I am so upset, I’m currently crushing ice cubes between my teeth as a means of working through my rage. Why am I so unhappy? Well, this week’s hometown dates were a classic case study in fragile masculinity, as well as some old school casual misogyny. Put on your seatbelts, folks! This recap’s about to get “intense,” scare quotes intended.
For some reason, this week’s installment started out with a shot of Chris in a hotel room in Toronto. This baffled me, as the next shot was of him on a farm outside Winnipeg. Continuity errors aside, Chris’ first hometown date was eminently watchable. He met Mikaela for a morning ride (on a horse, of course. Get your mind out of the gutter, people! Fantasy Suites are next week!). Mikaela explained to Chris that the horse farm is “her happy place,” and the two shared a bottle of Two Oceans wine. I was a little shocked by the wine consumption, I have to admit. Is it even safe to drink alcohol and ride a horse? That doesn’t sound safe to me. Let’s hope they only imbibed after finishing up with the pretty horseys.
After the horse farm, the time came for Chris to meet Mikaela’s fam jam. Chris was decidedly on edge throughout the entire experience. According to him, it’s been a long time since he’s last met someone’s folks. And, if you’re out of practice Meeting the Parents, you likely wouldn’t want to start with Mikaela’s, because she has four of them. The child of a blended family, this Winnipeg girl has two step-parents. So when her dad grilled Chris about his post-baseball career prospects, he had backup in the form of her other father figure. Mikaela had two whole dads inquiring about her boyfriend’s financial solvency. Apparently the whole afternoon was as stressful as it looked; Chris told the cameras, “I’m afraid of the fathers.” Having said that, the date included a declaration of love from Mikaela, so there was a silver lining!
The episode’s second hometown date was likely the easiest for Chris, but it was the hardest for me to watch as a feminist. As you know, dear readers, I personally know Catie; however, even if I didn’t, I would have been miffed about the coded sexist language Chris used to describe her. Casual sexism is just not okay.
After arriving back in Toronto, our titular Bachelor met up with the lawyer/meditation coach at a coffee shop called Grinder. Straight away, Catie declared how delighted she was to do something “normal” with Chris, like sitting down for a hot beverage. For his part, Chris was initially pleased to be in Catie’s presence; he quite enthusiastically made out with the young woman after she declared her love for him; however, things went downhill when he discovered that, even in Toronto, Catie is “not chill.”
You will recall that Catie’s lack of chill has been a hot button issue for Chris throughout the season. This episode changed nothing. Chris complained that Catie talked too much on their date, telling the cameras he “couldn’t get a word in edgewise.” For good measure, he once again referred to her as “intimidating” (which we all know is a gendered word men use for women who have the audacity to be successful). Then, he went the good, old-fashioned Freudian route of implying she was some sort of hysterical woman, calling her “crazy” so many times I lost track.
The incident that inspired Chris to brand Catie as “crazy” involved her diary. The previous summer, the attorney had written a journal entry about the sort of partner she wanted. The description sounded an awful lot like Chris, which was quite the coincidence, as the two were not yet acquainted. Catie also delightfully recalled how a psychic once said she’d end up with someone named Chris, making her think perhaps fate had brought them together.
To go with Chris’ coded language, the producers played goofy music in the background as Catie articulated her conviction that destiny had brought them together. The music was a not-so-subtle way of reinforcing Chris’ perspective. It instructed viewers to read Catie as a laughable figure of fun. Well, I’m calling gendered bullsh-t.
When men are talkative and passionate, they are cast as eloquent heroes. Think of how many classic romantic comedies conclude with the leading man confessing his feelings for the leading lady, monologuing about his ardour. When Harry from When Harry Met Sally crashes a New Year’s Eve party to rant at Sally about why they’re meant to be together, it’s supposed to be romantic. Tom Cruise pulls basically the same stunt on his ex-wife in Jerry Maguire, crashing a gathering at her home, yelling about how she “completes him.” Oh, and who could forget how Hugh Grant’s character ambushes movie star Anna Scott at a press conference (i.e., while she’s at work) to pledge his troth in Notting Hill. None of that behaviour is seen as too “intense.” Rather, it’s read as romantic. Instead of jokey music playing in the background of those scenes, we hear the triumphant crooning of Stevie Wonder, or maybe The Beach Boys. The crowd invariably goes wild!
We live in a world where men are allowed to be “crazy in love” without being branded “crazy,” but women are not. Women are meant to be the objects of romance, not the instruments of it. When we pursue men or persuade them to be with us, it’s psychotic, but when men do it, it’s true love. I’m mad at this show for playing into that antiquated trope. Why can’t a woman deliver a sentimental monologue without becoming a figure of fun?
I am aghast on Catie’s behalf, because when Chris calls her “crazy” or “intense,” it’s not just an attack on her. No, it’s a coded condemnation of the women I love. Almost every confident, successful heterosexual woman I know has been dumped by a man for being “too intense,” or “not chill enough.” In my experience, “intense” is a demeaning, vague catch-all word to deride women who would be better described with any of the following adjectives; ambitious, enthusiastic, hardworking, passionate, committed, loving or determined.
“Intense” is an insidious word used to justify heterosexual male insecurity. Calling a woman “too intense” for you to date is a way to gloss over fragile masculinity. It dismisses huge swaths of interesting and empowered women, rather than interrogating why certain men find them so threatening. “Intense” is to dating what “bossy” is to the business world. It is time to ban the word “intense” once and for freaking all!
While I could pontificate about gendered double standards for about thirty thousand more words, I must balance that inclination with my other responsibilities as a reality TV recapper. That brings me to the third hometown date of the episode, wherein Chris met Lyndsey’s family.
Suffice it to say, Chris was not a hit with Lyndsey’s relatives. In fact, he was less of a hit than the Justice League movie, if you catch my drift. Lyndsey’s father made jokes about his shotgun, and everybody was concerned about the ten-year age gap. The biggest deal breaker, however, was that Chris has never been camping. Lyndsey’s family takes camping very, very seriously.
It was, however, Lyndsey’s sisters who proved to be the Awkwardness MVPs for the episode. They grilled that poor boy like a steak! The sisters even made our leading man promise not to take Lyndsey to The Fantasy Suite, which was a bold move. For the uninitiated, The Fantasy Suite is where implied off-camera sex happens. We’ll have to wait ‘til next week to see if Chris makes good on that pledge.
The episode ended with the customary Rose Ceremony. As you probably already know, it’s Catie who got the boot. That means either Mikaela or Lyndsey are the only women left in the running. But let’s be real, Mikaela is probably getting the proposal. Chris is not going to want in-laws who see him as the spawn of Satan, am I right?
Before I go, however, I would like to give a special shout out to all the “intense women” out there. To the ladies who talk too much, work too much, know too much, or just plain feel too much: remember that you are valuable, you are worthy, and you are loved. Even when a man is too threatened to appreciate you, I love you! So please don’t change a thing.