As much as I don’t think dating thirty people at once is a great way to find a lifelong partner, my guilty pleasure is definitely the Bachelor franchise.

For more seasons than I’d like to admit, I have been an avid viewer of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (and Bachelor in Paradise, of course). Week after week, my friends and I gather around with snacks and wine to critique the contestants, cringe at the awkward moments, swoon over the perfectly edited conversations, and soak up the unparalleled drama. It makes Monday nights the highlight of the week, and it’s usually a lesson in what not to do in relationships. 

This dedicated fandom is how my friend Anna and I justified—at 1 a.m. mind you—the idea to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and drive to Petoskey, Michigan from Grand Rapids to meet one of this season’s Bachelorette contestants, Connor S. 

The night before, we watched as Connor was sent home from the show. It was a disheartening exit—he really wasn’t given a fair chance (or so we expertly decided). We checked his Instagram, only to find his story announcing he was going for a run at 9:30 the next day, conveniently beginning at the Petoskey lighthouse. 

Did it make absolutely zero sense to take another road trip (our fourth in four days)? Were we planning to spend that day resting and regrouping? And when was the last time I went for a run

But when else would Connor randomly be vacationing in Northern Michigan and inviting us to join him? We knew we had to go. 

Miraculously, we arrived in Petoskey—running on four hours of sleep and zero coffee—right at 9:30. Stumbling out of the car, we spotted a large group of girls at the end of the pier by the lighthouse. 

“That must be Connor,” we laughed, heading his way.

We approached the group and saw that some of the girls were definitely not dressed for running, but for the photo op. Groups of friends were rotating in for their moment with Connor, so we joined the semi-circle around him and waited our turn. 

After everyone obtained optimal photos for Instagram bragging rights, it was time for the planned activity.

This is probably the only day I will ever respond positively to the question, “All right, are we ready to go for a run?” 

We started jogging down the pier, and immediately we could tell which girls were going to be the front-runners. Two girls were keeping pace with him, firing questions about his time on The Bachelorette, while Anna and I did our best to overhear the conversation. We thankfully weren’t fighting for a rose, but we were fighting for his attention—though my most pressing question was why he didn’t bring his dog. 

The whole experience felt like one of the show’s infamous “group dates,” where a group of contestants (size varying on the number of people left) vies for the lead’s attention while doing some ridiculous activity (i.e. wrestling in kilts, jumping off a bridge, swimming with pigs). 

The morning turned out as I predicted it would. We barely talked to Connor, and I still hate running. We made friends with the other girls who felt equally weird about showing up but also decided, “why not?” We laughed in relief when no one seemed as crazy as one of the show’s current contestants (Luke P., anyone?). 

And now when I cozy up with my wine and popcorn and brownies next Monday night, I will have a greater understanding of how it feels to attempt meaningful conversation while sleep-deprived, and why certain contestants never quite master the group date.

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