By Lesley | July 29, 2009
Fire up the circus-calliope music and make sure that cheeseburger’s extra-greasy for its closeup: it’s the long-awaited/dreaded premiere of More to Love. The show begins with a long montage of what we can expect of this series. Namely, crying, jealousy, crying, extravagant dates, crying, despair, crying, and at least one beating of another contestant with a bunch of flowers.
We meet Luke, sitting in his office, wearing a polo and looking vaguely tanned and Californian, in a fat way. He makes six figures and enjoys “voluptuous curvy women.” What’s that? You don’t care for the phrase? Well get used to it suckers, we’re going to hear it a lot over the next few weeks. Luke was often teased about his weight and embarrassed as a kid, though eventually he took up football and got over all that (gaining the ability and opportunity to pound his bullies into a bloody stain in the mud probably helped; I can only hope one of the yet-to-be-revealed “girls” can offer a similar experience).
There are a few notable things about Luke. For one, he doesn’t say fat. Rather, he says he is “a man of large stature”, as though he’s the fucking Lincoln Memorial. In other news, Luke grills and eats hamburgers! In closeup, even. He also seems to have a very cute dog, unless the dog belongs to one of the friends for whom he is unselfconsciously grilling burgers whilst surrounded by camera and sound folks. In Luke’s plus column are his observations that he explicitly doesn’t want a woman who diets. The positive or negative of his apparent love of thoughtfully staring into the sunset is yet to be determined. Or else maybe a producer told him to do that so they could intercut shots of Luke’s thoughtful sunset-staring into Luke’s slightly vague descriptions of what kind of woman he wants (she has to “carry herself” in a certain way, though the way is not specified – Luke is a Man of Mystery!).
But enough sunsets! Night has fallen, and we’re outside the Bel Air mansion where this catastrophe is going to take place. Emme’s there too, in a shimmery one-shoulder cocktail dress and what appear to be Reef flip-flops. I am struggling not to sneer all judgmental-like over her odd choice of footwear; maybe she’s got a sprained ankle or her plantar fasciitis is acting up, but then Tyra Banks told me that models just have to suffer mightily for their modelly art, so who knows. Emme meets with Luke, who looks for a moment like he’s going to hit on her, but he’s cut off when Emme asks him to elucidate, again, what he’s looking for in a “girl”, and he says it’s in “how she carries herself and who she is as a person.” As opposed to who she is as a tree sloth? Or who she is as a flesh-eating disease?
The “girls” – whom I am henceforth dubbing the laydeez because every time I type “girls” about a group of women all of whom are over 20 I break out in hives – are about to arrive in a series of limousines. Fancy! As each girl exits the car, the camera does a quick pan-up from her feet as she steps out, over her girth (or lack thereof), and finally to her face, which is usually smiling in a brittle, nervous, or terrified way. I am not sure if the bottom-up pan is for maximum lechery or maximum LOOK LOOK SHE’S FAAAAAAT effect. I suppose it doesn’t matter.
As Luke meets each laydee, they either shake hands, hug, or kiss each other on the cheek, or all of the above, depending on her perogative, and there’s a piece of her pre-meeting interview cut into the encounter, over which her name, age, occupation, height, and weight are listed. Oh my friends, I am not joking about this, and I don’t altogether think it’s a bad thing, considering it’s an illuminating study on how different weights look different on different people. Ultimately, though, the intended purpose of these stats (which are repeated every time a laydee has a piece of an earlier interview cut into the show) is for people to either gawk at them, or possibly to make watching this show a bit like bidding on livestock: you want to know what you’re getting, I suppose, in the absence of being able to check the horse’s mouth for yourself.
First up is Malissa, who irritates me immediately with the spelling of her name. Then my irritation is compounded by Malissa asserting that doesn’t ever use the word fat, and that she prefers “big boned.” She says this with a straight face so I am led to believe that she means it, though it seems impossible that anyone could ever prefer “big boned” over all the scads of annoying euphemisms for fat that we have at our disposal. OH MALISSA, let me get you a properly-spelled name and a stack of pamphlets.
