NEW YORK — Once you’ve been on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” dating without cameras trailing your every move has got to be easier, right?
“It’s kind of like a game here,” Dorfman said last month in an interview at a coffee shop near her apartment, before the release of her new book, “Single State of Mind.” “I don’t know how many people actually fall in love in New York City.”
Dorfman wasn’t eager to look for a spouse on television, according to her 2016 tell-all, “It’s Not Okay.” But her girlfriends pushed her to go to a casting call, she writes, and suddenly the assistant district attorney was swapping court dates for televised rose ceremonies. Dorfman made it to the final rounds of the 2014 season of “The Bachelor,” eventually dumping former professional soccer player Juan Pablo Galavis for being a self-centered idiot. A few months later, Dorfman was back on the franchise, calling the shots as the lead on “The Bachelorette,” where she got engaged to former baseball player Josh Murray. She dumped him, too — for being emotionally and verbally abusive.
Now, in “Single State of Mind,” she fashions herself a millennial Carrie Bradshaw. Dorfman, 30, rents an apartment on Perry Street in the West Village, which is where “Sex and the City” filmed the facade of the character’s apartment. Dorfman is as careful about what to post on Instagram as Bradshaw was about writing her next column.
Once again, according to her new book, Dorfman’s friends started calling many of the shots in her love life — “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison would not be impressed. Dorfman’s first date in New York, after breaking off her engagement, is with a friend’s boyfriend’s co-worker, who shows up to the restaurant late, drunk and high, and proceeds to flirt with their bartender.
In her post-reality TV life, she’s been propositioned for a threesome while on a private jet, has trekked to Canada for a booty call and has dated men she found attractive “physically but not emotionally or intellectually.”
The singles scene in New York is more unpredictable than “these personal-trainer contestants that come on ‘The Bachelor’ and drink a bunch of protein shakes and say ‘I love you’ all the time,” Dorfman says. “These are legit men with jobs and careers and issues.” On “The Bachelorette,” she was one woman in a sea of 25 men; in New York, she writes, “I’m one woman in a sea of millions.”
So how does this one woman navigate that sea? Dorfman has found dates via Twitter and still lets her friends set her up, but within limits. “Each friend gets a voucher. You get one shot,” she said, adding that friends can be terrible matchmakers. She’s sworn off dating apps, even though Harrison has nudged her to join — and other “Bachelor” alums have found love through right swipes. “I’m not doing them; I met the worst guys,” Dorfman said, adding that she prefers to play with her friends’ dating apps.
If there’s a crash-course on how to survive a bad date, “The Bachelorette” might be it. “Obviously on the show you’re not going to love 25 people, but you’re going to have to date some people you know you’re not going to end up with. It kind of taught me to converse with somebody without having to be in love with them or promise them anything,” Dorfman said. “It prepares you to get through some brutal dates, if anything. Which I definitely needed.”
Echoes of Dorfman’s reality-TV past peek through in this book. You see it in the way she greets one long-distance beau by jumping on him, wrapping her arms and legs around him. (I had hoped that move existed only in Bachelorland!) You see it in the way she continues to date baseball players. (Don’t do it, Andi. We know how this ends!) And in the way she occasionally waxes helpless without a man around to change a lightbulb. (Girl, grab a step stool; left-loosey, righty-tighty. It’s that easy.)
In Bachelor Nation, love and marriage are the markers of success. Hanging your own picture frames and affording New York rents, the stuff of regular single life, not as much. So what’s interesting about Dorfman’s second book are not just her sexcapades and her post-TV quests for love, but her internal struggle to realize she doesn’t need a man to make her happy . . . or to build her Ikea furniture. “I find myself in a state of mind where I’m almost rebelling against the entire notion of a relationship. Not in a resentful way, but in a liberating way,” Dorfman writes. “Sure, there are times when I’d like to have someone romantically in my life, but then I think about my life as a whole and realize I’m generally happy being alone.”
You’d never hear that type of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction in a tearful limo exit interview or an “After the Final Rose” TV special. But reading about how Dorfman picked herself up after heartbreak is a lot more believable than the instant-happily-ever-after ABC tries to conjure several times a year. On reality TV, heartbreak is a defeat, a thing to come back from. But it’s also the common ending to most “Bachelor” stories, as the franchise’s couples rarely make it to the altar. In the book’s opening, Dorfman muses: “If we talked about heartbreak more, would we feel as bad about it? Or would it kind of be more mundane in a less painful way.”
Maybe, but mundane doesn’t necessarily make for good television.
Might “The Bachelor” have an opening to talk about a different kind of heartbreak: sexual assault and consent, the subject of a bigger conversation happening right now?
Dorfman isn’t optimistic. “Let’s be honest, we don’t watch ‘The Bachelor’ as a PSA. We watch it for entertainment,” she said, adding that last summer’s scandal over whether there was nonconsensual sexual activity on “Bachelor in Paradise” was an opportunity to do some prime-time sex education that “fell flat.” Even after multiple on-screen interviews, it was hard to tell what actually happened.
“I do think there are women who can come out on the show who can talk about it,” Dorfman said, “just like there’s women right now coming from Hollywood talking about it.”
It could take a while for “The Bachelor” to exhibit signs of being filmed in a #MeToo era. The shows, after all, are reality television, divorced from reality: Contestants spend weeks or months without cellphone or social media access while on the show; strict rules govern every date; couples meet each other’s families before sleeping together; and engagements happen mere weeks into knowing each other. The contestants are expected to openly talk about the pain they’ve been through, as a way of creating a connection with the lead.
And as Dorfman’s books show, even after the cameras stop rolling, fans can still delight in contestants who bare their souls. This time, however, it’s to connect with us — the viewer-reader on their own roundabout journeys for love — not some protein-guzzling personal trainer looking to get Instagram famous.