‘The Bachelor’ is the reason I have friends (kind of)

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Hannah Cooper/File

Nobody’s given anything in Bachelor Nation a pedestal in television’s hall of fame — but that doesn’t mean the show isn’t something of a national treasure. Millions of viewers around the world tune in every Monday to see what Arie or Rachel or Nick are up to.

We know it’s not real. We know it’s all staged. We know that Reality Steve posts the winners before the season even begins and is almost always right. Very few people watch “The Bachelor” for its quality, because the show has so much more to offer than what you see on the screen. The reality show is a social experience, one that has the power to form friendships and create lasting memories.

I live with my six friends in two apartments, one directly above the other. We all first met living in Foothill and Stern Hall, and every night we’d eat dinner at 6 p.m. together. Every Saturday morning we’d grab brunch to catch each other up on our Friday night antics. With these rituals locked in place, it was easy to keep up with everyone, and our freshman bond cemented itself pretty naturally.

But once you move out of the dorms, things change. Even though we were all essentially still living together, we saw less and less of each other — varying majors in political science, economics, biology and engineering, as well as a huge range of extracurricular commitments rarely put us all in the same place at any time. It was easy to worry about the possibility of growing apart.

Enter Tuesday night “Bachelor” sessions.

Our interest in “The Bachelor” started back in freshman year, during Nick’s season, when a couple of us would get together in the Stern Hall lobby to watch Vanessa’s rise to the top. A few of us stayed over the summer, and we watched Rachel’s season. The start of fall semester was coupled with an admittedly disappointing season of “Bachelor in Paradise.”

We soon settled into a routine — we watched at 10 p.m. every Tuesday night (a day late, so we could catch it on Hulu) in the upstairs apartment. As it became more and more regular, the crowd grew. Soon, all seven of us could make appearances at “Bachelor” night, along with a couple of our boyfriends.

It’s often the only time I see some of my friends during the entire week. The show is perfectly conducive to this type of bonding activity — it’s entertaining enough to hold our attention and keep us committed to coming week after week, but vapid enough that we can catch each other up on our lives while a tearful Arie ruminates over whether or not he should send Jenny home (I’m still upset about this). You can drink wine, eat cheesecake, study for an exam or cuddle while you watch, and if you zone out for 30 minutes, it doesn’t matter. If you have a midterm and have to skip a week, you can still jump back in the next week.

When you live with your friends, it can be easy to forget to actually spend real, quality time with them. Having a routine like “Bachelor” night can be challenging to coordinate (Berkeley students aren’t known for having wide-open schedules) but it can make a huge difference in your social life — I know it has in mine. I had quit watching TV when I started college because I was too busy, but I always make room for “The Bachelor,” not because the show matters, but because watching it does.

And that’s not where the benefits end. The more I opened up about my love for the show, the more fellow fans appeared from the woodwork. Not only was I strengthening existing relationships, but I was forming new ones in excited, prediction-fueled conversations with the stranger at the next table over.

So pick a show, any show — it can be as complicated and involved or ridiculous and low-stakes as you’d like, and invite a few friends over whom you haven’t seen in a while. If you choose “The Bachelor,” come find me — we’ll have lots to talk about.

Contact Shannon O’Hara at [email protected].