That diabetes guy from The Bachelor

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Image: Rick Rowell/ABC

I have a long-overdue apology to make. As a perennial hate-watcher of The Bachelor and related franchise shows, I get a lot out of passing violent judgment on anyone insane enough to opt into a reality dating show. Stefan and I debate vociferously about why anyone would ever, ever, ever do it. He doesn’t believe my argument that, ultimately, you cannot underestimate the desire some people have to be famous.

Stefan: But why? Why does anyone want to be famous?
Me: I realize this is an impulse you lack but for many it’s the ultimate marker of success.
Stefan: Right, but why?
Me: Validation?
Stefan: To what end?
Me: I think it stems from fear of death. Which is maybe a fear of obscurity and loneliness? Fame at any cost because in its way, it’s a kind of immortality?
Stefan: Selling Teami tea and FabFitFun boxes on instagram is a kind of immortality?

JK, this isn’t a conversation we’d ever have because Stefan knows nothing of these peoples’ second careers hawking stupid crap on instagram. But the essence of my argument remains the same. Go on reality TV, escape death!

And in return, jerks like me get to judge you by yelling at our TVs about all the ways you are dumb and embarrassing. And while I don’t necessarily take back the bulk of my previous rants towards Bachelor and Bachelorette alums, there’s one I do need to atone for.

Way back in 2013, I was just finishing up grad school. Stefan and I were a year into our relationship, and I was overweight and healthy and unhappy. At the same time, 27-year-old Desiree Hartsock, fresh off her painful rejection from Sean Lowe’s season of The Bachelor, was working her way through a series of dopes on The Bachelorette. Among those dopes was “Michael G.,” who, per my memory, had one defining feature: Guy With Type 1 Diabetes.

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do we think he’s got sugar free hot chocolate?

I don’t remember when he first brought it up, but as soon as he did, non-Diabetic Jessie freaking latched onto it. “Diabetes Guy!” I’d shout in exasperation whenever he came on screen, “Shut up about your diabetes!”

He bothered me: the frequency with which he brought up Type 1 Diabetes, the way he always clarified it as “Type 1” diabetes. How serious and melodramatic I thought he sounded when he talked about it. I didn’t know ANYTHING about Type 1 diabetes but, with the violent, misguided, arrogant and obnoxious precision of a reality TV viewer, I’d decided it was NOT THAT BIG A DEAL. None of my friends, with whom I hate-watched this show, was as offended by Michael’s Type 1 as I was. When he finally sat down to tell Desiree about it, I remember (literally remember this) shouting at the TV “OH MY GOD SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR DIABETES, DUDE!”

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Dear readers, is the irony beginning to sink in? In less than seven months, I was going to be diagnosed with Type 1 myself, and my world was going to be rocked so fundamentally and completely that I would never, ever, ever be the same. And yet I had the GALL to decide, with no research or knowledge whatsoever, that this guy’s diabetes was not as big a deal as he was making it.

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I wonder if hot tubs mess with his blood sugar as much as they mess with mine…

I was not alone in my obnoxious judgment. In a recent tour of the recesses of the internet, I found some recaps of the Michael-Telling-Desiree-About-Diabetes episode that were equally harsh. Here’s one written by someone named Penny Farthing (that’s a fake name, right?) that describes the situation this way:

My favorite part of this week’s episode of The Bachelorette was “The Type 1 Diabetes Overshare”. I love it when there’s a serious sit-down that has to happen. And then there’s a lot of build-up about the situation. And then the situation is really not that big of a situation, at least in terms of relationship deal breakers.

“Um…This is really difficult for me to say….but….I have Type 1 diabetes.”

Good God! It’s not like he had to share with her that he has an adult diaper fetish! It’s like when Kacie B on Ben Flajnik’s season felt the need to overshare that she forced herself to puke at a Super Bowl party once (“I battled with bulimia.”) The things people feel compelled to share as if they’re SUPER important for the foundation of a relationship and/or “getting to know you” is freaking amazing.

