EPISODE 1: All That Glitters
MAN #1 0:00:05
This is kind of like ‘The Dating Game’ from the ‘60s, on steroids.
I really hope they’re not strutting around in bikinis and drinking champagne in the hot tub.
MAN #1 0:00:17
If that’s what people want, but that’s not for me.
WOMAN #1 0:00:22
There are some marriages that have come out of it. Oh, that’s the big question.
MAN #1 0:00:27
I wouldn’t want to date nine or 10 or 12 or 20 people all at once. It’s hard enough to date one person.
At this stage of life, do you really want to meet someone under those conditions and say, hey, what the hell. I’m going to marry this guy, I just — come on.
MAN #2 0:00:51
I wish everybody the best, but I have some real concerns about how anybody can make those sorts of decisions in such a short timeframe and have any confidence that they’re going to be correct and the best for everybody involved.
LAURA STASSI 0:01:11
I’m Laura Stassi. Have you heard the news? There’s a reality television show about finding a partner for life. And the twist: The contestants are all in the Dating While Gray demographic. I wonder … will the TV show accurately represent what it’s like to be looking for love in the second half of life, or will it be a golden hot mess? “All That Glitters,” coming up next.
Maybe you remember this Dating While Gray episode from 2020. A woman we called Sandy described an awkward fix-up situation.
It was really weird. They invited my family, my sister, my sister-in-law, and a bunch of single women. Like it was The Bachelor or something, and I just was so disgusted by that whole thing.
He was the only single guy?
Yeah, he was late because he was buying roses for all of us. I just thought, oh, my God.
LAURA STASSI 0:02:11
It was The Bachelor, The Gray Bachelor!
The dating show The Bachelor was going strong back then. Still is. Its success has led to spin-offs like The Bachelorette, The Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, all featuring single people in their 20s and early 30s. Finally, ABC is giving us a grown-up version, although they’re not calling it The Gray Bachelor. Go figure. It’s called The Golden Bachelor, and the star of the show is a 72-year-old widower named Gerry.
0:02:48 – LAUREN HARRIS
It’s not a surprise at all that they went with a widower over a divorcee or somebody who had never been married. It is so much easier, cleaner, and it tells a nicer story.
0:02:59 – LAURA STASSI
That’s Lauren Harris, and she’s part of Bachelor Nation. That means she’s a fan. She’s also an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, and her research focus is older adults and dating. And not to brag or anything but guess who’s a resource.
0:03:16 – LAUREN HARRIS
Basically, the pandemic hit, and I was taking these long walks, and I thought I should use this time widely. Let’s look for some podcasts, and yours popped up, and so that’s how I really got into it. It was sort of a little background research for me and sort of diving into the culture of older adult dating, sort of getting my mind in that realm.
I think we need to come up with some sort of …
I’m telling you, Laura, like I’m in, we could have the very most fun I think anybody’s ever had.
0:03:44 – b
Not only fun, we would — I mean, my God, we could be research giants here.
I know, I know.
Okay, so The Bachelor.
LAUREN HARRIS 0:03:52
Ah yes, The Bachelor.
0:03:54 – LAURA STASSI
For those of us who are not familiar with the show, can you briefly describe the concept?
0:04:00 – LAUREN HARRIS
Sure. So there’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. For ease, I’ll focus on The Bachelor. So on The Bachelor there is one man, a single man, and they bring on roughly 25 single women onto the show. So the idea is that of these 25 women, he’s going to whittle them down and ultimately end up with one woman at the end of the show. So each episode, they’ll go on a couple dates.
Usually in the beginning especially, they go on these group dates. So it will be the bachelor and say 10 women, and then the next day he might go on a date with 10 other women. So they’ll do a lot of group dates. At the end of every episode, there is the rose ceremony. So the bachelor will stand up and all of the women will sort of stand in like auditorium style around him and one by one he passes out a rose. And so if you get a rose, that means you get to stay on the show. At the very end, whoever doesn’t have a rose leaves the show for good. And so every episode there are fewer and fewer women until they get down to the bottom of three for the final episode, and then the final two, and then he gives the one rose to the woman, and it always ends with an engagement. The ultimate goal of the series is to end with an engagement.
0:05:12 – LAURA STASSI
So is it true that everybody lives in the same house while this is going on?
