Monday, June 11, 2012

I SET SAIL ON A REAL LIFE LOVE BOAT Part Two: In which I lose and then reclaim my soul

(In Part One of this epic adventure, I was chosen to be one 10 people setting sale on a reality show set on a CRUISE SHIP! Now in Part Two, you get to find out if I really did find love (as most contestants on reality dating shows do!)

Day 3 started with the ship docking in Jamaica. All of the couples would be going ashore to have their island adventures filmed.
The two guys who didn’t get picked for dates -- myself and Eric the Boxer -- were free to go ashore and do as we pleased.
Eric told me his main goal that day was to eat some Jamaican jerk chicken. Beyond that, neither he nor I had any plans for our time ashore.
While riding the shuttle bus into town, we ran into two of our shipmates: a pair of hot Czech Republic girls who were planning to spend the day at the beach.
The shuttle bus arrived at the jerk chicken restaurant so Eric and I could get out. Here’s where Eric stepped up. He told the bus driver, “There’s been a change in plans. We’re going to the beach!”
Spending the day at the beach with these two hot bikini models sounded like fun to me, so I eagerly went along for the ride.
We spent the next few hours hanging out with Lucy and Simona, the two Czech cousins. The girls were friendly. Best of all, they actually seemed to enjoy our company -- unlike most of the girls on the TV show!
While Eric and I were splashing around in the warm waters of Jamaica with the two bikini babes, the rest of the contestants were enjoying their TV island dates. One of the couples went horseback riding. One climbed Dunn’s River Falls. Danielle and Guy wound up giving each other mud massages and then showering off together.
It was there that the producers finally got what they were dying for, as the couple kissed in an outdoor shower. (They were both wearing bathing suits.) This was the only hint of romance among all the contestants on the entire three-day cruise.
Danielle later confessed that she was surprised she had kissed guy, since he wasn’t exactly her type and she was not into PDA’s on national television. But she was having so much fun on her date, she had gotten caught up in the moment and just forgotten about the cameras for a  minute.
Around 2:00 PM, we all returned to the ship. Eric and I asked the Czech girls if they wanted to join us for dinner that night and they said yes. Awesome!
Eric went back to the cabin to take a nap. I wasn’t tired., so I headed out on deck to go for a swim and hit the hot tub. (I even grabbed a spare moment to climb the rock wall!)
All in all,  it was a very fun day. I got to do all then things you would normally want to do on a  cruise, and I didn’t have to do any work on the show.
Finally around 4PM, the cast and crew of the show started arriving back on the ship. A couple of crew-members saw me chilling in the hot tub and requested that I stick around so they could get my “hero shot.”
At the beginning of every episode of LOVE FOR SAIL, they planned to show scenes of the six guys looking all “handsome and manly.” One by one, each guy was filmed doing something active: swimming,  playing basketball, whatever made them look the most “heroic.”
For my hero scene, they wanted me climing out of the pool. I sucked in my stomach and held my breath as best I could. Ultimately, I think they were happier with a shot of me lounging in a chair by the pool. Compared to some of these younger guys in tip-top shape, I just didn’t look as impressive coming out of the pool.
After we finished our “hero shots,” the producers thought it would be funny if they showed Eric and I looking sad and moping, as if that was how we spent our day while everyone else was out on their Jamaica dates. One of the producers, a  very flamboyant man, thought it would be hilarious if Eric and I were showering together under the large outdoor shower by the pool. Eric and I both nixed that idea. It may have been funny to him, but it sounded really lame to us, and it in no way reflected how we actually spent our day, splashing around in the ocean with those two hot Czech girls.

