Time on The Bachelor is a fluid construct. If you’re a contestant who has survived into what your producers refer to as “Week 4,” you likely have no idea how much time has passed back on Earth once you entered the temporal wormhole that is the threshold to the Bachelor Mansion. When your journey finally ends — either with a small bouquet of the roses you’ve collected, or a diamond ring with a six-month self-destruction sequence — and you return home, you may discover that your loved ones have aged considerably, that Earth has continued spinning on without you, that there is a new Olive Garden in your hometown where the Outback Steakhouse used to be. Don’t be alarmed. Soon, you will adjust to this reality. You will learn to love your enfeebled parents, you will find comfort in the fact that breadsticks are indeed endless. They are. Keep eating. How can time possibly rush forward, sweeping Mom and Dad along with it, if you can’t ever reach the bottom of that breadstick basket? Your family will live forever if you keep eating. It’s the same principle that kept your wine glass full, and your romantic prospects alive, back at the Mansion.
Whether or not you’ve made it through just a dozen or so real days or four Bachelor Weeks, you could feel a real sense of accomplishment at having made it this far into the competition, and put all thoughts of the outside world and the relentless march of time out of your mind. There were 30 of you when this began. And there are, like, what, 15 of you now? That’s pretty good, right? No. Eyes on the prize. There is only one winner. Let’s keep learning how to be that lone survivor.
1. Be perfectly clear about your virginity status.
We’ve already established the strategic utility of being a virgin. It sets you apart from a more sexually experienced field unnerved by your unique advantage, it plays to the presumed universal male fantasy of virtue-claiming, 1 it’s a fun thing to talk about to the exclusion of all other topics in your confessional moments with the camera. Thus, it’s crucial to “own” this edge. It does you no good to keep this fact from your Bachelor any longer. Take him aside in a quiet moment and say the words “I am a virgin.” You may need to say it twice. You may even need to explain the situation to him in detail, because it’s likely he no longer has a strong grasp on the concept of virginity, having not encountered one since middle school.
If your mind is already formulating a “farmers like to plow an untilled field” joke, you are cordially invited to close this tab right now, you disgusting monster.
What you cannot do is be vague in your revelation. You cannot hedge with phrases like “I’m inexperienced” or “I’ve never had a boyfriend” or “I’m waiting for the right guy to pick me out of a drunken love-sorority of 30 women so that we can finally explore the limits of desire.” This will merely confuse him, and you’ll wind up spending a tense evening wondering whether you were understood. You were not understood. He wasn’t expecting this. Just say the words and be done with it: “I am a virgin.” Then watch as the little lighthouse keeper of recognition rises from his sleeping quarters down in your Bachelor’s loins, hustles up a treacherous staircase winding around his torso, and ignites the blinding beacon of understanding in his eyes. Now he gets it. Now you can move on to the next stage of your relationship: a total withdrawal from all physical contact as he respects your boundaries and begins contemplating how this might affect a potential stay in the Fantasy Suite. Congratulations: He’s already thinking about you in a Fantasy Suite! That’s a small but important victory for you to savor in all the making-out time you’ve suddenly freed up.
2. Stay a secret virgin!
What’s this you say? There might be more than one virgin in a single Bachelor Mansion? Unlikely, yes, but not impossible. If the other virgin has already gained the upper hand by disclosing her status, it’s probably smart to double down on your secret-virgin brand. Be the stealth virgin. Be the chill virgin. Be the virgin who’s all, “Whatever, it hasn’t come up yet, why make a big deal out of it, you know?” Presented with two virgin options, which one is your Bachelor going to choose? The high-strung one whose entire identity seems tied up in her virginity, or the super-laid-back one who lets the whole thing evolve naturally? That’s right: the virgin ninja, the one he never saw coming. There are no fumbled explanations in camping tents for you, no awkward re-explanations when the first one doesn’t take. Just a shrug and a “I haven’t had sex yet, deal with it” when the time is right. Cool. You’ll figure it out together. Here, take my flower or don’t. No bigs. Boy, that other virgin is crazy.