0:05:16 – LAURA STASSI
Yes, the bachelor does not. The bachelor lives separately, but all of the women live in the same house, which you can imagine leads to a lot of drama. There are a lot of conflicting personalities. If you imagine who wants to be on a reality dating show, you’re going to see a lot of big personalities, a lot of people competing, very outgoing personalities, loud personalities, the whole range of all types of people, and so we do get a lot of conflict between the women on The Bachelor and the men on The Bachelorette. I have to say, this is not a very gendered thing. On all the episodes, you see a lot of conflict in the house.
0:05:54 – LAURA STASSI
And when they live together, are they sharing bedrooms and bathrooms, or does everybody get their own space?
0:05:59 – LAUREN HARRIS
They don’t show too much of that. But yeah, the idea is that they share a bedroom, bathroom, all of the spaces, closets, everything. It’s close quarters, it’s very close quarters.
0:06:09 – LAURA STASSI
I basically told my college roommates, for our annual reunion, I’m getting my own bedroom this year. I’m done.
0:06:15 – LAUREN HARRIS
Yeah, they don’t have that luxury. I will say they live in a luxury mansion. It is a beautiful home, you know sprawling gardens, outdoor pools.
0:06:24 – LAURA STASSI
How do you think this format is going to translate with older people?
0:06:28 – LAUREN HARRIS
I think all of those things, the basic format of the show I expect will be about the same. I think they’re going to throw in some pieces that are different, so I think the dates might be a little less dangerous. I remember there was one episode where they went skydive or bungee jumping off the tallest building in Sydney, Australia, something like that. I think they played like a tackle football game one time. So I think maybe not those, maybe not like very more of the dangerous to sort of a physical health concern. But other things, I think, are going to be the same.
You know, they’ve had musicians come on the show and they have it. You know they have a dance and things like that. Or you know, there’s going to be picnics out in the middle of nowhere. They’re going to travel. Part of The Bachelor — they always go to another country and explore another region. I think they’re still going to be doing that. So I think the nuts and bolts of the show are going to stay the same.
0:07:21 – LAURA STASSI
From what I read, all of the contestants of the previous shows have to undergo STD testing, and …
But they actually have sex during the show?
0:07:34 – LAUREN HARRIS
It’s an option, yep, yes.
0:07:35 – LAURA STASSI
And the bachelor — or whoever the lead is, whether it’s The Bachelor or The Bachelorette — might actually be having sex with more than one person.
0:07:42 – LAUREN HARRIS
Yes, yes, like famously. So it is a topic of conversation. There is a lot of making out from like the first episode through like the third to last. It’s a lot, it’s, it’s a lot. There’s always this big thing of like who’s going to be the first kiss. There’s an idea that whoever gets the first kiss is going to end up like at the end of the show, like they’re going to have longevity on the show.
The only times that I know of that there has been confirmed sex on the show early on has been very controversial. But really, the way it comes out on the show is that you wait until what they call fantasy suites. So around — it’s been a little while, but around episode the fourth to last, episode give or take, third to last, they have what they call fantasy suites. At this point, you’re down to like the final, say three women. I believe it’s three, might be four, but I think. So you’re down to the final three women, and that’s when you have fantasy suite. So you have one-on-one dates. It’s three nights in a row.
So he goes on a date with a first woman, they have a date, they have dinner and at the end of the date he says, ‘I’ve had a great time with you. I have this key to the fantasy suite. Would you like to stay with me in the fantasy suite?’ She is welcome to say no. He is also welcome to not invite her. He can also say, ‘I don’t want to do that with you, you can go back to your house, or you can go home. I don’t want to do that.’
But you know, he always does. He always invites the woman to the fantasy suite. They close the doors, the cameras leave. Whatever happens behind that closed door is up to them. And they do the whole thing with the next woman. And the third night is the third woman. I will say, it gets awkward when those three women still live together and so that woman comes home the next morning and the two women are like, sitting on the couch, being like, so how was your fantasy date night? And they know that she has spent the night with, as they see it, with their boyfriend, right? So they’re all dating this man. They’re like, you had an overnight with my boyfriend, I had an overnight last night. Did you do more than I did? You know it’s so — the drama ensues.
0:09:35 – LAURA STASSI
And to be clear, ladies and gentlemen, you have STD testing before the show. But if you’re the — sorry to say, if you’re the second one in there, you’re in danger of getting an STD.
