Last night was mad real. I feel like it was me and not The Bachelorette’s Rachel Lindsay that went through a heartbreaking split. You probably know by now that Rachel chose Bryan, the chiropractor from Miami whose tongue she is most familiar with, to be her forever boy. He proposed to her on a mountaintop during a breezy afternoon that was not at all friendly to Rachel’s hairdo. The fact that Rachel’s weave looked its worst on the day of her engagement, even while she stunned in her dress, seems like the perfect metaphor for last night’s finale. The first Black bachelorette got exactly what she wanted at the end of her journey, a ring on her finger. But it came on the heels of a teary-eyed split with Peter, and a choice that left me feeling disappointed for Rachel — and possibly myself.
I’ve already seen several people comparing last night’s Bachelorette finale to the presidential election last year: the person who won the popular vote, in this case Peter, did not win the title. Not only was Peter a fan-favorite, Rachel was deeply in love with him, which is why their complicated conversation about whether or not he would propose ended up with Rachel’s eyelashes on the floor. Rachel wanted an engagement ring as an indefinite promissory note that eventually she and her partner would get married. Peter wanted the engagement ring to be a binding contract that marriage is definitely coming, and because he’s a normal human being, he wasn’t ready to sign that contract after nine weeks of dating. They both cried, and Rachel walked out.
Vanity Fair’s Laura Bradley wrote an excellent piece about how Peter’s realism was his downfall in a reality TV landscape that caters to fantasy romance narratives, however ridiculous they may be. Rachel made her intentions — to find a husband and start a family with the man who would become her fiancé at the end of her journey — very clear from the beginning. But she spent the entire season being mature, humble, and practical in her search for this outcome. At first glance, her decision to choose the guy who
suspiciously said all of the right things and wouldn’t hesitate to make a grand romantic gesture of proposing feels like she did an about-face and “drank the Kool-Aid,” to use Bradley’s language. However, there is a layer of authenticity in Rachel’s decision, as well. Ironically, it makes me feel worse, not better.
I have to respect Rachel’s decision to go with the sure thing instead of the person she probably had deeper feelings for (even if I may have tweeted mean things in the heat of the moment). It’s a decision that a lot of women in their 30s and ready to start a traditional family make every day. Some call it settling. Some call it making a sacrifice for the future you want. To the latter point, this is certainly par for the course. The people we fall in love with are not always the people that can guarantee orthodox versions of relationship security. Sometimes it’s about which person gets closest to the center, not the one that hits the target.
At 29, I am still naive enough to insist that my target must be hit or the deal’s off. But who knows how I’ll feel at 34 if I’m single and my ovaries literally jump at the sight of someone else’s baby; or I’ve developed an illness and need health insurance badly; or I’ve fallen in love with a beautiful person from a foreign country who I just want to be able to see more often. Suddenly my stance on marriage might become a bit more flexible. Sure, I had hoped that Rachel, for all of the change she brought to the Bachelorette in terms of diversity, might also be the first lead to move us away from the confines of traditional relationships, as well. But alas, that mold will have to be broken elsewhere.