After much speculation from members of Bachelor Nation, it was announced that Nick Viall is the next Bachelor, so get ready to watch this multi-season veteran finally hand out his own roses for a change. But first, let's take a moment to pour one out for Texas-born charmer Luke Pell, a fan favorite from last season of The Bachelorette who many were certain would be the next Bachelor (sadly, we can't always get what we want). Whether or not you agree with the decision to make Nick the leading man of the next season, this announcement is actually a pretty bold move, because of one surprising factor: Nick's age.
When he first entered the spotlight in 2014 as a soft-spoken, slightly dorky contestant on Andi Dorfman's season of The Bachelorette, Nick was then 33. That season, he went on to the final two, only to lose out to the athletic, spray-tanned, walking set of abs that is Josh Murray — with whom he still has a rivalry. Fortunately for Nick, his journey to find love on reality television was far from over: He also showed up halfway through Kaitlyn's season, and has most recently appeared on Bachelor in Paradise. Now approaching 36 years old, Nick is set to be one of the oldest (though not the oldest) Bachelors ever. A data scientist for Huffington Post broke down the stats about the cast members of the Bachelor franchise, and found that the average age for a male Bachelor is 31 years old — five years younger than Nick will be when his season begins airing in 2017. That might not sound like much, but given the relatively small age range of contestants, every year counts.
Why Does Nick's Age Matter?
It's not the first time the show has cast a Bachelor who's a bit older: Brad Womack was 35 during his first run as Bachelor and 38 during his second, and Season 6's Byron Velvick was a whopping 40 when filming began. Nonetheless, it's still pretty groundbreaking to yet again see someone older on the quest to find love, and it's a reflection of how American views of romance and marriage have changed over the past several decades.
"I think the [choice to make Nick Viall the Bachelor] reflects the growing demographic of that age group that is still on the hunt for 'true love,'" says Crystal Rice, a licensed therapist and relationship consultant. "Once considered a youthful notion, with the growth of career-focus and a push against being forced into a "traditional" life path, the idea and fanciful notions of "true love" are still around for many in their mid-30s. The demographic that once embodied the "married and focused on career" has shifted, and there are now plenty of folks who have reversed the traditional. And that expanding group of people is who [the show] is hoping to finally give a voice to."
For Millennials, 30 Is The New 20
Although Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers would not have found it out of the ordinary for someone to marry as young as 18, for Millennials, things are a bit different. "On average, men are getting married at around age 29 and women at age 27," says Gary Brown, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. "This is a decisive uptick from previous generations. That trend line is happening because there are more women in the workforce than ever before and, similar to men, want to get a good start to their careers. Men now put increasing emphasis on wanting to feel more financially stable and chose to wait until they are older." Millennials have a reputation for being selfish and entitled, but when it comes to love this might not be a bad thing: It just means we know what we want, and aren't afraid to wait a bit longer to get it.
Similarly, Vox published a piece analyzing the ages of folks in the New York Times wedding announcements, and the data suggests that Americans getting married are even older than Brown suggests:
"Wedding announcements started including ages in 1989, when the median age was 27 for women and 29 for men. As of 2016, the median ages have increased to 30 for women and 32 for men. In 1989 you were twice as likely to see a 20-something in the weddings section as you were a 30-something, but as of 2016 the 30-somethings have taken over the majority, presumably to the chagrin of expectant grandparents throughout the tristate area."
The older we get, the more independent and confident we become, the more experiences we have, and the more challenging lessons we learn. No matter how you slice it, it's clear that Americans are waiting longer and longer to tie the knot. It makes sense that our next Bachelor is also a slightly more 'ripened' candidate, and it's cool that he's a real reflection of tons of lowercase-B-bachelors out there.
Why Are We Delaying Marriage?
Aside from not having as much pressure on us to "settle down" as people in our parents' generation might have experienced, there are other practical reasons we're waiting to get married. Brown already pointed out one of the most obvious reasons: the mutual desire of both men and women to focus on their careers first. Though Millennials still have the desire for long-lasting love and marriage, we're much more focused on being financially secure before marriage than generations past. "Being financially stable before marriage means you have your sh*t together and know how to make smart money decisions for your household," says Priya Malani, partner at StashWealth.com. "That's never a bad thing. Also, bringing financial assets to your marriage (instead of liabilities) affords you a greater ability to do more, see more, and experience more sooner."
But it's not just financial security that keeps us from getting married young — FOMO is also at play. "With social media and being overloaded with information about how we see others live their lives, we want to feel like we’ve experienced life before we 'settle down,'" says Anita Chlipala, LMFT. "I still hear from my clients that they view marriage as the end to their freedom, and it doesn’t have to be this way."
Although the onslaught of dating apps can be overwhelming and make you feel like you have to be actively trying to find love at all times, the truth is that focusing on your hobbies, career, finances, health, and other things is just as important. With so many other aspects of life to work on, it's no surprise that we keep delaying marriage more and more. As cliche as it sounds, the way to find a lasting partnership is to become the best version of yourself you can be, and then find someone who complements that. Though there's nothing wrong with getting married young, it seems Millennials are of the opinion that waiting until you're confident in yourself and what you want might be a better way to find a marriage that lasts.
We're also just pickier than we were before, Chlipala tells Bustle. "In decades past, people married for companionship or because they thought 'it was time,'" she says. "Now we want it all, and we want it all from one person. Someone to be our best friend, lover, confidante, support system, co-parent, financial provider, etc., while also expecting the passion and the loving feelings to just be there." We should all set our sights high — but that might mean it takes a little longer to find the right person.
So Why Is Nick Viall A Good Choice For The Bachelor?
Though so far unlucky in finding television love, Nick is a successful, confident man who isn't willing to settle for just anyone, even if that means waiting years to get hitched. He's had his heart broken publicly time and time again, but he's still putting himself way out there (reality TV is no joke) and looking for a life partner that's perfect for him.
"In general, the age of marriage has been steadily increasing and many people have had Viall’s experience of finding love but ultimately having it end in heartbreak," Jennifer Rhodes, licensed psychologist, dating & relationship expert, and founder of Rapport Relationships, tells Bustle. "I think he was likely chosen for this reason. Today’s singles will have many more long-term relationships that end and have to face starting over again. It is not the fairytale story that it once was and Viall likely represents that new reality."
Fantasy Versus Reality
The Bachelor franchise is far from a real representation of what it's like to fall in love. Most people don't fly around in helicopters on first dates, say 'I love you' after a few short weeks, and then get engaged after just two months. Nonetheless, the show is so widely watched that it obviously has a major impact on people all over America, and if some aspects of the show can reflect what real American relationships look like, then that's a step in the right direction.
As my fellow Bustle writer Emma Lord so eloquently put it, it's a relief to see an older Bachelor get cast, simply because it might mean the batch of female contestants will be a bit older, which will be empowering to women all over the country who have made the choice to delay marriage. Still, the idea of a 35-year-old man being unmarried isn't quite as sensational as an unmarried 35-year-old woman, just because of all the "biological clock" BS that women have to hear about. No woman over 32 has ever made it to the final four contestants on a season of The Bachelor, but here's hoping that with Nick as The Bachelor, that might all change.
Who knows? Maybe one of Nick's cast-offs from this upcoming season will be an awesome, over-30 woman who gets cast as our next Bachelorette. It might be a long shot, but a single, Millennial girl can dream.