0:09:50 – LAUREN HARRIS
Yes, so be safe, whatever that might mean for you. So it’s definitely — you’re going into it knowing there are some risks.
0:10:00 – LAURA STASSI
Oh, I’m sorry, this is — I’m trying to figure out how much I really want to…
0:10:06 – LAUREN HARRIS
Well, I want to know everything. So I think The Golden Bachelor is going to be popular among Bachelor Nation. So if you’re already a Bachelor fan, you’re still watching, because it’s the show you know. I think the majority of the show is going to say the same. You’re still going to be interested. And then I think they’re going to pick up an audience, especially single older women, and I think part of it is that we’re finally seeing some representation on television of single older adults.
But single older adults are interested in relationships, are interested in dating, are interested in sex — all of these things we don’t really see them on television very much. And so I think a lot of single older adults and older adults generally are going to start seeing some representation and be drawn to it. For that, I think other people are going to be interested, as you mentioned, for information. What does dating look like? What are the possibilities? I think that’s going to be a little misdirected because this is a very specific population, a very specific sample, and in a bubble. This is not what dating is really going to look like. But maybe look at some tips of good date ideas, perhaps. But I think people are just curious about what it is to date as an older adult and relieved and interested to see some representation from diversity of age on the screen.
0:11:14 – LAURA STASSI
OK, so it’s funny. But just now you bring up representation and I thought, OK, that is legitimate, but is it … here’s the thing I’m kind of struggling with. Does representation matter if it’s in a format that’s kind of cringe-worthy to begin with?
0:11:29 – LAUREN HARRIS
I know what you’re saying. Yes, I’ve had this conversation with people, like in other shows too, of like OK, well, they’re showing this demographic and maybe a poor light. I think they’re going to be a little careful about it. But I think it’s a step one. Is this the end all, be all? No, but maybe something like this will lead to the idea that single older adults, older adults, are a market, are a demographic, are interesting.
I think we’re going to see a lot of contestants who are, to put it in Bachelor speak, here for the right reasons, Like, I think a lot of the older women are really going to be looking for love. But it is still a television show. ABC is still casting for entertainment, for drama. So I think we are still going to be seeing a villain. We are still going to be seeing women in arguments, in conflict, arguing with each other. There’s still going to be that same drama. There’s still going to be a level of immaturity on this show, right? So just because you’re 60 doesn’t mean that you are super mature and perfect at all times. I think it’s a little naïve, and a little ageist, to say that women in their 60s can’t have the emotions and feelings and behaviors that women in their 20s and 30s, 40s might have also.
0:12:34 – LAURA STASSI
Something you said reminded me of something I read. It was like an opinion piece, but it was by a younger woman, and she was saying she wished that The Bachelor, The Golden Bachelor, weren’t so hot, because that’s not realistic. We need a grandpa. And you said yourself, we’re going to see women who are youthful. And youthful is implying that older women aren’t … we’re going to be a little slower, but we’re still very active, and so …I don’t know where I was going with that, other than to say, if there’s, I don’t want people to think of these women as outliers.
0:13:15 – LAUREN HARRIS
Of course they’re going to choose really beautiful and really naturally beautiful women. I’m not saying had to have work done or, you know, super overdone, but just naturally beautiful older women. Women in their 60s can also be beautiful, and that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to seeing on this show and looking forward for this show to do for, for public concept of older adults, that older adult can also be attractive. That’s, that’s not, you know, that’s not an oxymoron, right? We can have older adults who are also attractive.
0:13:45 – LAURA STASSI
I just had a great idea for a show. Everybody’s divorced, and so you bring in the former partners too.
0:13:53 – LAUREN HARRIS
I’m very into this. I’m very interested. I want to know the other side of the story.
0:14:00 – LAURA STASSI
We’ll hear more from Lauren Harris on a future episode when she shares some of her research findings on older daters.
Golden Bachelor Gerry is choosing his second true love from a pool of almost two dozen women. They range in age from 60 to 75. And one of them — is not this woman.
0:14:22 – VERONICA
There are these archetypes: the villain, the fool, the weeper. And so they even kind of slipped and said oh, you’re the creative California boho type.
0:14:33 – LAURA STASSI
Meet Veronica. She was in the running to compete for Gerry’s heart. We’ll hear all about it, after the break.
