This past Saturday, throngs of women and a handful of hopeful men gathered at the Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant in Ballston, Va. The sounds of brightly painted acrylic nails tapping nervously on crowded tables and high pitched chatting mixed with the scent of perfume and cheap cosmetics created an atmosphere that exuded a sense of sheer competition. These women were here on a mission.
The women gathered Saturday morning to be part of the next group of hopeful bachelorettes competing for the love and adoration of one man on ABC’s popular reality television show, “The Bachelor.”
And I got to be there for the festivities.
I felt out of place as I walked into the restaurant. My hair is not Marilyn Monroe blonde, the only makeup that I was wearing was ChapStick and my breasts weren’t struggling to break free from the confines of my sweater.
My attempt to gain a better understanding of the human psyche and the draw reality television began as I slowly meandered in between the tables of potential contestants.
Olga, 23, was sitting with a group of friends, primping her hair and waiting to be called for an interview with ABC’s casting producer, Johnnie Raines.
“I really think I’m just ready to find someone,” said Olga, who asked her last name be withheld.
She also mentioned that she thought it would be a fun and exciting experience to be part of a reality television show.
A representative from radio station Hot 95.5, who invited various women to come up and show off their dance moves, interrupted our conversation. One woman who looked old enough to be my mother scampered up to the front of the crowd and proceeded to showcase her talents by doing “The Sprinkler.” Other old school favorites included the Roger Rabbit and the Running Man.
Tanya Courtney, 33, said she was auditioning because she wants to be the bachelorette while her friend, Stacey Lavoie, 23, said she thought it would be a fun experience.
“I’m a big fan (of reality television),” Lavoie said. “I think its because anyone you know could be on (the show), it’s more like watching real people than watching TV.”
Searching around the room, I began to wonder where the potential bachelors were. I figured that there had to be at least one or two men in the restaurant who lusted after the opportunity to have their pick from a group of 25 beautiful women.
My search ended with Michael Loftus, 27, an ex-frat boy type sitting in one of the booths towards the back.
Why not, I thought as I slipped into the booth across the table from him. I introduced myself with a friendly handshake and found that he was more than willing to talk.
“I just sat down and realized that I’m getting to the point of my life where there are a lot of beautiful women and sometime along the way I want to see my options – what better way than to have the networks choose for me,” Loftus said, also mentioning that he thinks himself to be both charming and witty.
“I don’t know if my ultimate dream is to become ‘the bachelor’ but it sounds fun and I’ve always wanted to be part of a reality show,” he said.
Like the women interviewed, Loftus said that he believed that it was possible to fall in love while participating in a reality television show.
He asked me for advice in filling out his application and I told him to write “carpe diem” somewhere on it.
“Television producers love that type of thing,” I said to him, trying to strain the sarcasm out of my voice.
A waitress came by and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. I ordered a glass of water while Mr. Bachelor across the table from me ordered a beer and proceeded to tell me about the wild party he attended the night before.
“I appreciate your company,” he said with a smile, noting he felt intimidated by the crowd.
On that note, I decided that it was time to track down this elusive ABC producer, Johnnie Raines. I noticed the interviews took place behind screens in a makeshift studio toward the back of the restaurant.
Raines was excited to talk about reality television, saying he thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I love it – I think it’s a great opportunity for a lot of people. I hope it never goes away,” he said.
“We do nationwide casting events for ladies and gentlemen who are interested in going on the show and falling in love,” Raines said.
While interviewing candidates for the show, he said there are certain qualities that make people stand apart from others, such as a great personality, an interesting background, sincerity, and of course, good looks.
“The desire to fall in love is another element we look for,” he said. There were plenty of people at the restaurant that afternoon who were more than ready to fall in love in front of millions of viewers.
“We create such a romantic, surreal environment that’s all about, well, romance,” Raines said when asked whether or not people could actually fall in love on a reality television show.
He then asked me if I would be interested in auditioning. I politely declined and made my way to the exit of the restaurant – leaving the world of ‘reality’ behind me.