3. Become his Cinderella.
[Disclosure: ABC and Grantland are both owned by the Walt Disney Company, which in no way paid for this The Bachelor Learning Moment Brought to You by Disney’s Cinderella, in theaters March 13.]
This whole experience is, as your Bachelor may have mentioned once or twice, like a fairy tale. But why allow that enchanted feeling to exist merely in extended metaphor when there’s a perfect opportunity to literalize it through the magic of synergy? A Prince Farming needs a promotionally appropriate Cinderella. So play ball at the ball. Wear the gowns and the glass slippers and waltz in ecstatic gratitude beneath a giant screen showing your very favorite clip of the live-action masterpiece that will soon delight a new generation of dreamers. The clock is about to strike midnight. Take a moment before those chimes ring out to realize how lucky you are to be shod in crystal Louboutins and serenaded by a private orchestra, not a sulking princess imprisoned back at the castle with your wicked stepsisters, grimly gnawing away at a cob of corn. Things are amazing. Your fairy tale is coming true right before your eyes, unlike Princess Sadcorn’s. Did we mention there’s a movie that brings all of this to life like never before? March 13? Great. We’ll see you there.
4. Maybe don’t talk so much?
Look: It’s important to get to know one another outside of the stifling confines of Bachelor Mansion, where one-on-one time is parceled out in fiercely contested two-minute increments, one minute of which must be reserved for launching exploratory probes into the deepest reaches of each other’s faces. So when you find yourself enjoying a private dinner on a balcony overlooking one of our country’s most beautiful cities, physically exhausted but emotionally energized by a busy day of running a muddy obstacle course in a wedding dress, it makes sense to use that rare opportunity to fill in some of your backstory. But as you’re nattering on about what brought you here and who you are and yada yada yada, pay close attention to your Bachelor’s eyes. Have they glazed over? Can you see, if you look closely enough, a reflected vision of unicorns and dancing fairies? Are magical creatures cavorting away inside his head as you detail your daily squat-thrust regimen and mistakenly let slip your tragic lack of a five-year plan? Can you hear the sound of a distant calliope drifting out from his ears? If so, hit pause on your biography. Invite him back from his mind carnival and give him the chance to speak. This is his show. He’s interested in you, but only to a point. He still has to memorize facts about 10 other women. Two of them are virgins; that is incredibly exciting, and possibly terrifying. Shhhh. It may already be too late. He may already be holstering that rose and asking one of the unicorns to summon the Limo of Despair. Wait, are you the secret virgin? No? Yup, here comes that limo. If only you’d said fewer words. If only, if only.
5. Don’t question the system.
There is a certain buy-in required of all contestants on this show, and that buy-in includes looking the other way as your Bachelor samples the osculatory bounty laid out before him over and over again. If observing serial make-out sessions to which you are not a party makes you uncomfortable, you must quickly improvise some kind of coping mechanism to deal with the potentially dissonant reality that your “boyfriend”2 is all up in everybody else’s mouth-business. You cannot, under any circumstances, question his participation in this ritual. It’s why he’s there. It is why you, all of you, are there. To call attention to the inherent absurdity of a situation in which you are attempting to form a deep emotional bond with someone you’ve just watched tongue-plow through five of your new besties is to bring the entire thing crashing down upon your own head.
Note: He is not actually your boyfriend unless you subscribe to some kind of polyamorous belief system.
Your Bachelor will not welcome your concern, even if it’s couched in a desire to keep a promising connection strong. He will become defensive. He will quickly extricate himself from the conversation, storm off to the main harem chamber, and gather his entire flock for a heart-to-heart about the purity of his intentions. He is there for the Right Reasons: to find the person who, after a mutually agreed upon period of six to 12 months following the bestowal of a certified Neil Lane MaybeDiamond, might become his probationary fiancée. To insinuate otherwise is a vicious attack not only on his integrity, but on that of a sacred institution that has produced literally a handful of stable unions. Now would everyone please line up against that wall and wait quietly to see if he even wants to continue on these kinds of circumstances?
Thank you. Your Bachelor would really appreciate that. He’s got only 10 roses left, and two of them have to go to the virgins. Chris Harrison promised to make sure the secret one’s still on the list.