One of my recent guilty pleasures has been watching the latest edition of the popular TV dating show, The Bachelorette. It’s cheesy, fanciful and completely contrived, but it’s also fun, and after seeing the first episode of this season, I became hooked.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, it features one young, fit, beautiful woman and a group of hunky, healthy young men who are all vying to win her heart and be the last man standing. During the show, the Bachelorette goes on a range of one-on-one and group dates, each one more fantastical than the last, in her quest to find the man of her dreams. Most of the time, these ‘dates’ are more like mini-fantasy adventures that take place all over the world. This season alone, they have included such feats as ziplining, snowmobiling, kayaking, and romping around on a glacier. Clearly, this show is meant for healthy people only. Now, I would in no way, ever remotely want to be on The Bachelorette, but as I sat there on my couch watching the latest episode, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I were? What if the Bachelorette had RA?
Two observations struck me immediately: first, TV’s version of "reality" would have to become way more ordinary. There is no way I would be able to gallivant about on all those crazy dates, day after day, without getting seriously fatigued and aggravating my RA. Second, how many of the guys would actually stick around once they found out the woman they were all clamoring for had a chronic illness that would instantly cast them in the role of caretaker should the relationship last beyond the show?
If I were the Bachelorette, instead of dates that involved kayaking out to an island, I could show one special guy how to give me an injection of Enbrel. Along with all the romantic dinners and cocktail parties, there would have to be designated days of rest, where all I had to do was lay on the couch while the men competed to see who could be the most supportive and nurturing. The "at-home" dates would not only include meeting my family, but also meeting all my doctors.
And since RA is famous for its unpredictability, picture the dramatic episode that would show what happens when a fabulous date gets cancelled at the last minute due to a flare up? How would the guys cope when I was in pain, and there was nothing that could be done about it? Sounds like really great and exciting TV, huh?
On the plus side, what a great platform this would be for increasing awareness about RA and other diseases like it? Seeing a young, single woman struggle with a mostly invisible illness on national TV would break so many stereotypes. All those assumptions that are made about health and physical ability all the time in the mass media would have to be rethought. But let’s face it, the likelihood that a show like The Bachelorette is ever going to feature a young, single woman dealing with a chronic or serious illness while going about the rest of her life is slim to none. The day-in, day-out reality of a chronic illness isn’t particularly glamorous or entertaining; it’s repetitive, frustrating and inconvenient at best. At its worst, it would turn this dreamy dating show into one hell of a drama.