The Golden Bachelor is airing this fall, but it’s been in the works for a while now. In fact, the first casting call was in 2020. That caught the attention of someone who decided to pass on the opportunity, but she had a friend that she thought might be interested.
0:15:01 – VERONICA
She sent me the link, and I filled out the application and absolutely forgot about it until February of this year, when I got a phone call from the casting director who asked me, ‘Are you still single?’ And I thought, who are you and why are you asking me this question?
My name is Veronica, and I live in Northern California. I’m an author, I am a teacher, I own my own design business for 25, 30 years and currently I’m the president of a nonprofit. And I have a grown son and, most recently, I’m a grandmother.
0:15:45 – LAURA STASSI
So have you been married before?
0:15:47 – VERONICA
I had been married not once, but twice. I had a starter marriage when I was very young and it was nine months, so I’ve had relationships that have lasted longer than my first marriage. And then I was 34 when I remarried, and I was married for 15 years. And I’ve been single now for 22 years. And I’ve had several long-term relationships. But I’m currently single.
And may I ask your age?
I am 72 years old.
It’s interesting because the senior casting director told me, he said you know, most people say they don’t look their age on their applications. And he said, but I’ve really got to tell you: You really don’t look your age.
0:16:35 LAURA STASSI
7So they called out of the blue.
Out of the blue.
What did they ask for?
They asked me for past history, age, pictures. They wanted pictures and funny stories, like dating stories. They’re very much into dating stories. What’s your favorite funny dating story and that’s all I remember. Really, it was quite a shock when I got a call.
0:17:06 LAURA STASSI
So this was, and I think we don’t want to use any names, but I believe this was an assistant casting director.
This was a junior casting director.
0:17:14 – LAURA STASSI
Yeah, junior casting director, let’s call her junior, okay, do you remember how long that conversation went, or …
It went on for a while. It was about an hour conversation. And she asked me if I had ever seen The Bachelor, and I said no, I’ve never seen an episode. And she asked me about my dating history and if I’m interested in meeting The One, and I said, well, I’m interested in meeting the One, but in the interim I’ve got the many.
Good for you.
I’m interested in a long-term relationship with a companion that I have a lot in common with. At this stage of the game, marriage is not in the picture for me. A long-term relationship is, and maybe not even living together.
0:18:12 LAURA STASSI
Sure, okay, so you had this conversation, and it went on for an hour, and then how was it left?
She said the next step would be to meet with a senior casting director via video, in that it would last about 15 to 20 minutes and that I should wear what I would wear for if I went out on a date. And I said, I live in Northern California. We go out on dates wearing Patagonia jackets and jeans. You know, this is not Chicago or New York. We don’t put the sequins on here. She said, no, just put something nice on.
Okay, so tell me about your conversation with senior.
It was supposed to be 15 minutes long. It lasted close to 40 minutes. He asked me questions that where I talked a lot about my life and who I am and what types of relationships I have. And talking about yourself a lot can make you feel uncomfortable. And so I thought whoa, if I feel uncomfortable disclosing a lot of this stuff, imagine if you’re on national TV tangling tongues with someone that you don’t even know. It ended up with him saying for me to think about it and basically the next step was going to be — to be flown to LA. And so that’s when I did all of the research.
Tell me about the research.
Oh, the research. I had never seen a Bachelor before. And so they said, the senior director said well, we have a current episode going on. I encourage you to watch. You know two or three of them, and so I did. Who knew that there’s books on strategy on all of this stuff? So there’s a book called Bachelor Nation, Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure, and then How to Win The Bachelor, the Secret to Finding Love and Fame on America’s Favorite Reality Show.
So I read those in depth. Then I also did a lot of research online, and I was pretty horrified.
I just thought, this is not going to work. It’s not going to work for me, but I also felt that it’s really not going to work with our demographic.
0:20:50 LAURA STASSI
So tell me what horrified you.
The sensory deprivation. You’re not allowed to bring your computer, your phone. The only book that apparently, they allowed is a Bible and yeah, and I’m Jewish, so a lot of good that’s going to do me. I’d have to schlep the Torah with me.
0:21:10 LAURA STASSI
I’m sorry to laugh, yeah.
You’re in a house, at The Bachelor mansion — which they rent in Los Angeles — with 30 other women who you don’t know. You’re going to be rooming with maybe two or three of them. You’re an adult, you’re 72 years old. I don’t know when the last time I was in a room with two other women that I didn’t know. I can easily hang with my girlfriends, but not two women.