The producers asked if we would be willing to lean against the ship’s railing and look contemplative. I knew they were trying to create a fake version of how we spent our day, but we agreed to go along with it because at least this version was much less humiliating than the “two guys showering together” version.
After that, it was time for more “confessional” footage of us guys talking about the girls. One by one, we were brought in front of a camera and asked to talk about how we felt about each girl. It was here that the producers really encouraged us to let it all hang out.
They were particularly interested in Eric and I trashing the girls, since they didn’t pick us.
I have to admit, at that point, I really didn’t care that we didn’t get picked for dates. We had just had an awesome day with the two Czech girls. It was true that none of the girls on the show wanted us -- so what? Who cared? At that point, we had found other girls we liked better.
But that didn’t fit the script of the show. The show was meant to be a fantasy from the woman’s point of view. It was four women picking the four guys they like best, and rejecting the two guys they didn’t like. If the two rejected guys went off and meet other hot girls and had a great time, that didn’t really fit the theme of the show, because then there were no “losers.”
The producers had noticed that the two blonde girls on the show had sort of formed their own little clique, and they decided to try to work this angle to get a rise out of me.
While being filmed for my interview, I was asked if I thought the blondes were too cliquish. I said yes. It did seem to me that they had broken away from the group to the exclusion of anyone else. I was asked if either of the two blondes had asked me a single question about myself.
I had to admit that neither of the two blondes had asked me any questions -- at least, none that I could recall.
They asked me if I thought the short blonde, Jen was “like the popular girl in high school who never grew up.” That thought had not occurred to me, but I could tell they wanted to stick a label on Jen and they were counting on me to do it. Like a mindless zombie, I repeated what they had just said: “I think Jen is like the popular girl in high school who never grew up.”
Then they asked me if I thought Jen was a bitch. I thought that was way too harsh. I really didn’t want to call anyone a bitch on national televisions. Just because a girl doesn’t want to date me, that doesn’t mean I think she's a bitch.
I muttered under my breath, “I guess she does have a little bit of a bitchy side…” But I really didn’t say it with any conviction. It wasn’t the strong condemnation they were looking for. I was hoping that they wouldn’t use it.
After I finished giving my assessment of all four girls, Eric had the idea that we should approach the producers and ask them if we could bring the Czech girls as our dates to the final dinner.
The producers pretended to consider our request, but really they hated it. It totally clashed with what they had in mind. Seemingly right on the spot, they concocted a very different plan for Eric and I to hatch our “revenge” on the girls who had “shunned” us.
Reality check time: I can’t stress enough that Eric and I had no interest at this point in attacking the four girls on the show. All we were thinking of at that point was spending more time with our two Czech bikini babes.
The executive producer sat us down and we had a little talk. He was so devious, he was like Machiavelli. He started off by telling us we could take the two Czech girls out to dinner, but he felt we still needed to confront the four girls on the show before that. He explained to us how the four girls on the show were so shallow and their standards so impossibly high that they would never really date any of the guys on the show. He told us how the girls were a huge disappointment to everyone, how they were so boring and so not fun, they were ruining the show.
He told us, “The audience is going to hate these girls. Now here’s your chance to come in and set them straight. Tell them what they’re doing wrong with their love lives. Really let them have it. Pull no punches. Tell them how you really feel. The audience will love it. You’ll be heroes!”
It occurred to me that the actions he was describing were more the types of things that a villain would do, not a hero.
Over the course of the cruise, I had kind of gotten used to the idea of me being the “Bad Guy,” the guy who trashes the girls behind their backs.
But this would be different. This would be trashing them to their faces.
I suddenly became very uncomfortable with the idea of being the “Villain.” But Eric was embracing it. He relished the idea to get some major screen time and really tell these girls how it felt to be ignored and shot down.
The producers were suddenly fired up. They felt they had a pretty boring show overall, but here was their chance to make things explode! But it had to happen now! The girls were busy getting ready for their big formal dinner date. This was the last chance for Eric and I to burst into their suite and really let them have it.
A camera crew was summoned. Eric and I were rushed into an elevator and up to the girls’ suite. The time for the final confrontation had arrived!
