My parents have been divorced for almost ten years, and I’m still not over it. It doesn’t burn the same way it did when I was younger, but still in adulthood, there are moments where I can feel the phantom pains of my high school diaries. I experience this on Bachelor Monday’s, when people play out their own fantasies of vying for the Bachelor’s heart, and my brain won’t let me think past the dreaded hometown date. I think about the way that my divorce story isn’t sweet or TV friendly, and how after nearly ten years, it still isn’t resolved, and it may never be. I’ve had friends try to sweeten that reality with statements like, ‘remember when Dean’s hometown ended with him crying on the floor of a yurt after reconnecting with his estranged father?’ Those comments don’t help of course, they remind me that I should be over it. Neither of my parents changed their names or fled to live in yurts, so get over it.
I don’t get over it, though, it only fuels a deeper Bachelor induced spiral, scarier than the hometown date and decidedly darker. Maybe, the pain I carry from my parents’ divorce just isn’t enough. We eye roll when your average Chad or Brad pull the Bachelorette aside to cry about his parent’s divorce, just moments after viewers stopped weeping about Zac’s battle with addiction or the complexities that Ivan carries as a young biracial man in 2020 America.
It feels like privilege to let a parents’ divorce be the thing that breaks you.
There’s a feeling that, if this were Baggage, your parents’ divorce should be your smallest baggage, so how are you going to fill those other two bags? What horrible, earth shattering thing is coming your way next, because there’s no way divorce will be your biggest hardship.
These thoughts have circled around in my head almost every Bachelor Monday since the engagement of Jojo and Jordan, but it wasn’t until recently that I found the ultimate trigger. If Bachelor contestants were to walk into the mansion with a scorecard, it’s clear that the ‘my family is everything to me’ box banks them at least ten points. A cringingly shallow conversation gets injected with a quick nod to a contestant’s love for their family, and we get a confessional snippet like ‘this is the kind of girl I see myself falling in love with,’ or the dreaded ‘we just have the same values.’
These thoughts became almost pervasive to me, jumping off of the screen and latching onto my most hidden insecurities. I suddenly started polling my friends, ‘do you think it’s weird for me to make a joke about my step brother asking me out on hinge?,’ or ‘what if my date asks about my family and I accidentally let it slip that I only recently unblocked my mom’s phone number?’ Does all of this make me a bad person? Am I not the girl of Matt James’ dreams, and do I even want to be? Do I have no values at all?
These are the breadcrumbs of thought I can’t shake since my parents’ divorce nearly ten years ago, but will this be my hill to die on? No. Those voices, which sound awfully similar to Chris Harrison’s, will get quieter and quieter with each passing Bachelor, and the contestants’ Revolve-sponsored scripts will ring less and less true for me with each ‘when I heard you were the Bachelor…’
This is all to say, I do love my family. Us broken kids want love and a walk-in closet to store that baggage. I am grateful for the people in my life, even when those relationships are too messy to fit into ABC’s boxes. Coming from a broken home, I’ll always compare myself to the portrayals of family I see in pop culture, reality or otherwise, and I say this as a twenty-three-year-old woman. The somewhat juvenile sadness of wanting just one toothbrush, one bedroom, and one Christmas fade as you get older, but those feelings are replaced by other concerns about relationships, intimacy, and accountability.
It’s hard to predict the ways in which my parents’ divorce will affect me in the years to come, but one thing I will predict is Rachel getting that final rose.