You’re allowed to bring three bags of your own clothing. They do not provide you with anything, and some of the younger girls have spent 30 or 40 grand on their wardrobe to be on this show. So they’re asking senior citizen women to invest in 15 gowns to be on this show. And other stuff too. Bring your own makeup. You do your own hairstyling. If you run out of mascara, you have to ask the producers to get you some. I have two dogs and I said, well, can I bring my dogs? And they said no, and I thought, okay, this is sounding weirder and weirder as it goes along.
Once you get into the last part of it, when you fly to LA, you’re met by a handler. Then you’re handed 150 questions, which some of them are repetitive, multiple choice and true and false questions, and then after that, you meet with the producers — all of them, I think there’s 12 of them. Then after that, you meet with a therapist, then after that you meet with a private investigator, and then they do a medical examination. So you really have to want to be on this show to do all of this, to give up your life for two months unpaid, and so the only thing you get is the possibility of a ring and a guy.
0:23:16 LAURA STASSI
So Veronica decided to drop out of consideration. She wrote the casting directors an email to let them know.
First off, thank you both for your time and interest in my participation in The Golden Bachelor. Initially I was interested in this show because it would cast a wide net…
0:23:32 LAURA STASSI
She included suggestions for making the show more suitable for older daters. She ended with this one:
The producers should make this a much shorter version of The Bachelor, maybe on a small boat, luxury cruise line, maximum two weeks. Lose the sensory deprivation tactics and have a real reality show where women are equals and not prizes. Heck, the only drama I think that’ll happen is some of the women on board will realize that they prefer women to men or run off into a dark corner with a cute young boat worker. Now wouldn’t that be something.
0:24:08 LAURA STASSI
Wow, I think it’s a great letter. Who knows, maybe they took it to heart. Okay, is there anything else we need to know?
When he was asking me questions, the senior casting director, and I said, well, what if I — what if I don’t like the Golden Bachelor, or that I have nothing in common with him there, that I — and he goes, oh no, we’re going to pick a really, you know, you’re going to want him. And I thought, when he came out, I thought, okay, this guy lives in Indiana on a lake. I am a Progressive, if not Socialist, Democrat who lives in Northern California. I am very involved in the arts and in the community. And there – -there was zero connection there. And I thought, I would have been throwing myself on a sword on the first night had I been in that Bachelor mansion.
0:25:07 LAURA STASSI
What about his status as a widower as opposed to a divorced person?
That aspect of him was very, very appealing.
0:25:13 LAURA STASSI
And how about the fact that he keeps a picture of his wife in the closet that he talks to every morning, does that bother you?
No, no, I think if you’ve had a long relationship with someone, yeah, they’re not going to just disappear from your life. How can you be jealous of a ghost that he’s had a long, long-term relationship with this with, with his wife, who he loved dearly? I mean, I saw one of the clips on him and his eyes were tearing up when he said, well, I asked my wife if I should do this and she’s up there rooting for me. And I thought, okay, he’s a Christian too.
0:25:52 LAURA STASSI
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but that’s just one more thing that you don’t have in common.
I’m not against religion, I’m not. It’s just like, okay, he believes in heaven and hell, okay, and actually I think we would be very, very different. And so I think that that would be an issue. So would I want to place myself in this type of grueling environment to conquer the heart of someone that I wouldn’t be interested in long term?
0:26:24 LAURA STASSI
By the way, I reached out to ABC for comments on The Golden Bachelor, and to confirm or deny details Veronica shared. They didn’t respond.
Speaking of Veronica, I have to say I think I’m in on her idea of a small luxury cruise. Only make it an even number of men and women and call it Gray Daters in Paradise. Or how about that idea Lauren Harrison and I talked about? Divorced Gray Daters in Paradise, and everyone brings an ex. Well, wait. On second thought, let’s skip that plot twist.
Dating While Gray’s audio production and mix is by Steve Lack: Audio. For more on the show, check out datingwhilegray.com. That’s where you can find the latest episodes, plus the archive of previous episodes. You can also find links to send me questions, comments, tips and true stories through email and voicemail. You know I love hearing from you. While you’re there, sign up for the free Dating While Gray e-newsletter, delivered every Friday to your inbox. That’s datingwhilegray.com. I’m Laura Stassi. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by https://podium.page