I felt very uncomfortable with the whole situation. As we knocked on their door, I really did not want to be there. This was the first time on the whole cruise that the producers had asked me to do something that was really against my grain.  At that moment, the girls were busy getting all dolled up in their most glamorous gowns. They were putting the finishing touches on their hair and make-up when Eric and I barged in.
Amy, the biracial girl, answered the door. She had no clue what was going on, at that point. She said that the other girls were not ready yet but that they would be out shortly.
One of the crew suggested that Eric should take Amy over to the couch and speak his mind. I knew that I was not needed for that conversation, so I chose to sit back and wait for the other girls to come out.
I was greatly relieved that I did not have to go first. I  was more than happy to stay far in the background while Eric did his thing. I have a natural aversion to confrontation of any sort, and I certainly don’t like getting into contrived confrontations where I’m supposed to rag on some girls for not picking me for a date.
The reality as, I didn’t feel that the girls deserved to be ragged on, any more than I would want them ragging on me. When you got right down to it, it really came down to the girls not being attracted to me or not feeling any chemistry with me. I’m supposed to rag on them for that?
All I could think of was that the girls were having a relaxing time, getting ready for one last date, and Eric and I had been sent in there to essentially ruin their night before it even started.
I wasn’t sure I could do that. At the same time, the producers were paying me to be there, and I did feel some obligation to do as I was told. The question was, could I give them the in-your-face confrontation they were pushing for?
Eric started off critiquing Amy, telling her how he thought she was a typical stuck-up L.A. girl.
Then Jen came out and walked toward me. Her first thought was, why weren’t Eric and I getting our tuxes on for the formal dinner?
I explained to Jen that Eric and I would not be attending the final dinner. She shot back, “I’m not okay with this. We all started this together and we’ll finish it together.”
Freeze frame for a second here. This was the girl I had spent the past three days saying bad things about. I really thought she hated me. Now here she was, defending me. I felt like the biggest jerk of all time.
She was ready to go to the producers and demand that Eric and I be allowed to attend the final dinner. I tried to explain to Jen that really, we were okay with not going to the dinner. I mean, really, why would two single guys want to tag along on a date with four couples any way? Especially when we had plans to meet up with our bikini models anyway?
I explained to Jen that Eric and I were cool with not going to the final dinner, because we had lost the competition. Jen fired back, “This wasn’t a competition!”
I thought that was a very odd statement coming from Jen, who had previously been on BIG BROTHER -- another reality competition show. I mean, I know we weren’t competing for a million dollars here, but there were still winners and losers.
Eric and I had lost. And now it was our turn to play “sore losers.”
Danielle came out of her bedroom and joined us. All the girls looked very beautiful in their glittery gowns. They really wanted to shine for their final night on the cruise. The two blondes and myself walked over and joined Eric and Amy on the couch.
Eric started ripping into the blondes, saying they had been  rude to him, they had ignored him, they had treated him like a second-class citizen. He was being honest with how he felt.
He was also embracing his role as the “villain” of the show. Between this outburst and his disrobing in the hot tub, he figured he would have the two most buzzed-about scenes in the episode.
The mood in the room got ugly real quick. The blondes did not appreciate Eric tearing into them like that. The girls felt this was not the time or place to have this discussion.
Danielle and Jen both excused themselves. They said they did not deal with drama well, and in the interests of maintaining their dignity, they would not continue this conversation. Both girls got up and went back to their bedroom.
At that point, Eric was done speaking. He said goodbye to Amy, and he headed out the door. As soon as Eric was gone, Danielle and Jen came back out to talk to me.
I knew I couldn’t do it the way Eric did it. Brutal honestly is not my forte, especially when it come to women. I really don’t enjoy hurting people’s feelings, and I know with women, in particular, you have to very careful about what you say. 
I was still thinking I could try to give the producers some of what they wanted -- maybe just a kinder, gentler version. I felt like a sniper who had been sent to assassinate the girls. It was as if I had a gun hidden in my pocket and they never saw it coming!
I thought to myself, “Great. Now the producers are expecting me to bring on Round Two.” I felt like an assassin who had a gun hidden under his jacket and was planning to come out shooting. And the girls never saw it coming!
Jen told me she was having a mini-panic attack. She said she had had similar reaction when she was on Big Brother, and that she just didn’t deal well with being ambushed like that.

