Authors: Kate Stayman-London
At first, it was almost novel, peacefully listening to one of her favorite composers on live TV, knowing the spotlight was off her for just a moment while the men had their say. And as for what it was they were saying, well … that didn’t really matter, did it? If it was slightly bittersweet that all of the romance Bea experienced on the show would be concocted, then it was enormously relieving that whatever heartbreak she experienced would be too.
Say she started “dating” one of these men, jetting to exotic locales, “falling in love,” only to discover he’d called her a gluttonous pig on the first night of filming—right now, in fact, as the audience laughed. That would be fine, because she never would have had feelings for him in the first place! He’d be no different from the Internet trolls who taunted her every day, except unlike those trolls, these men would help set her up for future success. Lauren was right: The more obstacles Bea faced, the more America would root for her.
And if some tiny part of her had hoped that maybe Marin was right, that she might meet someone special tonight … well. That was gone. No matter; now it would be easier to keep things professional, to stay focused on her own success. Besides, it was an enormous comfort that none of these men could possibly hurt her as badly as Ray did.
Was he watching tonight? Curled up at this very moment on his living-room couch with Sarah, laughing along at whatever joke someone had just made that had the audience completely in stitches? What
that joke? Who even was talking? Bea was seated off to the side, so there was no way for her to see which man was speaking without turning to look—which she was strictly forbidden from doing.
She could see the first few rows of the audience, though: rail-thin Influencers giggling unkindly, whispering to one another, pointing at the various men, typing fervently on their phones. Was Lauren crazy to think that women like this could ever be on Bea’s side? Was sisterhood really so universal, or would these girls rather die than, for even one second, identify with Bea—no matter how saccharinely they praised her body positivity online?
Bea wondered if these women saw her as alien.
If these men did.
If Ray did.
When that man walked out on her earlier, had Ray felt a pang of guilt for having done the same—twice—or was he relieved to know that someone else shared the impulse?
Bea had started the night feeling so beautiful, but the men had worked to change that. And now she saw herself through Ray’s eyes—not his treasure, but his shame. The audience was laughing again. She closed her eyes and waited for Johnny to take them to commercial.
Each episode of
concluded with a “kiss-off ceremony,” where Bea would send home the men in whom she was no longer interested. This season, it was being underwritten by a lipstick company called Lucky Lippies—meaning that Bea would be made to put on some preselected shade of lipstick, and after she announced the name of each man she intended to keep, he’d walk up to her, present his cheek, and she would kiss it, marking him for another week together. Bea thought the whole ordeal was tackier than pairing a slide sandal with a ball gown, but her agent had told her Lucky Lippies was on the hunt for a plus-size spokesmodel, so Bea wasn’t about to piss them off by objecting.
This was the biggest cut of the season: seven men gone in one fell swoop (including the one who’d left of his own accord—or Lauren’s). When Lauren approached Bea during the final commercial break of the night with her list of proposed men to cut, Bea told her she didn’t care who stayed—that Lauren could choose to cut anyone she wanted, anyone the producers thought didn’t look right on camera.
“Great!” Lauren handed the list over to Bea with a smile. “See? I told you this would be easy.”
“Sure.” Bea nodded. “Easy.”
Back onstage, the guys assembled on their risers, descending one by one as Bea read out the names of the men she’d “decided” to keep. She kissed their cheeks, breathed in the smell of whiskey and overdone cologne. When she called Luc’s name, he walked toward her deliberately, his eyes fixed on hers.
“Will you stay, Luc?” she asked him, just as she’d asked each of the men before.
“Of course I will stay. I will go anywhere you ask.”
When she kissed his cheek, she tasted salt and smelled something herbaceous, like soap and thyme. He put a hand on her waist, and she felt Ray pressed against her, his weight on top of her, his mouth hot on her skin. He was gone. This was nothing. Bea smiled for the camera and called out the next stranger’s name.
The new season of
has been swathed in controversy—but it seems to be proving that all publicity is good publicity, with ABS easily winning the 8pm and 9pm hours last night. The premiere averaged a gargantuan 4.2 rating among adults 18–49, with 12.8 million viewers overall. That’s a sizable increase from the reality staple’s last premiere, and just a hair shy of its best opener ever when former fighter pilot Jack Stanwell was discovered to have been sleeping with a major pop star just days before his season premiered.
The premiere came with its own batch of turmoil: Response online was fast and furious after it was revealed that only one of the men competing for plus-size blogger Bea Schumacher’s affections was plus-size himself. The hashtag #BrawnIsBeautiful trended for several hours—a reference to the burgeoning “brawn” modeling industry for larger men. Several prominent writers even called for a boycott of the show, and of Schumacher herself. It remains to be seen whether the show’s more morally questionable tactics will backfire, but for the time being, ABS has to be very happy with the numbers they’re seeing—the question is whether they’ll hold up.
TRANSCRIPT OF CHAT FROM #SQUEEZE-MAINIACS SLACK CHANNEL
Hey guys, just a friendly reminder that the deadline is TONIGHT at 8pm to submit your picks for your brackets!
Wait, there’s a deadline tonight? I didn’t know—did you send an email about this??
Jkjkjk I SUBMITTED MINE BETH GOD
Who did everyone pick?? Wyatt and Luc are the obvious choices, but idk, I kind of liked that Asher guy?
Seriously, Cat? He was barely onscreen! I think the champ is losing her touch.
Guys, we really shouldn’t be discussing our picks until everyone’s brackets are in.
Sure, wouldn’t want to impugn the integrity of our Main Squeeze pool. Hasn’t the fabric of our society been torn enough?
You’re going to kick me out of the league, aren’t you?
I’m strongly considering it.
This is a weird question, but do you have to pick someone? Like is there an option where she chooses none of these guys?
Since you’re new to this show, I can see where you’d think “wow, every single one of these guys is terrible,” but don’t worry—halfway through the season you always change to, like, NO HOW CAN SHE CUT ANY OF THESE MEN THEIR LOVE IS ALL SO PURE!
Is it size-ist to pick Jefferson? Should I not assume she’s going to pick the chubbiest dude?
How can their love be pure when the couples always break up?
Not always!!!! That firefighter in Oregon!
Is it weird that I feel stressed about what’s gonna happen tonight? What’s gonna happen tonight????
Bea’s going to go on a group date, she’s going to get her first kiss, and there’s going to be D-R-A-M-A!
Wow that’s a very specific prediction.
I know. I’m psychic. (And that’s what always happens during week 2.)
Seriously guys, you have six minutes left to turn in your brackets.
“Well!” Lauren clapped her hands. “I think that went
“I don’t understand how that could possibly be your takeaway.” Bea pulled on a robe and mumbled through her pre-caffeinated haze. Lauren had burst into her bedroom at 8
. bearing the overnight ratings report—but no coffee.