Next is Christina, who wants to be fifty pounds lighter and resents her skinny friends. We are going to hear a lot about skinny friends in the next few minutes, folks, so settle in. Christina asks Luke if he likes her dress, which gives him the idea to tell the next girl that he likes her dress. THIS SHOW WRITES ITSELF. Heather is a little awkward, but in an endearing way, and she readily joins the other girls talking about how hot Luke is. Bonnie, tattooed, tall, with excellent hair and a hot dress that suits her, wants to shock Luke with her “wifey/mom” skills – much of Bonnie’s wifey-mom aspirations will be made by close readers, I’m sure. Of everyone we’ve met so far – including Luke and Emme – Bonnie seems to me most like a real person, insofar as seeming self-assured and unworried from the first moment of her reveal. I suspect Bonnie is in this just for the adventure. She’s also wearing fishnets. Points to Bonnie. Amanda’s 22 and has never had a boyfriend; I can kind of sympathize with her, because she has clearly made this into a huge source of pressure on herself, but still, SHE’S 22. You’d be surprised how many perfectly-lovely people have never had a long-term relationship at 22. Michelle immediately comes across as genuine and self-accepting, even as she’s wobbling and weeping in interview. She speaks the closest to fat-positive words we’ve heard so far when she talks about not dieting and her decision that “I’m going to buy the clothes that fit me now and enjoy life.” Michelle, dear little baby fatling, I’d love to reach through the TV and hand you a card with my email address on it and set a date to go shopping.
Sliding out of the next limo is Anna, who is SUPER TALL, like amazon-warrior tall, and it’s outstanding. Luke pointedly watches her ass as she walks away. Tall girls for the win. Next comes Natasha, and the literal first words out of her mouth are: “I’m a rocket scientist!” Oh Natasha, you’ve spent too many hours talking physics with the nerds you work with if you think a guy like Luke is going to like the idea of you being about a billion times smarter than he is. Unsurprisingly, Luke’s instant reaction is, “That’s intimidating!” If Natasha’s aim was to test Luke with her brainy revelation, then I hope she takes his reaction to heart. Lauren is next, and despite her relaxed appearance she is also referencing the difficulties of manhunting at clubs with naught but skinny friends (folks, haven’t we learned yet that the bar scene is not the best place to meet a long-term significant other?). My husband likes her best, for what that’s worth. Venessa follows and comes across as an uneven amalgam of blustery self-assuredness barely masking feverish excitement and nerves. Oh, she’s a lawyer! That explains it. Venessa is the woman in the omnipresent previews who asks Luke what kind of girl he likes, to which he replies (natch) “I like THIS kind of girl!” Luke, you clever bastard.
We cut over to check on the pile o’ laydeez assembling in the laydee-waiting room. They’re all aflutter over Luke’s eyes! His eyes! OMG YOU GUYS DID YOU SEE HIS EYES?
Meanwhile, Luke is meeting Melissa, who spells her name properly, and is complimenting her on HER eyes at apparently the same moment that the prior stack of laydeez are squealing over his. OMG YOU GUYS IT’S LIKE THEY’RE ALL CONNECTED TO LUKE AND MADE HIM THINK ABOUT EYES! The popping-out-of-the-limo meetings continue (this is TOTALLY how I met MY husband). Danielle has been on three dates her whole life. Mandy wants to teach Luke to salsa. No, really, right fucking now. They spend a few seconds shaking hips. Turns out Mandy’s a fitness trainer as well as a marginal fatty, and she observes, “A lot of people definitely take care of themselves and they just don’t happen to be a size four.” Points to Mandy. Next is Tali, easily the classiest dame yet, who seems totally relaxed. Also, gorgeous. Kristian’s awkwardness would be adorable if she didn’t rank on “skinny bitches” and proceed to reference her “junk in the trunk” like it’s 1995. I checked Urban Dictionary for giggles and found that “junk in the trunk” is defined there as “1. having a prodigious butt, a little more than badonkadonk but less extreme than having an SUV in the pants” which I admit made me laugh for a very long time.
Kristian is one of very few possible women of color present, and the only one I feel comfortable identifying straight out. She may, in fact, be biracial, but the point here is that the overwhelming majority of the laydeez are white, white, white, which is confounding in light of the far more diverse “behind the scenes” casting clips on Fox’s website. There are many possible reasons behind this – for example, producers wanting to reach a certain audience, sponsors wanting to reach a certain audience, a stated discomfort on the part of the side of beef (that’d be Luke) with interracial relationships – but these are all just possibilities and not known facts, so I am uncomfortable pointing fingers at anyone in particular at this time. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the minimal diversity was a glaring defect of this show for me right away.
