Lifestyle & Culture

Late Dates #22: The Tarnished Bachelor

CINEMABLEND

By Grace Cooper

IT took me many weeks to work up to watching another episode of the Golden Bachelor. Skipping quickly through the first four episodes, I wondered to myself why I dislike this show so much. At first Gerry truly did come across as genuinely charming. We cheered to think a 72-year-old widower might sincerely be looking to find true love again after the sudden death of his high school sweetheart wife of four-plus decades. I confess that all that crying he does in every episode is a bit off-putting, and I wondered if a few months of grief counseling might have been a good idea before baring his heart before a national audience. Then I considered as did so many viewers, what’s the harm in viewing Gerry simultaneously courting 20 older women in what can only be described as any elderly man’s daydream?

But there was something else…some nagging feeling that all that emotive, hyper-sincerity was just a tad too scripted. Outside of our favorite fantasy man Ted Lasso, how many real men are that sunny, vulnerable and readily communicative? It was bound to happen, but earlier this month, determined journalists from The Hollywood Reporter uncovered a darker, previously undisclosed side to Gerry’s personality.

According to corroborated interviews with anonymous sources, Gerry lied about dating a woman for 3 years, beginning just one month after his wife’s death. Gerry courted ‘Caroline’ for several months, and then, after he promised to marry her, she moved into the lake home he and his former wife had built. She recounted her surprise when unexpectedly our golden bachelor charged Caroline for half the household expenses, and according to this anonymous ex, soon after his personality began to change. A bit of a neat freak, Gerry instructed Caroline to make the bed immediately upon arising. At one point, Gerry fat-shamed this woman, telling her he wasn’t bringing her to his high school reunion because she’d gained 10 pounds from the stress of this “walking-on-eggshells” living arrangement. At that point, she agreed to move out but subsequently fell and required surgery for a broken ankle. Adding insult to injury, Gerry accused her of falling as a ruse to delay her exit. Additionally, Gerry, who was billed as a successful former restaurateur, apparently padded his resume. He had previously owned and sold a small burger joint, but in recent decades supported himself mostly as a handyman.

Back to the Golden Bachelor series…what’s really happening here? Why am I having such a visceral dislike to just another improbable mating game played out in front of millions of viewers? It occurs to me that the platform for such “reality” shows casts Gerry in the role of the consummate narcissist, and those dozens of fawning old gals in the role of helpless victim to all the games true narcissists play in everyday relationships. Week after week, we watch as Gerry “evaluates” one woman after another for worthiness. As pressure to please Gerry grows, we observe as one by one these accomplished and previously confident women are reduced to tears, anxiety attacks, paranoia and fear that this may be the week in which Gerry decides whether they will be sent packing. What we are observing is a narcissist’s fantasyland: 20 codependent women all vying for the prize—a self-absorbed, preening, love-bombing, gas-lighting, emotional manipulator.

First, I should clarify that the term “narcissist” is tossed around with reckless abandon these days. There are those exhibiting narcissistic behaviors on a spectrum of behaviors considered “normal” depending upon the situation. Then there are those animals who meet the diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook widely used by clinicians and psychiatrists in the United States to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. For all intents and purposes in the dating world, it is helpful to recognize narcissistic traits to avoid getting caught up in the web of deception these individuals spin, when looking for their next source of narcissistic supply. You see, narcissists are often referred to as vampires feeding off the genuine emotional responses they provoke in the romantic partners they target.

Overt narcissists are characterized by nine criteria. First, they have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They brag and exaggerate their achievements to impress. They engage in fantasies about having superior intelligence, beauty, which entitles them to power, wealth and love. They believe they are superior and should only associate with other superior beings. They expect to be catered to or deserving of special treatment to an unreasonable degree. They become angry when they are denied. They are willing to exploit others in the pursuit of what they want. They lack empathy and hurt others without conscience. They see emotions in others as weakness. They are envious and belittle the achievements of others. They are arrogant, patronizing and condescending.

Surprisingly, at the root of this despicable personality disorder is an exceptionally fragile sense of self-esteem, leaving narcissists often experiencing bouts of depression, anxiety and emptiness. They are preoccupied with how others see them and constantly fish for compliments to fill the void inside.

