Why I hope Leslie “loses.”

Why I hope Leslie “loses.”

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Why I hope Leslie “loses.”
#hope #Leslie #loses,


Over the past few weeks, friends and family have asked me, often in conspiratorial tones: “Are you watching The Golden Bachelor?” There is something about this twist on the enduring franchise—which airs its finale tonight—that’s brought even non-Bachelor watchers like myself to their knees, tearing up at rose ceremonies and cheering at furtive makeout sessions between two people over 60. When I say, “Oh yes I am,” the conversation goes one of two ways. Either they ask, “Should I watch it?” (A resounding yes.) Or they are already on board and want to talk about the women, notably the two finalists: “Don’t you hope he picks Leslie? I am obsessed with her!” or, “Ugh, Theresa.” There is no divide: Everyone I know who is watching is on Team Leslie.

I get it. Leslie rules. In case you haven’t tuned in or streamed it or whatever we do now: She is 64, has piercing blue eyes and great honey-brown highlights in her wild long hair, has dance moves, has a soft voice, and has an appealing vulnerability born at least in part from years of busted relationships, including two divorces. She’s a hot “glamma” (instead of grandma) with a nice family who is dying for her to finally find someone kind to spend the rest of her life with. She’s from Minneapolis and she dated Prince (yes, Prince). She is a woman of experience—you can see it on her face, even with (surely) some fillers and Botox. I’d love to get a whisky with her, sneak a few cigarettes out back of the bar, and swap midlife relationship stories.

Theresa could not be more different from Leslie. She’s teeny-weeny, 70, appears to have had more work done, lives in suburban New Jersey, and hasn’t dated much since her husband died 10 years ago. She does not come across as worldly at all, which gives her a distinctive air of innocence in a bunch of women who have been on this earth for quite a while. For most of the season, I found her annoying; she made her debut by flashing Gerry her “birthday suit,” and I never really got over it. Not because a 70-year-old woman was proudly showing her stuff, but because it seemed like a too-obvious naked—ahem—ploy to make an impression. (I learned later that Theresa had on a nude slip, which mostly made me relieved for the bachelor himself, who seemed legitimately shocked by the reveal as it happened.)

As for that bachelor? You probably know by now that he is Gerry (pronounced “Gary”) Turner, a 72-year-old guy with a full head of hair from Indiana. Gary is nice. He also appears to be financially solvent, which is no small thing for a senior citizen in this country right now. There has been a lot of swooning over Gerry, by the contestants and viewers. I don’t have quite as harsh a view of his overall banality as my colleague Michelle Herman does—he is a very good listener, he is honest about his often tormented feelings, and he’s not afraid to cry. When Leslie proclaimed her love for him, I went with it. Dating in general is tough; I can say from experience that doing it later in life is … awful? Finding someone kind, content, and attractive who is excited to commit can feel like hitting the jackpot. I wanted that for Leslie. We all did.

But, after watching the penultimate episode of the show two weeks ago—this was the seminal (LOL) “Fantasy Suites” episode, where the possibility of an overnight date and actual s-e-x hangs over even the most boring small talk between the bachelor and each of the finalists—I found myself interrogating just why I wanted Leslie to win so much when winning would likely mean a proposal from Gerry.

Here are the details. Leslie’s date comes first. Over dinner, Gerry tells Leslie that he’s noticed she hasn’t asked him any “hard questions” in a while, and he wonders what’s up. So he tells her to kick one to him. Knowing that a potential overnight date lies in front of them, she says: “OK, I have a question for you. When’s the last time you had sex?”

He nearly chokes, and then blushes. “Do you mean, by myself, or … ?” No, she means with another person, and he says it’s “been a long time.” Says Leslie, sort of dying to tell him: “It’s been a year.” Suddenly, a chasm of experience and life choices opened up between them—or it seemed to, to me. Here’s Leslie: hot, experienced, a little broken, fragile, hungry. Ready to go to bed with this guy. (She even makes a 69 joke!) She wants to talk about it. Even if we’d had our suspicions, this is the first time Gerry seems to realize he just might be out of his depth with Leslie. Still, they go to the Fantasy Suite for their “date.” The next morning, over coffee, things seem a little off; all we really know is they were up late and talked and laughed a lot. “We talked about everything …” says Leslie. Gerry, clinking their coffee cups: “Here’s to an awesomely good night and great conversation and a lot of laughs.” We don’t know exactly what happened, but it’s clear that “a lot of laughs” was not the fantasy Leslie had been harboring.

And then, Theresa’s date. Over dinner, Gerry asks her about her career, and we learn the most interesting thing about Theresa to date: She’s a trader! And apparently a good one. And she’s still working, at 70! But she’s ready to give up work for love. And she loves Gerry. Their “morning after” feels more connected than his with Leslie. Theresa, lounging in some kind of modest/sexy long-sleeved bodysuit, says confidently: “It feels so different now. I think we finally really got to know each other last night.” They giggle like new lovers. And by the way, it seems they’ve only had a few of those, combined: Theresa was married to one man, slept with only one man her entire life, until he died in 2014. She hasn’t dated at all. We know that Gerry has been dating—it was a prerequisite to be cast as the Golden Bachelor—but we really don’t know the extent of his, erm, experience; his wife, Toni, was his high school sweetheart, and died in 2019 after a terrible, short illness. And we know from his conversation with Leslie that he hasn’t been with anyone else recently.

A moment after Theresa’s Fantasy Suite date, my heart absolutely plummeted for Leslie. And look, it’s possible she will come out victorious tonight, but I’m hoping she doesn’t. I can see it now: Gerry is too much of a nothingburger for the likes of Leslie. (He’s also 8 years older than she is, which is mostly important because in eight years he will be 80 and she will only be 72! That’s potentially a significant life and lifestyle difference between them.)

Am I making too much of this? All season, Gerry has mentioned how Theresa makes him feel “safe.” In all honesty, I haven’t really cared how these women made Gerry feel—I’ve cared about how he made the women feel—and “safe” seemed coded for “familiar.” Which in turn seemed … boring. But, Gerry is also boring. I’m sorry! I like Gerry! And also: “Boring” is OK! I am 48 years old. You know what I like to do with my new 50-year-old husband? Cook him dinner, eat at 6:30, chitchat, watch PBS NewsHour, and be in bed by 9. Sure, that chitchat is often about politics and what’s going on in the world or things we’ve read or watched; it’s all far from superficial. I’m just saying: We do not need to scale waterfalls (and we never will); we don’t need to ride ATVs (ditto).

These—waterfall scaling, ATVs—were the dates that Leslie and Gerry had together on the show, which is set up to be an exciting fantasy version of dating, because it is, well, a show. Outside of a carefully-controlled-by-ABC environment, I fear/hope that Leslie is just too cool for this nerd; he’s been cosplaying as a potential partner for her this whole time. He’s almost just too much of a gentleman to do otherwise. I am glad that Leslie, who can now add “reality TV star” to the list of things she’s done in her wild and fun life, has realized she may be capable of loving a nice guy. But I hope when she meets him, he plays the guitar instead of pickleball.

Correction, Nov. 30, 2023: This article originally misstated Leslie’s age.



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Why I hope Leslie “loses.”

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