We are not lacking in age diversity, at least. Arianne – who, at 37, is eleven years’ Luke’s senior – is our most aged filly thus far, but also seems to evoke the relative collectedness that often comes from having life experience past one’s senior year of college. More skinny-friend trauma from Arianne. On the up side, Arianne’s profession is listed as “cabaret entertainer” which means I instantly love her and want to make a request. Let’s start with “Love Me or Leave Me”! Blonde Iowan Sandy was raised on a farm and says she wants to teach Luke to milk a cow, and this is evidently NOT a euphemism for something else as I originally thought. Luke says he’s eager to learn, and I almost believe him, though he might be thinking it’s a euphemism too. Next, Shari is wearing a fabulous maxi dress that distracts me from anything else she says. Luke likes it as well. Well, Luke, possibly there are some things we can agree on. I like Shari and her refreshingly normal, unbotoxed forehead, though I am wondering why these mid-thirties broads are on this show. You women can do better! You don’t need to be Luke’s laydee. Magali calls Luke a teddy bear and fat guys nationwide cringe, but Luke doesn’t mind. Magali interviews that she’s been dumped for being fat, which is disgusting any way you slice it. Natalia likes to cook and thus begins the first vomit-inducing exchange of this episode. She asks Luke for his favorite food, so that she can cook it for him someday. Luke barely hesitates before answering “Oh, anything thick and juicy.” ONE MILLION VOM POINTS FOR THIS. Henceforth I am going to require a special More to Love-branded upchuck bucket near the couch for when these situations sneak up on me. But then there is more CRYING and ETERNAL LONELINESS and my nausea subsides.
So the laydeez have been met. Luke, who strikes me as sort of a dullard, though maybe a good-hearted dullard, comes to join the laydeez in the laydee-stacking room, and then gives a short indubitably-producer-supplied speech about thinking they’re all beautiful on the outside and wanting to “connect” with them individually. I guess that’s what the kids are calling it today. And now he’s going to hand out diamond rings to signify that he’s “opening his heart” and promising to get to know them all and accept them for who they are on the inside and maybe to fall in love (or at least hook up a whole lot) with one or more laydeez, offer void in Texas, consult your local dealership. Oh, rings! How long til someone starts talking about weddings? Natalia “felt it in [her] heart” when Luke gave her the ring, and she hopes he did too. Melissa felt so good when Luke gave her the ring, and is amazed he’ll give her a chance even though she’s fat. Maybe Melissa didn’t really follow the mandate of the show? It’s pretty clear that most of the laydeez have never received the gift of ice from a boy before, so they’re a little overcome. Bonnie & her fishnets is standing with her arm around another laydee’s shoulders, and makes a slightly snarky comment about how Luke is her boyfriend now since he gave her a ring. Dear Bonnie, I think I love you, please stick around and be the house bitch.
And we have WEDDING TALK liftoff – a few laydeez are already discussing Luke’s inevitable proposal. DAMN, laydeez. You just met. At least take a few minutes to check out the facilities before you sign the contract.
At this point, Luke starts making the rounds to give each laydee some individual fat-on-fat attention. Kristian sits beside Luke on a couch and mentions she was with a guy who she feels was embarrassed of her size and being seen with her. Luke rightly says he didn’t deserve her, in fact Luke’s saying so many of the right things I am growing ever more suspicious of him. As if to answer my concerns, Luke observes that he wants to make everyone comfortable, and that he’s had his heart broken because of his size so he can relate. I still can’t decide if he’s smarmy or genuine. See the clip below.
In a laydee-group, Luke elaborates on his previous vague answer to the question burning in everyone’s mind – WHAT DOES HE LIKE TO EAT? Luke’s favorite meal is actually steak and potatoes. Seriously. This is the point where if I were in the room I would have narrowed my eyes and inquired, “Ah, but how do you like your steak cooked?” Anything above medium rare and Luke just doesn’t understand the good things in life. Actually, the truth is that if I were in the room I probably would have castrated Luke using only the power of my mind after the original “thick and juicy” comment so it’s probably best that I am on my couch at home instead. Luke also likes apple pie. In voiceover, Luke also says that every girl here is exactly his type. Luke, you are so lucky that my mental castration powers don’t work through the television.