I started off by giving the girls a little good-natured ribbing about them not picking me. All of the girls said they would have picked me if they had been given the chance to have one more date, which is one of things that is very nice to say, but kind of hard to prove.
Then I asked the girls why they had come on the cruise. 
The fourth girl, Rachel, had finished getting ready and joined the conversation. She said that she had been through a  break-up recently and thought she might be open to dating again, but over the course of the cruise, she had found she just wasn’t ready yet.
I asked the girls if there was anything they were looking for in man that they didn’t see in our group.
What I wanted to say was, “Women generally are attracted to really successful and powerful men and there weren’t any super-successful men in our group, but if there had been maybe you would have been more excited about the guys on the ship.”
But I couldn’t say that. After what Eric had said to the girls, I didn’t want to say anything else to upset them. I just didn’t feel like they deserved it.
The best I could do was to ask Jen how she could say she enjoys the single life if she hadn’t had a date in six months, and to ask Danielle if she would have been happier if one of the guys had been a tall baseball player.
In every case, the girls offered very logical, very well thought out explanations for why they were there and what they were looking for. Danielle argued that she wouldn’t automatically fall for a guy just because he was tall and played baseball. “He might be an ass,” she noted.
I spoke to the four girls for about 30 minutes. All along the producers were waiting for me to drop the bomb on them, the way Eric had. They slowly realized that Eric and I are two very different people, and that I was not capable of delivering the type of left hook that Eric the boxer had.
After suffering through 30 minutes of me chatting with the girls in my non-confrontational manner, the producers realized this was going nowhere. One of them came over and whispered to me, “You’re just interviewing the girls. Tell them how you really feel!”
How did I really feel at that moment? I felt like I had a great time hanging out with the Czech bikini models on the beach in Jamaica, and I wasn’t going to stay mad at these TV girls for not being into me.
If the producers had asked me to go in there and do a sarcastic“Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Have Picked Me,” I would have been happy to do that.
I mean, they had picked me to be on the show because they thought I was a funny guy in my audition. To ask me to be on a cruise because you like my personality and then to try to get me to be this bitter, angry guy on the cruise -- that just wasn’t my style.
I guess I’m really not the best person for this type of reality show, because I don’t want to fight with anyone.
Instead of ripping into the girls and giving them hell for not picking me, I ended the segment by wishing them all good luck, giving each one of them a hug, and then I was on my way.
Did I give the producers what they wanted? No. Not even close.  Did I make great TV? Nope. But I like to think of that as the moment that I regained my soul. I had been pushed to the brink of evil -- and I had passed the test.
(I like to think I am basically a decent person who sometimes is tempted to go over to the dark side but at the end of the day, I really don’t want to hurt anyone.)
I had walked into that suite as a hit man hired to do four character assassinations. But I walked out as a man who kept his conscience clean.
I had failed to pull the trigger, and I felt pretty good about that.
I went back to my cabin and found Eric there, getting ready to go out. I wondered if Eric felt bad about they way things had gone down between him and the girls. He told me his only regret was that the producers had not allowed him to change from his beach-wear into his nicer clothes before the big confrontation."If I had my suit on,I would have come across as being more authoritative," he said.
Eric and I grabbed a bite to eat, as the TV crew filmed the final dinner date with the four couples.
The Czech bikini models did not join us for dinner, unfortunately. But we did run into them later at a dance party out on the deck. I also caught up with Nicole, the cute girl from Pennsylvania I had been trying to hook up with the night before.
It was kind of a weird dynamic with me bouncing back and forth between the two Czech girls and the Nicolel. I kind of sensed that nothing was going to happen with the Czech girls. Even though they were prettier, I decided to focus most of my energy on the Pennsylvania girl.
At around midnight, Eric and I headed into the disco where we met up with the rest of the gang. I was worried there might be some tension between Eric and the girls, but Eric made his peace with the girls and they chose to forgive him.
I joined my cast-mates in the disco and found a lot of affection coming my way. Jen  told me they all felt bad that I had missed the final dinner with the gang, and that they had done a toast in my honor.
I couldn’t believe she was being so nice to me. This was the girl I had been sent to rip apart, and here she was giving a toast in my honor!
I really felt like a scumbag because I knew I had said some mean things about her on the days prior before my redemption. I knew I would have to take her aside at some point and apologize to her later and explain that I had been coerced into saying some things that I really didn't mean.
At one point, we all headed to the dance floor for a group dance scene. This was the most fun I had on the whole trip. It was just the ten of us, strutting our stuff on the dance floor.
The girls seemed to be going out of their way to be extra nice to me since they hadn’t picked me for the last date. Eric and I were delighted when the Czech girls showed up and joined us on the dance floor.
The Czech girls were very sweet, but you could kind of tell they weren’t looking to hook up with anyone. Then Nicole the Pennsylvania girl showed up. I really felt that she represented my best possible chance of hooking up on the ship on my final night.
At one point, I called Nicole over to the bar and bought her a drink. As were talking, a cameraman rushed over to capture our conversation on film. A production assistant ran over with a  release form for Nicole to sign so they could put her on the show.

