TV

Queer Couples Could Teach the “Bachelor” Heteros a Lot About Marriage

What if the show's young, swoony contestants stopped being hot messes and really thought things through?

The average age of the four remaining contestants on The Bachelor is 25 years old.

That’s technically an adult age. A 25-year-old in the United States can smoke, drink, and drive a rental car—though preferably not at the same time. But it isn’t often a very mature age: In fact, many scientists now believe that your brain doesn’t even finish developing until the age of 25. Maybe that’s why the median age of first marriages has been rising since the 1950s, in tandem with the women’s movement and other progressive social gains. Our brains just need a little more time to bake until we can make a decision as monumental as the one Peter Weber will make after nine weeks of filmed dates with a group of infighting Instagram influencers.

ABC/Francisco Roman
Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

And yet, 28-year-old Pete Pilot Pete is absolutely confident that he wants to propose to someone. At the start of this week’s episode, he sits all the ladies down in a Peruvian hotel room for a Serious Talk about how he’s “ready for this” and he wants them to be ready, too. And then, over the course of the episode, he bafflingly sends home two of the only women left who actually do seem “ready” for a serious partnership: 31-year-old event planner Natasha and 27-year-old attorney Kelley.

But I suppose that’s one of the founding myths of The Bachelor: Despite the show’s horrendous track record at producing successful marriages, it still asks us to pretend like tying the knot before age 25 isn’t a terrible centuries-long status quo for straight couples. And yes, I say straight couples, because the average age of first marriages for same-sex couples seems to be much higher than it is for opposite-sex couples: 46 for men marrying men, according to one recent survey, and 36 for women marrying women. In the Bachelor-verse, those ages would be astronomically high. In fact, the oldest women to ever compete on the show were 37 at the time of filming.

ABC/Francisco Roman
Natasha and Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

So just as queer women are reaching their marriageable prime, straight women can no longer realistically expect to be cast on The Bachelor. Which is a shame, because some of the (slightly) older women on Peter’s season are genuine catches. Natasha is funny, sweet, and secure in herself. Kelley is witty, gorgeous, and successful. Neither have made Peter cry or cried in front of him. They haven’t caused any drama in an otherwise ridiculous season; they’re just trying to get to know this plane-flying gent to see if they want to spend their lives with him.

But Peter sends Natasha home after her one-on-one date with him this week even though they “get along really well,” because he says his relationship with her “just feels like a friendship.” Then, later in the episode, he gives former frontrunner Kelley the boot shortly after she reminds him that “not every relationship has to be jumping through hurdles and super hard.” Indeed, if there’s anything these two women appear to have done wrong in Peter’s eyes, it’s not being difficult, histrionic, and immature.

ABC/Francisco Roman
Natasha and Peter Weber in The Bachelor.

Just look at who Peter has left on his roster: There’s Hannah Ann, a 23-year-old who in last week’s episode said that her modeling work was “not necessarily a job” and who seemed to secure a rose by strategically turning on the waterworks for Peter after he walked away from their dinner date. (This week, Hannah Ann writes Peter a note with a heart instead of a dot over her lowercase “i.”) There’s Madison, also 23, who is saving herself for marriage and who seems to want Peter to be as ardently religious as she is. There’s Kelsey, 28, who was at the center of the great and terrible conflict now known as #ChampagneGate. And last but not least, there’s 26-year-old Victoria F., who has been a constant thorn in Peter’s side, but one that Peter can’t help but prick himself with over and over again. These four women are either bad fits for Peter—or they’ve thrown fits on the show.

Their persistence is likely a function of the lead’s youth. Peter, like many people who aren’t yet ready for marriage, seems to equate tears and vulnerability with true love, so he gravitates toward a hot mess like a Roomba searching for spilled cereal. Queer couples aren’t perfect, of course. We still fight and get divorced. But most of us do get married at an age at which we’ve realized we actually want to be with someone who can be a best friend—albeit a sexy best friend—and someone who can make our already-complicated lives easier rather than harder. Straight millennials are starting to get married later, too, lowering the divorce rate in the process. Statistically speaking, it seems like many LGBTQ people had a solid instinct: Wait longer to wed, spare yourself some pain down the line.

That’s a lesson The Bachelor could reinforce, if the show were willing to forego the drama that results from cramming three dozen 22-year-olds into one house. Which 20-something will Peter pick at the end of this season? Honestly, who cares? What these people really should do is take a page from the queer playbook and hold off at least half a decade before they even think about marriage.

Samantha Allen is the author of "Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States" and a GLAAD Award-winning LGBTQ journalist.
@SLAWrites