There can be too much of a good thing. Eat too much birthday cake and you may find yourself regifting the remnants of a smiling clown’s face painted in colored icing on the floor soon after the sickening sugar buzz wears off. Drink too much wine and there’s a good chance a similar reverse-peristaltic endgame plays out. You’d be lucky if that one unfolds in the privacy of a bathroom rather than, say, as you teeter on the top step of a riser at a nationally televised dating-show elimination ceremony, in front of the man trying to decide which of two dozen women might be fun to hang out with for six or so months, before the irresistible stresses of constant media attention and hyperaccelerated feelings tear your gossamer union of convenience asunder. Our point, of course, is an old one: everything in moderation. Ration your cake. Take it easy on the merlot. And under no circumstances should you attempt to watch five new hours of The Bachelor in a single day, much less the marginally saner back-to-back days offered across these past Sunday and Monday nights, no matter how committed you are to gathering as much information as humanly possibly to best equip yourself to capture the Final Rose. There lies the way of madness, with a tender Chris Harrison holding your hair as you try to void your heart of all its overloading emotions, your swelling brain of the knowledge it was never meant to absorb in such a short period of time.
But fear not, in between the cleansing heaves: We’re here to escort you back to a dark room, lay you gently on a comfortable bed, and process everything for you. We’re here to distill five punishing hours of lessons into a form you can handle without the deleterious side effects. When we help you get it all down, it stays down. Now put that warm washcloth over your eyes, lie back, and listen to the soothing sounds of our incredible expertise. We’re here for you. We’re always here for you.
Pretend to love his hometown.
Your Bachelor is not going to move for you. Especially not this Bachelor, Prince Farming, whose entire identity is tied up in the fairytale narrative of spending a few short weeks tilling the matrimonial fields of Los Angeles, coaxing forth a bride like a magical corn stalk from its enchanted soil — there’s no water, but things still grow, it’s a miracle — and immediately returning to the simple agrarian kingdom from where he came. That’s the plan. He’s been honest about that the whole time. He’s not suddenly going to decide to uproot his life and explore the possibility of getting Farmers Only — a sitcom about a square-jawed hunk from Iowa who moves to the big city to make his fiancée’s dreams come true, generously underwritten by the world’s leading countryfolk matchmaking service — into development at ABC,1 which is already scrambling to green-light this sentence. That is not how he rolls his cob. We are misusing that term, but you get the point.
ABC and Grantland are owned by Disney. We have no idea what agri-romantic genius owns FarmersOnly.com, but we bet ABC is super into leveraging their preexisting IP.
And so you must pretend to love his hometown. Not like his hometown. Capital-L Love it. You must find its rustic desolation charming. You must see an appealing opportunity to build an incredible and fulfilling life inside your home, because there is not a single social outlet for an hour in any direction, and the Medium City is a three-hour car ride you’ll rarely, if ever, take. You must not be pre-depressed that the one bar has closed, that not even a coffee shop is economically sustainable, that the charming local movie house will be your Netflix subscription and a tin handle of Jiffy Pop you had to get from Amazon. The slow Amazon, not the Prime thing, where do you think you live, Cedar Rapids? You will have Love. Love for your Prince Farming, and Love for the place that made him so incredible, even if you have to stretch the truth about that last part, you never expected to enjoy high school football so much.
What you must not do is say the words, “Ugh, I could nevvvvverrrrr live here!” Even if you scramble to buy it back with some vague sentiments about being suddenly enamored of the “lifestyle” and the “amazing sunsets.” If those words cross your lips, you’re already dead to him. Your Bachelor does not want someone who condescends to his very existence. If that’s what he was looking for, he could pick out any woman at random at the cigar bar in Des Moines. He didn’t need a TV show for that.
Never confront him in front of the other women.