As soon as she saw the camera, Nicole froze up. She agreed to sign the release form, but she confessed she was shocked to find out I been wearing a hidden microphone the whole time we had been talking. (All of the cast-members were miked for any scene where we would be talking on the show,)
Nicole acted like she had been betrayed, like I had tricked her into being on the show. I found her reaction bizarre. I had told her ahead of time that we were being filmed in the disco that night.
I guess she was upset because didn’t realize that the whole time she was talking to me that night, there was most likely someone on the production end listening to our conversation and deciding when to send the cameraman over. I apologized to Nicole and explained that I had not been trying to trick her or set her up. She stayed and hung out with me for the rest of the night, but she never really forgave me for what she perceived as a betrayal.
For the next few hours, me and all the other cast-members of the show hung out, drank heavily, and danced, along with the Czech girls and Nicole.
The night wound down, and the club started emptying out. As the bartender gave last call and the music stopped, I asked Nicole if I could walk her back to her cabin. (Nicole was probably the only girl on the whole ship who had her own cabin, so I figured we could have, er, ahem, some "private time."!)

Nicole and I strolled along the deck, stopping and looked out at the waves. The full moon shone bright over the water. This would normally be the part where the guy kisses the girl before heading back to her cabin.
Instead, Nicole thanked me for a good night and said she was going back to her cabin alone. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I mean, why would she hang out with me all night if she didn’t want to at least have a little smooching session at the end of the night?
Nicole explained that she was still mad about me having “tricked” her into being on TV. I thought she was being ridiculous, I hadn’t tricked her at all, I had been very honest about everything since we met.
But whatever. If she didn’t want to make out with me, I wasn’t going to force the issue. I said good night and went to bed.
It's funny. When you watch a reality dating show, all you see are couples hooking up. But there was no love to be found on the final night of this "love boat."
The next morning, three of the four girls on the show got up early and flew home.
The only girl who was left behind was Danielle, the tall blonde who I had found to be the prettiest girl on the show. I knew I would have to take a moment to apologize to her when I had a chance.
One by one, the remaining cast members and I filmed our exit interviews from the ship. The host of the show was busting my chips about me being a “dating expert” who struck out on the romance cruise.
I explained that you can’t force someone to like you. I didn’t have strong chemistry with the girls on the show, but I had met several other girls on the cruise and had a great time. In  retrospect, I think that was exactly how a “dating expert” should leave a show -- being realistic about his prospects and confident in his abilities at meeting women, whether they are on the show or not.
As we disembarked in Grand Cayman, me and the other guys met a couple of the girls who were boarding to film the next episode. Of course, we all fell in love with the next group of girls, convinced that we had been on the wrong episode, that we would have had much better luck with this next group instead of the ones that we had sailed with.
We saw the next group of guys waiting to board, as well.
All of them seemed to be in their mid-twenties. All of them had tanned skin and dark hair and muscular physiques. There was not a 47-year-old to be found among them.
We had to wonder if attempts were being made to sex up the show after our sexless episode. Were they going for younger guys, trouble-makers? Were they looking for girls who were more flirtatious?That certainly seemed to be the case.
All of the male cast-members on our episode, along with Danielle, would be flying home together. Over the course of the day, I tried making small-talk with Danielle, but she seemed to want nothing to do with me.
As we headed for the airport, Dave the bodybuilder admitted to Danielle that he had said some things about the girls on the show that he regretted. I took advantage of this opportunity to apologize to Danielle once again.
Danielle said she understood it was a reality show and that people can be manipulated. (She herself had been manipulated into kissing Guy, so she understood how the game was played.)
Still, one could hardly blame Danielle for basically avoiding Dave and I for the rest of the day. I mean, essentially, I had told her, “I will be nice to you to your face but I trash-talked you behind your back.” What girl is going to want to hang out with a guy who admits that?
Whenever someone acts like a total asshole on reality TV, they always blame the editing. I would say that my episode of  LOVE FOR SAIL was definitely a case where they could have chosen to portray me as a total jerk or they could have portrayed me as a sweet, funny guy.
It all depended on how they edited it.
But no matter how the show was edited, I knew the truth about what really happened -- how some manipulative TV producers tried to tempt me to become something I’m not, but in the end, I stayed true to myself and emerged as a decent, if flawed guy.
I hadn’t expected the cruise to be such a revelatory experience for me. It was a voyage of highs and lows, but overall, I’m glad I went. I actually kept in touch with most of the guys on the show and formed some enduring friendships. (Not so much with the girls!)
Finally I had lived my dream of getting paid to party on a TV reality show. It wasn’t anything like what I thought it would be -- I was expecting intense hot tub make-out sessions, but that didn't happen, and I didn’t get to use any of the condoms I had brought.
Because of the heavy-handed manipulation on the part of the producers, I came away feeling like I would never want to do a show like that again. But honestly, if the opportunity comes up again, I probably would.

EPILOGUE: About six months later I got the word that Lifetime had chosen not to air my episode of LOVE FOR SAIL. I think ultimately they decided that an episode of a reality dating show with no fights and no sex was just too boring. I think with some decent editing, they could have put together a semi-entertaining 44-minute show, but in the long run, it would not have given reality TV fans the drama they were looking for. The network actually canceled the entire series after airing only 2 episodes in prime-time. I guess a three-day cruise just isn't enough time for anyone to fall in love. Maybe they should have given us a full week!

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