It occurred to me about halfway through Ben Higgins’ season of The Bachelor just how young the women vying for his attention were. Of course, it makes sense — Ben, at least when filming started, was a mere 27 years old and Bachelor contestants tend to be younger than the Bachelor himself. JoJo Fletcher, our newest Bachelorette, is 25 years old, and some fans seem to be wondering if JoJo is too young to be the Bachelorette, but that's not what they should be concerned about.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m all about marrying young if you feel that it’s right for you. If you meet the love of your life at 7 years old a la Sweet Home Alabama and you live happily ever after, that’s awesome. My bone to pick, especially with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette , is just how hyper-focused on marriage the shows are. I get that the whole point of the show is to come home with a spouse, but why? Why, according to the show, do you have to be engaged or married to have your relationship be legitimate? As much as I wasn’t exactly keen on Juan Pablo Galavis and his season of The Bachelor, I don’t think he had the wrong idea of taking things really slowly with Nikki Ferrell. Of course, six months later, Juan Pablo couldn’t say the words “I love you” to her, but that’s another story altogether.
The whole point of The Bachelorette is for JoJo (or Kaitlyn or Ali or Andi) to find Prince Charming and settle down — that’s really it. Many of the women on the show had successful careers beforehand (Andi Dorfman was an Assistant District Attorney, Ali Fedotowsky worked at Facebook), but The Bachelorette whittles it all down to a woman choosing a life-long partner after eight weeks.
Age is a factor. JoJo, being only 25 years old, hasn’t really had the life experiences that older Bachelorettes have had. It’s no wonder — unless she has a Delorean, she hasn’t had the time. My concern about a really young Bachelorette (and really young Bachelor contestants) is that the show posits marriage as the be-all, end-all to a woman’s life. That’s the illusion that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette projects: get married, be happy, end of story. I wouldn’t want a younger woman watching this show who perhaps hasn’t had many relationships or reached her career peak to think that she has to find a partner tout suite just because The Bachelorette says she needs to be married to be validated.
The ultimate show of success in the Bachelorette universe is to have a ring on your finger at the finale or to become the next Bachelorette. But in reality, where there aren't any cameras nor that many roses, most women understand that a proposal or a spinoff show is not the end all be all. All women know they have options and if a white wedding doesn’t factor into your plans at the moment, or ever, you’re not less than or different. You're just doing you. If you want to get married, get married. I’ll look through your registry and buy you that very nice stand mixer you asked for. But don’t think — as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette may suggest to some women — that getting hitched needs to be the ultimate goal in your life, or the only marker of a successful relationship. Marriage can be a great thing, but that doesn't mean it's what every season of The Bachelorette needs to end with.
For more on The Bachelorette, check out Bustle's podcast Will You Accept This Podcast?
Images: Rick Rowell/ABC; Giphy (2)