this one hour show, we have indulged in some pretty hard core assessments of The People On This Show and their superficial shortcomings for this single hour of their lives.

They might all be actors. They also might not be actors.

The Best Friend is pretty genuinely dull. I can picture him in his backyard. I can see him sitting in the sun, sweating, smiling and laughing with his friends. My single fantasy of this man is that he is a normal guy doing normal things.

I have changed my mind. If this is written. It is brilliant.

The Best Friend asks The Woman In The White Dress something about what she would do if something bad happened to Mike while he was working.

“I am a woman of faith. So, I know I can get through anything that might happen.”

Weird but pretty smart answer.

The Best Friend says nothing as he turns to Monica with a completely different question, without any logical connection to the previous question, with the feeling that Mike really has no idea what he needs to know and his Best Friend is just guessing at the kinds of things that might make great TV, like someone wrote this to convey that we don’t actually know what we want because there is too much to want because there are too many fucking channels–

“Describe your perfect Sunday morning.”

“Whoa.” Monica is taken by the question. Adorable. “Well it depends on what we did that week but I would say a great hike. Sunday is a time for great hikes.”

I look at my mom. The police officer is an amputee.  I have full knowledge of his probably perfect ability to go on any hike he pleases but instead I say to my mother, “well she mentioned something to do with feet, so she’s dumb.”  I blame the flu for my sudden transformation into a terrible human.

The Best Friend turns to the blond lady and says, with his eyes not really sure where to look, his face red, his hands behind his back he says, “Mike is like a brother to me and I can really picture us with kids in the yard together, our kids becoming brothers too.  How many kids would you like to have?”

I laugh.

“Well.” This woman has already appeared to not really want to be here, just based on her face and her generally strange way of being, “well, this has kind been a deal breaker for some of my other relationships but I am really into travelling and living life as fully as possible so,” a deep breath because breathing is genuinely deep, “I don’t really want to have kids.”

The crowd goes nuts.

The Blonde Lady does not get selected for the final two.

She awkwardly stands on stage until the host shows her which way to leave.

 

I fill a bowl with questionable pasta.

The green sauce is mostly oil and garlic.

I wonder about the colour green and it’s influence on the way we eat.

Nothing is satisfying.

Mom tells me how to fix the TV. I put on a show called “The Proposal” and I watch a man in a suit tell me that someone here will be proposed to tonight.

I cry.

“WHAT’S ON NOW?” Mom yells from the kitchen as she serves herself a piece of blueberry danish.

“They’re getting married.” I say, through tears. “They are getting married.”

 

Monica and The Lady in White wait to see what Mike could possibly look like.

The Pod spins around.

The Crowd Of Women turn, looking to see, what does He look like?

A short man in a pretty-ok suit walks to the stage. He is gorgeous. His smile is gorgeous He is obviously a man of many races, his skin perfect, he is everything: Great. Not an obvious prince but, qualifiable.

The women are giddy.

“They walked down the stairs together holding hands.”  My mom fills me in since I left the room to wash my face. “He’s not going to pick the Christian.”

The Woman in White tells Mike that she will always be there for him.  She has him ask her dad (smiling in the audience) for permission to marry her. The dad approves. She is speaking nonsense, basically, since she doesn’t know this guy but she is promising that she will never not be there for him. She lets go of his hand.

It is Monica’s turn.  She takes his hand.

Mike and Monica are giddy.

She speaks with a well-rehearsed vocal fry, as if no one else is in the room.

“OH THE OTHER ONE ALREADY KNOWS SHE’S LOST,” mom says and she’s right.

The Woman in White watches as Monica introduces Mike to Toby, her dog, in the audience who is being held up by her mom. The couple-to-be mostly stands there. They stare at each other. Monica says something about Toby being a rescue dog and how she’s ready to be rescued too.

I am not crying.

Mike proposes to Monica.

Balloons and streamers and lights.

The Woman in White stands, watching.  No one is showing her how to get out, leave, go.

The host gestures for her to go back up the stairs.

She runs in heels.

 

 

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-R