Sex and the Suburbs

Thank God I'm Single (and that life doesn't always imitate art) by Lauralyn Avallone "You're the stupidest human being I've ever met," the frizzy hair girl screams. Alone with the camera she tells the audience, ...

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Thank God I'm Single
(and that life doesn't always imitate art)

by Lauralyn Avallone

"You're the stupidest human being I've ever met," the frizzy hair girl screams.

Alone with the camera she tells the audience, "he expects a woman to stay at home and take care of him. That's ridiculous. He waxes his eyebrows, gets facials. He's a silly human being."

Back in his presence:

"You don't have a job and you live at home," she says bitingly.
"It's not that I can't afford to move out on my own, it's that I don't want to," he snaps. "And how independent are you when your daddy is paying your rent?"
"That is a very sensitive subject," she says, sobbing. "It kills me every time I have to ask him for money."

He rolls his eyes dramatically.

"You are a moron, I do not like you," she belts out as he walks away. "I would be happy to never see you again!"

Back to the camera, she describes her date (who happens to be a Long Island guy) as a complainer, an insensitive jerk, obnoxious, bratty, spoiled, superficial, macho and the most "retarded person I've ever known in my life."

You can't make this stuff up. This was an episode of UPN 9's "Shipmates." Yet another spin off of "Blind Date" that blatantly exploits vulnerable (and macho) singles. But this time, instead of sending the poor two souls to pottery class, yoga or a crazy bar, they're sent to a cruise ship, where motion sickness isn't the only thing that can make them sick. They have each other!

So far I've counted seven, yes seven television shows that all revolve around matchmaking, or mismatching as it usually turns out. Here they are (check your local listings for these non-award winners):

1. The aforementioned "Shipmates."

2. The Original: "Blind Date" Who hasn't seen this? Dates usually start out cool and collected, but once the shots start flowing, watch out! Cartoon bubbles suggest what the dates are really thinking. On this show, it's not a party until someone loses a bra.

3. "Dismissed" One person is set up with two possible matches at the same time, the trio shares the date and then someone gets "dismissed" at the end. No one on this show is over 17 (it's MTV), it's like re-visiting high school.

4. "Temptation Island" Uncertain couples are sent to an island, separated and shamelessly seduced by half naked model-types. They videotape messages to exchange (just to mess with their heads some more); cheating, tears and singletons usually follow.

5. "Elimidate" See "Dismissed" but instead of teens, it's 20-somethings. My friend Cathi likes this one for its caddy factor. The girls tend to hiss and have long claws for nails. She also likes the fact that the guys are decent looking, which is rare on these shows.

6. "Change of Heart" As the title suggests, this dating game puts an insecure couple to the commitment test, to see whether they'll have a "change of heart" about their future. They're set up on a blind date with eye candy, and in the end hold up cards to reveal their decision to their uneasy partner. My friend Brian favors this one because it's "cruel and scary." He also doesn't mind dentist visits.

7. "The Fifth Wheel" Ok, it's bad enough I've caught the other ones. But this one, I just can't sit through. Short and simple is the best format for matchmaking. This involves too many people, too many choices - too much confusion.

I'm sure even Playboy has their version of these dating shows, but I don't subscribe to that channel. If you have it, you can tell me. I'm sure they're not much different. There's enough skin shown on UPN 9 to make even Hugh blush. I wonder who thought up these shows. Was a writer or producer on a date gone wrong and thought, "America has got to see this"? Or was it a happily married, thinking, "this is what I'm not missing."

I know I'm writing here as a singles expert and not a TV Guide reporter, but if you haven't seen any of these humiliating displays of dysfunctional dates, I urge you to sacrifice 30 minutes of your time to do so. You will say, thank God I'm single.

Sure, trashy TV is a guilty pleasure. But this singles genre of trash is particularly telling. It's almost like Sesame Street for Singles. You learn things like how to use your body to impress a first date and why a man shouldn't take longer than a woman when getting ready to go out, or admit to the fact that he enjoys pedicures or strip joints. You get to watch the variety of pick-up techniques used by the likes of gold digger's, chauvinists, cynics and the overall socially challenged.

Not to say there aren't the girl or guy next door's. There are. But they're usually set up with the gold digger, chauvinist, etc. It's like watching a human form of oil and water.

Unless they hook up, then it's like watching a sloppy public service announcement about the evils of alcohol.

I think the worst show I've ever seen was when a guy was actually chained to his dates (about six giggly girls, apparently clones) by his ankles. Talk about a ball and chain. I mean, it's hard enough feeling the frustration of being on your own, do we really need to start chaining the unattached to one another like convicted criminals? I'm sure the commitment phobic had to seek professional help after watching that. Which, actually, is probably a good thing.

On the subject of professional help, I've had some off-camera matchmaking sessions myself, forgettable at best. There was a dull Columbia grad student who bragged about his bank account, a military man stationed in Garden City whose main interest was drinking at Chili's, another military man who had no interests outside his ex-girlfriend who lived in Italy and didn't shave her armpits. A pushy salesman with bad shoes, short cop with a Napoleon complex, an insecure trust fund baby and a flaky fireman who still calls every once in a while, why, I don't know. No major, juicy conflict had risen worthy of network television. Hell, these blind dates weren't even worthy of my primetime, though once again, I could say with relief, Thank God I'm single.

Until next time, singles. And remember: it's a jungle out there, swing wisely.

(Here is a list of new shows for your consideration)

Narcoleptic Date: Two people diagnosed with sleeping disorders are sent to the golf course. Will peace prevail after shouting, "fore!" or will one date be left sleeping in the cart?

And how about...

Shoot-A-Date (one less jerk in the dating pool)

Ship Out Mates (whoever is dissed is shipped off to another country to torture their singles)

Blonde Date (do they live up to the dumb jokes? And if so, do they understand their own stupidity or do they just stare blankly at each other?)

Lunch Date (ooops, sorry...I was checking my datebook. I am a blonde, you know)