On the first Monday of spring break, six people sat on the floor of my grandmother’s apartment in Queens to watch Colton Underwood, a 26-year-old from Colorado who was in the NFL for six days, decide to continue dating his favorite of the 30 women he had been dating for the past 10 weeks.
We all knew he wouldn’t end up with Tayshia, and Hannah G. was too boring, but Cassie had broken up with him the week before, and we didn’t really believe she would agree to get back together, especially not that quickly. It wasn’t the most exciting finale in recent years, and the season on the whole was nothing special, but we were fully invested. Every single week between winter and spring break, the six of us, plus anywhere between 10 and 20 more people, had gathered in my common room at 10 p.m. to watch “The Bachelor,” a show only a few of us had ever seen before.
The archaic, bizarre world of “The Bachelor” is surprisingly easy to understand. After a few episodes, a new viewer can tell if a date went well or badly relative to its position in the season, whether one contestant’s attack on another was a good move or or not, and can predict with relative accuracy who would be receiving the next one-on-one date.
It’s prescriptive in the way of Victorian courtship or middle school dances. Particularities are substituted into formulas that have been tested (and, for the most part, failed) over 20 times. On the first one-on-one date, “The Bachelor,” generally, will pick a promising and unexciting blonde woman to do an adventurous activity with before their dinner under the stars.
On the first one-on-one date, this bachelor, particularly, picked Hannah B. (as distinguished from Hannah G.), a former Miss Alabama with shiny teeth who happened to have her birthday that same day. When asked to make a toast, she struggled and stammered her way to “first it’s my birthday, so to this … amazing day,” ending with a halting “um, yeah. Roll Tide.” Crammed into every corner of my common room, our group watched in absolute horror. “Roll Tide” has since become our most noble greeting, appropriate for the last text at the end of a too-long night or the last wave goodbye before starting an essay in solitude. It stands for low stakes, slightly giddy desperation, a valiant effort to locate joy in the midst of increasing panic.
What began as a group chat made up of known “Bachelor” fans became tentative plans to watch together, and then watching together, and then more people watching together, and then a 24-person GroupMe full of “Bachelor” news, reminders of our weekly start time, and photos of young Colton Underwood.
One Monday night, I walked into my suite less than a minute after 10 p.m. and discovered such a large proportion of my hall sitting on the floor of the common room, along with several strangers, that I could no longer physically locate my backpack.
It was maybe the only regularly scheduled event in our lives unrelated to academics, extracurriculars or jobs, but it was very serious business. Most people were obsessively punctual, and some regularly arrived 10 minutes early to get better seats and help set up.
We initially planned to make a snack rotation, but it was immediately clear we wouldn’t need it. People spent their Durfee’s swipes on chips or cookies that descended onto my common room table from all sides.
On one occasion, our start was delayed when I, a microwave novice, attempted to microwave popcorn and the bag came out filled with embers and smoke. Entire care packages were consumed before the first commercial break.
Hospitality is hard when you’re living in a matchbox-sized room with no kitchen or money, but people rarely turned up empty-handed, and my suite was usually stocked with snacks for the rest of the week.
I try not to think about the tragedy of ABC’s broadcast schedule, which allows us only a fraction of available “Bachelor” programming to watch together during the school year. The entirety of “The Bachelorette,” and most of “The Bachelor” in Paradise — in which multiple men and women compete to couple up in coastal Mexico — take place during the summer, when we will be scattered at our respective homes and summer programs and jobs, providing our own snacks and sitting with room to move our elbows.
Noa Rosinplotz | firstname.lastname@example.org .