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IMAGE: Bachelorette
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Former "Bachelorette" Meredith Phillips and her fiance Ian McKee have stayed together — so far.
msnbc.com contributor
updated 9/27/2004 8:06:26 PM ET 2004-09-28T00:06:26

On Sept. 22, ABC kicked off the new season of "The Bachelor," featuring two Bachelors. The assembled women eventually chose Byron, the professional bass fisherman, sending home gray-haired Jay. Except for that, there has been little news from the show since the traditional end of a "Bachelor" season — the announcement that the Bachelor and his chosen one have given up, bid each other adieu, and moved on to dating entirely different, also barely famous people.

Alex did not stay with Amanda, after all. Aaron did not stay with Helene. Andrew did not stay with Jen, Bob did not stay with Estella, and Jesse did not stay with Jessica. What's more, the show has nearly given up on the very notion of ending in a proposal, as the men now usually end with something like, "I choose you. You are the one. I want the two of us to . . . go to the movies."

A show that has an 0-for-5 record of matching men with prospective mates would, one would think, begin to wonder whether it really should be billing itself as the world's most romantic reality show, rather than the world's most wretchedly incompetent dating service.

Of course, the current "Bachelor" season, the show will return to its "Bachelorette" incarnation. That show will bring back Andrew Firestone's castoff Jen Schefft, hoping that she will be luckier in love than she was during the Days of Wine and Steel-Belted Radials.

And while the sample is still small, it's interesting to note that Jen has reason to rejoice: while the Bachelors unfailingly ditch their beloveds before anyone has a chance to even take bets on their odds, the Bachelorettes have fared better. Alex failed to select Trista, but when she returned, she hooked up with Ryan, and they're already married. Bob rejected Meredith (and her Nana), and she later returned to land Ian — and while they're not married yet, that appears to be the plan.

Glamour vs, nice, stability vs. flash
Admittedly, it might just be coincidence, but it does tempt armchair cultural anthropologists to wonder: why do the men's relationships go belly-up while the women's thrive?

It's tempting to go with some sort of simplistic explanation relying on the mythical tendency of men to choose looks or other surface characteristics above the kind of character traits that might lend themselves to long-term relationships. After all, Trista probably wouldn't be married now had she chosen studly, oily Charlie instead of Ryan and his agonizingly bad poetry.

The problem with that theory is that Firestone, for instance, didn't go with the glamour queen — of the women left on the show near the end, Jen was the nice girl. Andrew, in theory, went for substance. And still, no dice.

And relatively speaking, Meredith did not go for stability, which was represented more thoroughly by Matthew than by Ian. Meredith went for flash, and she still won.

Perhaps the women have had better luck because they have done a better job of culling the group in the early stages and narrowing it down to an appropriate set of choices. Maybe the men don't leave themselves anyone good to choose at the end because they don't do well at the beginning.

Of course, the fact is that the majority of the people who are offered up at the beginning are impossible to distinguish from each other. It's hard to do a "good job" or a "bad job" at winnowing a group that looks like a multi-limo blur of good looks and wacky occupations. (Get her! She's an insurance adjuster!) That's not to even mention the fact that while Trista did all right in the end, she inexplicably kept Creepy Creepy Russ until very late in the game, showing many other qualities a heck of a lot more than an early eye for quality.

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Give it some thought, guys
Maybe it's the particular people they've chosen. Meredith was certainly among the most down-to-earth of the women who have ever walked across the "Bachelor" stage, and Trista probably had the most marriage-minded outlook of any of the eligibles.

On the men's team, by contrast, you will find good old Bachelor Bob Guiney, who was sold as some sort of underappreciated "nice guy" and turned out to be quite possibly the biggest slimeball the show ever produced. Alex and Aaron were flat-out jackasses, Andrew was an agreeable dullard, and whatever Jesse Palmer was aiming for, it didn't seem to be "get married."

As appealing as this theory is, it's hard to argue that nice people have an easier time remaining together. Everyone knows some very nasty married couples who have been together for years.

And besides, overbroad generalizations and reckless speculation are fun, which brings us to perhaps the most intriguing theory. Aside from Bachelor Bob, who has to be written off as an anomaly because his particular brand of insufferable slickness was concealed until fairly late in the game, the women have been previously rejected candidates, while the men have not. It may well be that Trista and Meredith's experiences with that sad limo ride home alone after not receiving roses somehow convinced them not to play the game in the silly way it was approached by people like Aaron and Anomaly Bob.

Could it be that being a good Bachelor/ette requires, of all things, gravity? Or at least a spark of understanding that it's no fun to be sent home, so the choice deserves a little more thought than Jesse gave it when he handed a rose to a girl other than the one he intended to have it?

It's probably too much to hope that reality dating shows would teach anything quite that interesting. In all probability, what is relevant is not that the show has a zero-for-five record with men and a two-for-two record with women, but that it has a rather anemic two-for-seven record overall. Perhaps fisherman Byron will have the same odds Jen will have when she ultimately shows up, which is to say: don't throw away that address book yet.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.

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