Authors: Kate Stayman-London
The shakes had been terrible. What started as a daily laugh with Dante the UPS guy morphed into full-blown mortification as hundreds and eventually thousands of shakes arrived at her doorstep. But they weren’t the worst of it—not by a long shot.
“I couldn’t post anything on Twitter without getting rape threats and death threats. They posted my home address all over the Internet, sent revolting text messages from anonymous phone numbers, dick pics at all hours of the day and night, strange men telling me they’d force me down and make me squeal like the pig I am. And that was just from one blog post! If I do this, with all the exposure … I don’t know. I just don’t know if it would be worth it.”
“People think fame makes your life easier,” Lauren reflected, “but everyone who’s been in the limelight knows how hard it can be. People project their insecurities onto you—especially men, the fragile little shits.”
“Not exactly reassuring,” Bea said pointedly.
“But think of it this way: You went through all that garbage as a relatively anonymous person, with no one to protect you. If you do our show, you’ll have our whole team at your disposal—not to mention millions of fans, all the celebrities who watch the show, the feminist journalists who’ll write thinkpieces in your honor, bless their hearts.” Lauren peered at Bea. “Besides, you wouldn’t actually let pathetic Internet misogynists keep you from doing something you wanted to do, right? That doesn’t seem like you.”
“It definitely isn’t—but I’m not actually sure I want to do this.”
“Why, Bea? Why would you turn down a chance that could be so huge for your career?”
“How about because I don’t trust you?” Bea responded. “I’ve watched this show from the beginning, and I’ve seen you make fools of people who didn’t deserve it. You have your own agenda, and you have the ability to manipulate anything I say or do in the way you edit me. Why would I hand you the power to destroy my reputation?”
Lauren couldn’t help chuckling at this—though Bea didn’t understand what was funny.
“Sorry,” Lauren apologized, “I’m just so used to people begging me to put them on camera, grabbing at fame for fame’s sake. It’s kind of a pleasure that you’re actually thinking about the step that comes after that. But listen, Bea, our interests are aligned here. I need to breathe life into a flagging franchise, and if I make you the new face of
it does me no good whatsoever to do anything that would harm your image. If you agree to do this, it will be my job to make sure everyone in America loves you—that means magazine covers, endorsement deals, millions of followers, an entire lifetime of career security in exchange for just two months of filming.”
“That doesn’t sound … terrible,” Bea conceded, her anxiety rising as she realized she was running out of plausible reasons to say no.
“So why are you still hesitant?” Lauren put down her drink. “Why don’t you tell me what’s actually bothering you?”
Bea looked at this beautiful stranger—how was she supposed to confess to Lauren the things she could barely admit to herself? Her creeping notion—often dormant, never gone—that the reason she’d never had a proper boyfriend was that there was something fundamentally wrong with her, and that Ray’s disappearance was, finally, the proof that this notion was true?
“I don’t have the easiest time with dating,” she said carefully.
Lauren nodded, unfazed. “You’ve been single for a while now.”
“Well, I’m always busy with work—and fashion, you know. Not a ton of straight guys in that world. Unless they’re trying to sleep with models.”
“You’re on the apps, though.”
Bea narrowed her eyes—exactly how extensive (or legal) had Lauren’s background check been?
Lauren laughed, as if reading Bea’s thoughts. “You blogged about your Tinder date last fall.”
“Oh.” Bea flushed, feeling silly. “I thought maybe you’d hacked my phone.”
“No, definitely don’t put that past me. So it hasn’t gone well?”
“Are you on them?”
Lauren tossed her shiny hair. “Yeah, but you know, more for a laugh than anything else. I work so much, it’s nice to have someone around if I get bored.”
“You don’t have a boyfriend?”
“And spend my fifteen seconds of free time every week handling some man’s emotions because he’s not capable of dealing with them himself? Um, no.”
“I know. It would be one thing if I ever met anyone who made me
to settle down, but …” Bea trailed off, hoping this would put the conversation to rest.
“Do you want to get married at all?” Lauren asked.
“Am I allowed to say no?”
Lauren let out a bark of laughter. “Of course! I don’t need you to actually want to get married to be on this show—I just need you to be willing to
that’s what you want.”
“I mean, it’s not that I don’t want that eventually—marriage, kids, a family—I want all those things. It’s just that dating has been so bad lately, I’ve kind of sworn off it altogether. Doesn’t really seem like the best time for me to star on a dating show, does it?”
“You know what?” Lauren pondered, working something through, “I actually think this could work really well.”
“How?” Bea blurted despite herself.
“The most annoying part of my job is dealing with the mess of people’s actual emotions. All these desperate husband hunters—you watch the show, you know how high-strung and impossible they are. But if you’re not really looking for a relationship right now, we can keep this simple. You’ll meet your men, you’ll have fun with them, go on all the fabulous dates, but you’ll take things slow. We’ll monitor audience reaction and keep the most popular guys around, and toward the end, you can pick your favorites for the overnight trips, saying ‘I love you,’ and the engagement, obviously.”
“And, what? It’ll all be fake?” Bea tried not to sound scandalized.
“Why not?” Lauren asked calmly.
“Because there’s an audience of millions!” Bea was incredulous. “Won’t people know if I’m not—you know, not to be trite—if I’m not doing this for the right reasons?”
