Faster, Pussycat! Date! Date!

While some wild and crazy Minnesotans actually do want to meet new people up close and in person, others prefer to use a more traditionally Minnesotan approach: the indirect, passive-aggressive method. Hence the 300 singles gathered at Sam Goody Central on the Mall of America’s east side one Sunday afternoon in November. These singles will spend the next three hours not flirting with the opposite sex, but queuing four stores deep, waiting to audition for the third season of ABC’s hit reality-TV show The Bachelor. Women fill out applications (“Why do you want to try to find your husband on our TV show? Have you ever had a temporary restraining order issued against you?”) at a rate of six ladies to every male. The women are cute, well dressed, and pr
ofessional, and declare an honest-to-god interest in competing with 19 other women on national television for the chance to meet a man who “has it all” (except them, of course.)

Autumn, a 24-year-old (single) office manager, and Nicole, a 28- year-old (single) financial analyst, are two women tired of the bar scene but ready for a ring. Autumn is a tall, big-eyed brunette. She sees no conflict of interest between her faith in God and the “demands” of The Bachelor. “If God wants it to be, then it will happen,” she says earnestly. Nicole’s friends thought she would be a perfect candidate for the show. “This way they [the producers of ABC] do the searching for you,” she says. She’s had long-term relationships but to no avail. “I don’t know why I’m not married yet,” she says, staring out into the bright “sky” over Camp Snoopy.

Ryan Brown, a (single) casting producer for The Bachelor, is one of two interviewers seated beside a cameraman. He greets candidate after candidate with a smile and a handshake. He helps them find their marks on the floor, and waits until the ladies flick their hair behind their shoulders and lick their teeth, and the men adjust their eyes to the klieg lights. The interviews take about a minute and consist of easy, getting-to-know-you questions. Brown says this is the largest turnout of the five cities they’ve already visited. By the end of the three-hour casting call, Brown and his colleague will have interviewed hundreds of prospective bachelorettes and bachelors.

Neither the season’s bachelor nor the ladies have been chosen yet. Any contestants called back from this first round can expect four more rounds of competition before ever stepping onto the ABC set. Brown looks slightly pained at the thought. He too is single and searching. But regardless of his ABC affiliation, The Bachelor wouldn’t be an option.“I’m going to do it myself,” he says.

Erik, a 21-year-old actor, steps into the lights. He’s had two serious girlfriends in the past. Although he’s not looking for a wife (a requirement to be a serious Bachelor contender), he thinks it’s completely possible that he could meet his soul mate on national television. But she won’t be one of the ladies from the MOA scene. The suggestion that his future wife might be waiting in the wings right here, right now induces a scoff. “Yeah, right,” he says. “I’d say that’s a shot in the dark.”

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