Ah, the Hometown Visits: where red flags become screaming sirens, lingering suspicions become queasy-making realities, and skeptical strangers made uncomfortable by the presence of camera crews in their living rooms become potential in-laws cowed into offering their grudging blessings to a doomed union. Indeed, this is easily the most nerve-wracking week of the season for any contestant, surpassing even the pre-penetrative jitters of stepping gingerly into the virtue-melting maw of a Fantasy Suite hot tub; at least there's some predictability to how things will go down in that romantic ski chalet or poorly protected tent on the Serengeti, whereas each Hometown encounter offers the possibility of the total unraveling of a vulnerable new relationship. But as always, we are here to arm our knowledge-hungry students with the mind-ammunition they need to neutralize the known threats of The Bachelor's most perilous week.
1. Turn the tables.
After seven or eight weeks of running a humiliating gauntlet of extreme sports, drunken rivals swishing bottomless wine glasses around a pool, and mind-numbingly repetitive picnics, it's your turn to put him on the defensive and see how he fits in with your natural environment. Make him pretend to find Houston interesting, and then sit him down with your parents for a frank discussion about the suspect decision-making process that resulted in a short-lived high school marriage. Subject him to the obligatory Seattle ritual of tossing fish at a guy in overalls while being serenaded by a handlebar-mustachioed banjoist, then thrust him into a cramped kitchen to justify his existence to three implacable generations of females in your family. Dress him up in Army gear, sit on his back like the glorified pack animal he is, and make him perform feats of strength for your amusement. Hike him up Runyon Canyon for the typically boring Saturday jaunt you're planning for every weekend of the remainder of your natural lives, because of course he's moving to Los Angeles, you're sure as hell not going to Dallas, where they would probably demand you incorporate cowboy boots and steer heads into your bridal designs. He can pretend to make custom furniture anywhere, like that's even a job, ewww, you're not leaving L.A., shut up already, do SAG cards even work in Texas?
He is yours to toy with this week. Make it count.
2. Be ready to settle down.
The long-abandoned, theoretical purpose of The Bachelor was to use the power of network television to bring together two yearning souls for a chance at ForeverLove, with the Hometown Visits designed to give our Bachelor a glimpse into the family he's ostensibly joining until death-do-they-part. In practice, however, we know the arrangement is much more ephemeral than that, with all prime-time incubated relationships feeling like gigantic successes if they can survive long enough to keep both halves of the new couple out of the pillow-strewn orgy-chambers of the next Bachelor Pad. Still, even with the knowledge that there's a 50 to 90 percent chance a Bachelor will never again stand in the same room as his prospective in-laws, he will still use his incredibly fraught face time with them to ascertain their daughter/sibling's willingness to crank out babies at a pace that would make even Lucille Ball faint dead away at the reproductive conveyor belt.
Are you ready for that phase of your life, however improbable your mutual advancement to it might actually be?
Yes, yes you are. At least for Hometown Visit week. Call your parents and drop some hints about how prepared you are to abandon your dreams and follow him to the ends of the earth if that's what it takes to make it work. Because "Do you think she's ready to settle down?" will be the only meaningful question the lunkhead will think to ask.
3. Always remember that he's crazy about you.
You know who he's crazy about? You! So crazy about you.
Whatever you do, don't take a drink after every time I say I'm crazy about someone. You won't make it out alive.
— Sean Lowe (@SeanLowe09) February 19, 2013
Yeah, he's also crazy about those other three girls, but when you think about it, that's a pretty amazing craziness reduction from the two dozen or so women he was crazy about a few short weeks ago. Congratulations on garnering up to one-quarter of his current affections. So crazy about you, swearsies.
4. Maybe don't prank him right now.
Hahahaha! What a great sense of humor you have, getting an actor friend to play the part of a jilted lover showing up on your doorstep for an 11th-hour intervention as playful payback for an earlier gotcha! he pulled on you! But maybe now's not the best time for such shenanigans; things can get pretty heated up in here, and before you know it, it's all puffed-out chests, clenched jaws, and inserts of clenched fists that were probably recorded days earlier:
Save the LOLs for the Fantasy Suite. A nice, "Oh, I'm allergic to hot tubs. JK! I love soaking in the boiling remnants of a frightening Swiss couple's vigorous lovemaking!" will get the job done.
5. Control your siblings.
Beware of your siblings. While you'll instinctively direct most of your Hometown Visits Week energies into parental management, your brothers and sisters are the secret game-changers waiting to sabotage your already-slim chances at fleeting, televised happiness. A simple inquiry like "So what's she like at home?" could result in a resentful, passive-aggressive litany of your shortcomings, beginning with your inability to operate a laundry hamper and segueing into a thinly veiled warning about how she quickly tires of any partner who doesn't wholeheartedly support her dreams, whatever that might be beyond "find a husband on the lead-in to Castle." Or worse, a manly one-on-one between your Bachelor and your garishly tattooed, amateur-MMA-fighting little brother might instantly devolve into a relationship-souring exchange that features the following statements:
"This whole thing is like ... stupid, almost."
"I don't think the reciprocation is there."
"I do not believe that there is any reciprocation."
"You're crazy about a lot of girls, right?"
"I think you're just a playboy, and you're having fun with the circumstances. Just whatever comes along, have fun there, go to the next one, have fun."
Get those siblings on lockdown. You can't risk having an unusually insightful family member hold up a mirror to your Bachelor to make him stare back at the dead-eyed love-hoarder he's become. Any chance at having a nice dinner with your folks will be lost as he retreats inward, deeply hurt by the truth-bomb laid in his lap like a linen napkin.
6. Talk about the weather.
Ugh, you're so fucked. Try talking about the weather. Your parents are from a place with four distinct seasons, that's pretty interesting.
7. Have a good head shot.
When your Bachelor, suddenly overcome by the unfathomable pressure of deciding between a woman who might not yet be ready to settle down and one whose shockingly incisive brother was utterly unafraid to speak harem-exploding truth to Soloflex-conditioned power, recoils from his final rose like it was just cut out of the belly of a dalmatian puppy and retreats to a sidebar with consigliere Chris Harrison, he may be settling a tiebreaker based upon the head shots surrounding them in the Hardest Decision Yet Chamber. We hope your framed photo is a good one, because it all may have come down to that simple glamour shot. Wear green: It's an inviting color; something red, which you might assume evokes passion and the petals on the rose you hope to receive, also represents stop signs, danger, and all the blood he'll spill during a drunken brawl with your brother at the first family picnic.
8. Tell him he's making a huge mistake.
A 100 percent, total-certainty-level mistake, not even a 99.9-percent-hey-there's-a-minuscule-margin-of-error-in-there mistake.
It's worth a try.
He's broken the rules before. Maybe he will again.
Oops, there's the limo.
You really shouldn't have invited your brother to dinner.