No Bachelor appreciates having the inherent absurdity of the situation you find yourselves in — a situation engineered for his happiness, not yours, unless you’re the person clutching the last available flower and things really break your way post-show — thrown back into his face as the other ladies watch. You all know how fundamentally awkward and emotionally untenable the arrangement is, especially at these late stages of the competition. He is sort-of falling in love with all the people sitting on the couch across from him and you are simultaneously sort-of falling in love with only him. There’s an imbalance. The system is a precarious Jenga tower of raw feelings. When you pull the wrong piece, the one you’ve already tapped at a few times to check how far the structure will sway, don’t act surprised when the entire thing crashes down around you. Stage your meltdowns in private. You’ve already shat all over his hometown; don’t blow up his Jenga spot too.
Take somebody down with you.
We know how difficult it is to sit in silence and watch one of the other contestants make a mockery of your Bachelor’s feelings. To watch her tell him whatever he wants to hear. To play the game only to win, his big, dumb, vulnerable heart be damned. Make no mistake: You should also be playing the game to win, why else are you there? Because you have an empty vase back at home that begged to be filled with a half-dozen game show roses? Still, there may come a point when you decide, as self-appointed custodian of fairness, that it’s more important to protect him from the machinations of an insincere predator than to succeed yourself. You may decide that making a late-stage narc-turn is the only thing that will allow you to continue on this morally punishing journey with something approximating a clean conscience.
Just go for it. Find that bus and throw her underneath it. Your Bachelor will appreciate that you were willing to crush her beneath the wheels of Truth on his behalf. He will also probably send you home, because even well-intentioned snitches get rose-petal stitches, but you’ve long suspected his connection with you was not as strong as it was with the others. At least you can be of some use to the man you might have loved for a couple of minutes a few weeks ago, when you were smearing chocolate-covered strawberries across his lips while a patchouli-huffing intimacy guru swung an embroidered orgasm catcher around your deliciously entangled bodies. And you like to joke about it, but your life on that cruise ship really isn’t so terrible. See the world, sing some songs, hit the buffet. There are worse places to be. Like a town with no bars.
Continue to conceal your virginity.
It’s too late to come clean about your lack of sexual experience at this point. All the previously discussed strategic benefits of virginity remain; if anything, you’re in a stronger position now that your Bachelor’s other virgin option has been eliminated. It’s your virtue to claim or no one’s, if that’s a chapter he’d like to add to the storybook of his ongoing fairytale. (In his wildest dreams, he never thought those nice producers would find him two virgins. Even suggesting one would be unfathomably greedy.)
You’re almost to the Fantasy Suite. Your family did not compromise your secret on your hometown visit. Hold on just a little bit longer. You will cross that bridge when you come to it, and then you will lower yourselves into a hot tub that seems like it overlooks all of Earth. An Earth full of people who are not virgins soaking in a Jacuzzi with a man who will soon be soaking in two other Jacuzzis with two other women overlooking that same breathtaking planet, trying to figure out which person-Jacuzzi-panorama combination might make him temporarily happiest.
Empty your closet of that last skeleton.
Perhaps virginity isn’t your secret. Perhaps it’s something else, like, let’s just pull a scenario out of thin air here, some harmless experimentation with nude modeling that the producers have been dangling over your season like a sword of Damocles ready to plunge deep into your romantic prospects with an ill-timed Google image search by one of your Bachelor’s horny family members. With the Fantasy Suites looming, it’s time to throw open the door to the closet of your past and let the skeletal horde of wild stallions you’ve stabled there gallop proudly out. Indeed, this part of your history has caused you difficulty in past relationships, but if there’s anyone in no position to judge these kinds of choices — and what is there to even judge, really? — it’s the guy who is about to be celebrated for attempting to medal in the carnal Olympics with three different partners in a single two-hour block of prime-time television. Right? Right. Of course.
So sit him down and explain the situation. Maybe even break out the laptop to scroll through the photos together, to prove to him there’s nothing either of you should find uncomfortable as two adults just trying to find ForeverLove together.
Your Prince Farming will accept you for who you are. He’s already fitted you, his Cinderella, for a glass Louboutin.
Unless the slipper connected with the foot of one of the other magical princesses fits a tiny bit better. It happens. It’s not about you. The slipper wants what it wants.
And maybe what it wants is the secret virgin. It’ll make for a safe, if predictable, ending to that fairy tale, at least.