OK, so obviously “Penny” does not have Type 1. I wonder if the same Disney-inspired moralistic fairy that, after hearing my  ignorance towards Michael G., decided to curse me with Type 1 so that I might learn my lesson also did the same with Penny. Maybe she woke up one day, falling down, exhausted, dropping weight while her blood poisoned itself and she inched closer and closer to a coma and gasped out “I should have… been nicer… to Michael G….”

OK to be fair, I did not think about Michael G. in the harrowing months following my diagnosis; I didn’t think about him again until he popped up on my TV screen just now as another contestant in another Bachelor spinoff: The Bachelor Winter Games (where he conspicuously did not once bring up his Type 1).  But I must say, watching him on this show, this guy I’ve never met but I was a complete monster to and now I relate to in a way I never could have imagined I would, I feel sick to my stomach.

Michael G, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I was once as ignorant and arrogant as Penny, who ridiculously declared that Type 1 Diabetes is “not that big a deal in terms of relationship deal breakers.” Really Penny?? Allow me to rage at you in an effort to mask my own guilt:

Penny, you’re a stupid idiot and have clearly never suffered the extraordinary challenges of a chronic illness. How dare you decide someone else’s subjective experience with something as terrible as disease? I’m sorry that your wellness has made you a mouthpiece for stupidity. As any “Type 3” (the cute term I’ve heard to describe any partner/family member of a person with diabetes) will say, dating someone with Type 1 is not insignificant. In fact, I asked my husband, the Type 3 I love most in the world, to respond to Penny’s dumb assertion and this is what he had to say– Stefan, take it away:

My first point is that the writer likely failed to distinguish between Type I and Type II diabetes, and collapsed both diseases into a generalized ‘bad thing’. I think this because the alternative interpretation is that the writer knows what diabetes entails; can discern between the two types; and STILL dismisses it outright as a trifle, so much drama that might as well be coming out of the mouth of someone suffering from, uhhh, bulimia. (???)
(As a parenthetical observation, I must assume that lack of satisfying a diaper fetish must kill at least one person more per year than lack of healthcare to treat diabetes does. Otherwise, that would make the writer look like a real a**hole.)

My second point is that, even if this writer doesn’t understand the nuance between Type I and Type II diabetes (and who could blame her: it could take up to minutes of Reading Wikipedia to figure out), likening a thing she (extremely incorrectly) views as self-indulgent drama, to a story of someone inducing vomiting at a Super Bowl party is messed up. I think that if you really interrogate the emotional variables that move someone from a room full of people, to kneeling alone over a toilet, jamming fingers down their throat, something more than not that big of a situation comes into focus.

 

My third point is that diabetes is indeed that big of a situation in a relationship. (Assuming a big situation is worse than a small situation (??))  Since I presume the author reasonably intended to disdain Type II diabetes, I can’t testify to what a relationship with someone with that specific disease is like, but I can presume it has terrible contours all of its own. My wife is a Type I, and it has resulted in a profound re-ordering not only of her life, but also of our life as a couple. Aspects of it are all my own: the fear that I will wake up one morning and Jessie will have fallen into a diabetic coma, the fear that comes when I haven’t heard back from her, and catastrophize scenarios where she’s low but unable to treat, and so on. We share aspects, because being in a relationship with someone with Type I is like being with someone who is eternally walking knee-deep through snow: you can still live a normal life, but each step forward costs them significantly more effort than you. Some days are warm; the snow recedes, and you can both take a stroll. Other days, it’s a blizzard, and they’re lost behind a cloud of white.

^ Thanks for that, boo.

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(…you want to guest blog more often?)

Oh Michael G., I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I was once like Penny, and had the gall to decide for you that your diabetes was not a big deal. DON’T WORRY: I got mine. I sincerely hope that the reason you didn’t talk about Type 1 on your subsequent Bachelor-franchise appearances wasn’t because you were internet-shamed for it. The internet was wrong.

That’s not to say you are above blame. You did elect onto a reality dating show, of course, and while I will not mock your Type 1, I will continue to mock you for this:

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Image: ABC
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