Winning the Tragedy Contest - Kate Bowler

Archbishop Justin Welby: Suspicious of Joy

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Winning the Tragedy Contest

The aerial shots of the Tuscan countryside and the slopes of Machu Picchu glide across the screen as a row of manicured and glossy women croon-shriek their greetings. All is love and loveliness in the Bachelor universe.

The tragic drama immediately presents. The girls aren’t getting along! The Bachelor already has favorites! A contestant’s old flame shows up and tries to take back his girl – a move this season’s Bachelor calls the tragedy of his life.

Look, I love The Bachelor. Say what you want about reality TV, but this series brings me unadulterated, un-cerebral joy. But I liked it a little better before I started tallying how often the contestants use the word “tragedy” to describe their hair…wardrobe malfunctions…accidentally ordering a virgin daiquiri…not receiving the rose…having second thoughts. You know, not really tragic stuff?

When life gives you a monthly subscription to miserable news, it’s really hard to take other people’s problems seriously. Especially when we all know that person who overplays their hand. Store was out of their favorite La Croix flavor? Tragedy! DVR didn’t record the new episode of House Hunters? How will they live! Kid refused to wear the hair bow they picked out for picture day? Quelle horreur!

Tragedies are life-altering events. Not inconveniences. So when pop culture overuses the word “tragedy,” it makes me want to whip out my metaphorical hard-times-pin-collection like a jaded Girl Scout with the heaviest sash.

Going through something terrible can make you want to become the “perspective police,” to command everyone to shut their pieholes until they fully recognize how horrible things are for you. Life can quickly become a measuring stick of suffering. Hard day at the office? That stinks, but are your organs literally eating themselves alive?

I used to find myself looking at people and muttering, you’re fine. But one ordinary day, I had a good scan. Immediately after, I got in the Duke hospital elevator alongside a tough looking lady with a cane, and–when I saw her–I lost it. Tears streaming down my face, it all came flooding back: the realization that life is hard and it’s hard for everyone.

So, yes, I will roll my eyes when the next Bachelor contestant weeps, but hopefully I can remember that there is no quantitative value on heartbreak, loss, or tragedy. And that we are all trying our best to hold on, grow a little, and keep our rooms clean. I love you all, Bachelor Nation.

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