The covert type of narcissist is a bit harder to spot, as they are the fragile loner types, avoiding intimacy, fearing vulnerability, frequently depressed, yet enraged when criticized or rejected. These are the perfectionists, silently seething loner types. I was previously married to this type of narcissist.

The real question to answer is why these women—why any woman— would find a narcissist irresistible, as these women all profess to be falling for Gerry. Outside the phenomena of group hysteria, and female codependency narcissists are typically charming at first, which explains the initial attraction. There are stages to normal romantic couplings, but for narcissists there are predictable patterns to what is known as the narcissistic abuse cycle.

Idealization stage: This how the seduction begins with a phenomena referred to as love-bombing. The narcissist quickly connects with you, puts you on a pedestal, idealizes you. It’s an intense, fast-moving and passionate phase that is more manipulation than love-at-first-sight.

Devaluation phase: This is when the narcissist slowly starts making you feel insecure and devalued through criticism, passive-aggressiveness, backhanded compliments, stonewalling, comparison to others and other mind games.

Repetition phase: Rinse and repeat…in this confusing stage, a narcissist idealizes, then devalues in a cyclical manner causing confusion and distress.

Discard stage: When narcissists no longer have use for relationships, they may abruptly end it. There might be gaslighting to make you feel as if you are to blame, questioning your reality. As you begin to accept and separate from the narcissist emotionally, they may also hoover you back in and initiate a cycle of abuse.

See where I am headed with this analysis? Watch a few episodes again—all the clues an armchair analyst requires to see “The Golden Bachelor” for what it really is. Gerry is the biggest lothario of all…dating multiple women…playing on their sympathies…gaslighting, love bombing, trauma bonding, triangulating, discarding and then hoovering them back in!

Finally, the grand finale. Leslie believes Gerry when he previously called her “his girl” and professed his love…but then Gerry hauls Leslie home to meet his grown kids…they give her a thumbs down…

Yep, what 72-year-old grown-ass man wouldn’t ask the kids for help in choosing his new wife?

“Be happy…” Gerry tells Leslie as he casts her adrift.

Leslie is crying…Gerry is crying about breaking a good person’s heart… “I hate myself.”

But WAIT! Gerry has already used the next line in a previous episode…

“Only time I felt worse was when my wife died,” he sobs.

Leslie calls Gerry on his duplicity and for setting her up for humiliation in front of millions of viewers…although if anyone is still watching this snoozer at this point, it’s only to view this final discard stage.

Gerry at last officially picks Teresa, the swell gal who was manipulative enough to throw Kathy under the bus by tattling to Gerry, for daring to call her on being…well… manipulative!

Here comes the big predictable fake out…

“Teresa, you’re not the right person for me to live with.”

Long dramatic pause…Teresa wrings her hands and swoons…

“You’re the person that I can’t live without.”

Dropping to one knee, out comes the ring some producer purchased and slipped into Gerry’s pocket.

Teresa beams…

Gerry is wiping away tears…

Stay tuned for the big Golden Wedding set for January 4, 2024.

 

In the meantime, listen to: 48 Best Songs About Narcissists (with Playlist)

 

Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.



2 thoughts on “Late Dates #22: The Tarnished Bachelor

  1. Grace Cooper says:

    You said it, Nancy! We live in a curious time in which narcissism is often rewarded. Studies have shown that an astounding number of CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are considered narcissists. https://corpgov.law.harvard.edu/2021/10/25/are-narcissistic-ceos-all-that-bad/
    And don’t get me started on the modern day celebrity, political, and athlete culture.
    Empathy and compassion are qualities that can be taught to young children. That might be the first step towards eventually normalizing our culture.

  2. Nancy G says:

    As a retired family law attorney, I’ve seen an untold number of narcissists, of both sexes, and the havoc they cause in the lives of spouses and children. While it is clear there is no “cure” for the narcissistic personality, other than perhaps lifelong intensive therapy, what troubles me is why there are so many people with this personality disorder walking around in polite society. There should be a class in high school, before it’s too late, on how to identify and avoid such people.

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