Lauren laughed, delighting in Bea’s naïveté. “You tell me. Do you think it’s a coincidence that half of our couples break up six weeks after we finish airing? How many of the relationships from the last five seasons do you think were actually real?”
The more Bea thought about it, the more she realized she had absolutely no idea.
“Bea,” Lauren intoned, “I’m great at my job. It’s good for both of us if the public buys your story. And if you actually find someone? Hey, so much the better—those wedding specials are ratings monsters. But if you’d rather play it cool and not take the romance side of things too seriously, then we can be straightforward with each other: We’ll make a great TV show. We’ll show America that plus-size women deserve to be the leads in their own stories. And you’ll be a fucking star. I’m not seeing a downside to this—are you?”
For the first time in the conversation, Bea had to admit she really wasn’t.
On her drive home, Bea decided to take a detour through Griffith Park. She put the top down on Kermit the Car and made her way through crooked residential streets into the parkland hills, where tall trees and long grasses rustled in the dry desert wind. She turned up the radio and thought about life before Ray. Was it better? Was it good? Or had this unhappiness been there all along, just waiting to be drawn into the light?
Not doing the show seemed like the safe option, but it wasn’t, really—it was just knowable. More weeks and months of missing Ray, making dates and canceling the morning of, feeling like her love life had been cursed with external misery, of hustling constantly and scrounging for advertisers to keep her business afloat, never able to rest easy.
Bea couldn’t know what would happen if she did the show—whether she would meet someone wonderful or be thrown headlong into a pit full of snakes, whether she’d be a hero or a laughingstock. All she could know for certain was that if she said yes, her life would change. In the end, that was enough.
(hereafter referred to as the MAIN SQUEEZE) has agreed to appear on the television program
(hereafter referred to as the SHOW),
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE agrees to participate in principal filming to commence on
and remain available for at least
, with a tentative filming completion date of
, as well as a reunion special tentatively scheduled for
WHEREAS during filming, the MAIN SQUEEZE will meet, “date,” and ultimately choose one of twenty-five SUITORS for a long-lasting and romantically satisfying relationship, and where “long-lasting” is defined as no shorter period than such a time until six weeks after all episodes of the SHOW are broadcast,
WHEREAS filming will begin with a LIVE PREMIERE SPECIAL, continue with episodes broadcast each Monday night that detail the events of the previous week, and end with a SEASON FINALE where the MAIN SQUEEZE will choose a “winner” for an engagement or similar,
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE will not disclose details of filming to any person or persons not appearing on or employed by the SHOW or the
American Broadcasting System
(hereafter known as the NETWORK), particularly not members of the press or digital media, including entertainment magazines, gossip magazines, or “bloggers,” any unsanctioned interaction with whom will result in legal action for breach of contract and immediate termination of said contract, until such time as all episodes have aired,
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE agrees, to the best of her ability, to explore deep, soul-searching love in complete honesty and without any “emotional walls” (though if she is experiencing the aforementioned “walls” she is encouraged to discuss them and their potential origins in detail with production crew), through intense interpersonal communication and, as often as needed, physical connection, including physical intimacy if determined appropriate by the MAIN SQUEEZE and her Producers,
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE agrees to defer to the Producers in all matters that may affect the overall quality or outcome of the SHOW,
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE agrees to incur any financial burdens borne by the SHOW or the NETWORK if they are in direct consequence of her actions or breach of contract,
WHEREAS the NETWORK retains exclusive first rights to published photographs and other materials relating to any future Weddings, Honeymoons, and possible Dependents resulting from relationships formed on the SHOW,
WHEREAS the MAIN SQUEEZE will, if possible, find True Love, potentially resulting in an Engagement, Marriage, and Everything She’s Ever Dreamed Of,
will hereby fill the role of MAIN SQUEEZE on the
season of the SHOW,
Signed and dated,
Senior Vice President of Unscripted Programming, American Broadcasting System.
Beauty & Style Blogger, owner of OMBea™ and
Lauren Mathers <
Bea Schumacher <
RE: Contract and next steps
Bea! So thrilled contract and legal jargon is all squared (blech), attaching a few more things for you to look over—tentative production schedule, calendar of pre-prod meetings with camera, sound, makeup, wardrobe, PR, marketing, and I want to get you in a room with some of the other producers to give them a sense of what you’re like, what kind of men they should be scouting (can you tell us more about your type??), etc. Plus we’ve got a standard NDA for you to sign—please please PLEASE note that we are not announcing you as the next Main Squeeze until five days before air, so I just cannot impress upon you how careful we need to be to make sure the news doesn’t leak before then. This rollout is going to be spectacular, and I’ll frankly kill a man if that self-important motherfucker Reality Stefan scoops our mutual coming-out party. So please, take the NDA seriously!! (Sorry to be a shit about it, but you know. It’s for the good of the show!)
Bea Schumacher <
Lauren Mathers <
RE: Contract and next steps
Hey Lauren! This all looks good (I mean, overwhelming, but good!). Re: my type of men, smart and funny and kind are the most important things, everything else is optional. And diversity is obviously a big deal to me!! Body-type, race, background—I want these men to bring a new look to the show the same way I am.
NDA signed and attached—full disclosure, I already told my best friend Marin about the show, and assuming it’s okay to share with my family? Truly not worth the headaches if my mother hears about this from anyone but me. Thanks again, talk soon!