The mention of reality television can have a variety of effects on me: it can make me turn off to a conversation, bring to mind the Ayn Rand quote about the “glorification of mediocrity” (she may be flawed but I always loved that turn of phrase), tempt me to make an argument for its ill effects on society, or make me sad for the loss of great writing in modern television (with few exceptions).

I am of the generation that started tuning into it originally, with MTV’s The Real World debuting during my high school years.  I remember watching it then and thinking it was okay, but I didn’t watch subsequent seasons, and by the time the genre began to dominate television, I didn’t even have a television. 

My mom, on the other hand, loves reality TV.  She used to tape (yes, tape) episodes of Beauty and the Geek and give them to me unsolicited.  I started watching some network shows like Dancing with the Stars after that, and tried out a few other shows to determine the appeal (I didn’t find much) and generally because I love pop culture.

Which brings me to my subsequent embarrassment over how much I love watching Bachelor Pad.  It started with The Bachelor/Bachelorette, which I could only stomach for a couple of seasons (okay, okay, so that’s more than stomaching).  But I could eat buckets of popcorn enthralled by the stupidity that is Bachelor Pad.  I don’t know why.

The people on this show make me want to yell at the TV.  I want to gossip about them like they’re neighbors whose antics I’m privy to sans binoculars (yes, I call my mom to talk about them).  I google “Bachelor Pad recaps” to find other like-minded people who are enthralled as much as I am.  I know it’s all edited, I know it’s all made-for-tv, scripted so Jake doesn’t get booted too early (ratings rule!), but I love the trainwreck.

Last night, one of the players – Vienna – was talking about how she needed the $250,000 prize at the end of the show because her mother was 4 months behind on her rent and was going to lose her house – as if this was some kind of reason to keep her in the game because her cause was so noble.  She was comparing herself to another player, Ella, who was intending to open a shelter for battered women (her mom was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend in front of her when she was 3) and use the money to give her 9-year-old son “the life he deserves”.  Vienna wanted to vote Ella off because her story was just too empathetic and part of the granting of the prize has to do with people’s intention for the money.

I think Ella’s story is amazing, but it also bothers me.  She’s a single mom, and she keeps saying repeatedly that she’s doing this for her son.  Part of me wants to say, “If you really love your son, you wouldn’t be going on The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad and being away from him months at a time to win money.”  Maybe I’m bitter because there are a lot of us single moms out there, and all of our kids should have “the life they deserve.”  My son’s been through some shit, and I work hard to ensure he’s got a good life – but to me that means mentally, physically and especially emotionally.  What kind of life does he deserve?  How much money would I need to buy it?  I’d like a house too, but it’s probably not in the cards.  How many single parents out there would benefit from having $250K for their kids?  I know for a fact I’m better off than most, and yet I’m still not where I’d be if money were no object.

Maybe it bothers me because she’s asking for sympathy – maybe because it’s her “vote for poor l’il me” cry.  I’m sure she’s a great person and obviously she’s been through a lot.  I guess it strikes a chord because I’ve never asked for charity – hell, I can’t even get the overdue child support from J’s bio parents for my guardianship years.  People tell me all the time to use my situation to ask for cheaper rates on things (karate classes, music lessons, etc).  Maybe I’d be better off if I did, but my pride is too great. 

I think it also bothers me because I’m jealous.  Two of the women on the show are single moms and they obviously have family to take care of their kids while they go away, frolic in the sun, make out with hot guys and become quasi-famous.  I couldn’t be away from J that long, but sometimes I’d just like to have someone around who I don’t have to pay so I can go see a movie.  By myself, even.  Another mom who I can exchange kid-watching with.  I’d like to go out on awesome dates with hot guys without worrying about my curfew or my reputation like they do (because it’s all in the name of winning money for a noble cause!).

I’d like one of the single moms to win – because of solidarity, I guess.  It isn’t easy.  And I hope they find love too – despite the fact that it’s reality TV and that’s a ridiculous expectation.  Maybe having one kid have a great life in exchange for junk-food-entertainment is worth it.  When it comes down to it, what would I do?  I’d probably do anything for him, too.