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‘The Bachelorette’ casts Clare Crawley, 38, the show’s oldest star, reflecting a shift in the way we date now

Clare Crawley will be the next Bachelorette. Her season premieres May 18. (Paul Hebert/ABC)
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The average age of the star of “The Bachelorette” is 27. Only two seasons of ABC’s popular reality dating show have cast leading ladies in their 30s (30 and 32).

But the 16th season will mark a big shift when it comes to age, as the show will star Clare Crawley, a 38-year-old hairstylist from Sacramento.

Clare is a fan favorite in Bachelor Nation. She first appeared on Juan Pablo Galavis’s season of “The Bachelor” in 2014, where she was the runner-up and is known for telling off the show’s star after he dumped her. She’s been a contestant on two seasons of “Bachelor in Paradise” (where she was known for seeking love advice from a raccoon). In 2018, Clare got engaged to a man she met on “Bachelor Winter Games,” a relationship that ended shortly thereafter. Clare said Monday morning on “Good Morning America” that she learned only this past Saturday that she would be the next Bachelorette.

Previous contestants of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" recount what it was like being on the ABC show and how much travel impacted their experiences. (Video: The Washington Post)

During the announcement on GMA, Clare said that she’d heard some negative responses to the fact that she’s older than the usual Bachelorette, but she clapped back by noting that her age gives her more wisdom and confidence in her search for love. “For me it’s more years under my belt, more learning what I want, what I don’t want and what I won’t settle for,” she said.

Clare told viewers what she’s looking for is a man who’s strong and also willing to be vulnerable. No specific physical attributes are important to her, she said. “It’s all what’s on the inside,” Clare said, adding that she’s looking for someone who will go out of their way for her and make her feel special.

She also noted that she’s been “known to date younger guys, so that’s not a problem for me.”

Viewers and Clare’s former cast members cheered the decision on Twitter. Sharleen Joynt, who was on “The Bachelor” with Clare, tweeted that she’d “make a fantastic lead” and that it was time to bring on more singles in their 30s and 40s.

The casting decision comes as a very young season of “The Bachelor” is winding down. Discussing Peter Weber’s remaining three women, who are 23 to 26, Clare joked that she could be their mother.

Clare was a surprising choice for a show where anyone over 30 is often treated as desperate and over the hill. Remember this past season of “Bachelor in Paradise”? The show’s intros had contestant Chris Bukowski, who’s 32, ambling on the beach with a walker. And when Clare, then 34, was on “Bachelor in Paradise,” contestant Ashley Iaconetti treated her as if she were a cougar for dating Jared Haibon. (Ashley and Jared are now married.)

Bachelorette producers could be acknowledging that Americans are staying single longer and getting married later than ever before. According to 2018 data, more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds don’t have a steady romantic partner, a figure that is up significantly from 33 percent in 2004. The average age of first marriage has also ticked up in recent years, now at 30 for men and 28 for women.

Most seasons of “The Bachelorette” cast women who are on track to marry around that median. Viewers saw Kaitlyn Bristowe vocalize the pressure of being on the cusp of 30 and single. Now viewers will get to see how a more experienced dater looks for love. Will Clare be more decisive than some of her predecessors and more secure in her singleness?

We’ll likely get a sneak peek very soon: If Clare’s season follows the recent “Bachelorette” tradition, she could be meeting her first few contestants during Peter Weber’s “After the Final Rose” next week.


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