Let the trifling begin: Luke asks one laydee to dance, and another tries to cut in, while Luke is somewhat befuddled. Points to him for not immediately dumping the broad he was attempting to romance, but it’s still a weird exchange and I’m wondering if this isn’t a harbinger of things to come. I am willing to bet that a fair number of the laydeez take this experience not as an opportunity to bond with other fat women who get them, but as a chance to reproduce the catty competitiveness to which they’ve mostly been outside observers as their oft-cited “skinny friends” jockey for attention from a particular hot guy at the bar. Arguably, many of these women have never before felt like they could offer any competition when compared with their smaller female friends, but here they are faced with a dude who isn’t just overlooking their size, but who actually purports to LIKE non-skinny women, and guys like Luke are apparently rare as rainbow-pooping unicorns in the dating scene, so I anticipate the aggressiveness will only ramp up as the episodes progress.
Luke proceeds to recline on yet another bed-sized couch, with a laydee on each side, both of whom immediately skooch closer to him (while slightly self-consciously making sure their thighs-upward are covered – this is being filmed at crotch-level in parts) as he puts his arms around them. After a second or two of flirting, Anna kisses him; Lauren, on Luke’s other side, interviews that she finds Anna’s assertive kiss-giving “intimidating”, and she’s still worried about looking fat. Lauren, maybe there’s nothing wrong with you for not being so hip to the prospect of kissing a dude you met only an hour ago, and maybe Luke’s just being kind of a skeevy self-styled mack daddy.
Melissa, sitting on a chaise (trying to come up with synonyms for “couch” here) with Luke, confesses she’s never been on a date. Apparently she’s always scared it’s going to be a joke and she’ll be humiliated. Oh Melissa. Let me give you a big mental hug. Luke tells her she’s beautiful, holds her hand, and when she complains of cold, he gives her his jacket, which causes Melissa’s head to just about explode with sheer joy. One magical thing about this show, even though it comes at the expense of so much CRYING and WOE, is little moments like this, in which you can see a fragile, insecure fat woman get romantic attention from a man and the unbelieveable exhilaration they get from the experience. This is not to say that Finding A Man will solve any of these women’s problems with insecurity or self-doubt, but even just getting a tiny bit of reassurance that yes, there are dudes out there who will dig you no matter your size, is huge. I like Melissa and as sad as this comment is, she hits it on the head when she says in voiceover, “This is my one chance to feel like I can be loved.” It’s not your ONLY chance, honey, but it might be your first. Also, you’re 21! Melissa also says of the process of putting herself out there, “I’m scared… but I have a new confidence.” Aww.
We cut over to a few laydeez who are impatient over not being flirted with rapidly enough. So Danielle jumps in the pool, cocktail dress and all. Even slow-talking super-chill Luke, currently a-courting another lady on yet another couch (how many couches are there in this joint?) looks confused when she starts calling for him to join her: “Luuuuke! Come in the pool, it’s lukewarm!” DANIELLE, NO! PUNS = AUTOMATIC ELIMINATION.
Luke, and pretty much everyone else, meanders over to the pool to check out the commotion. He unconvincingly threatens to jump in as well, but thinks better of it when the other girls don’t seem so impressed with Danielle’s antics. Also, have you priced big and tall men’s suits lately? Not cheap. Danielle, floating in the pool and fiddling with her sodden dress, says she wishes she had bubbles in there, and Bonnie instantly retorts “You know what you probably wish you had in there? A swimsuit.” Bonnie’s not impressed and thinks Danielle’s big splash (SEE? SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU RELEASE THE PUNS?) was rude and silly, and then snarks to the other girls that Danielle looked like an otter, which she clearly meant as a slam but, really, this not the most cutting water-dwelling mammal insult I could think of, since otters are pretty cute.
Fox would have us believe that everybody’s getting drunk. Surprise! Luke, who may or may not be under the influence, slightly slurs, “I’m just in my element, just surrounded by a sea of big curvy beautiful women.” After hugging a few laydeez he also says “That’s a Luke sandwich.” If I had that MtL-branded upchuck bucket I’d be putting it over my head right about now (assuming it was empty).
But dun dun dunnnn, turns out Luke has to cut five laydeez by the end of the night. I’m all for it, as keeping all these chicks straight is quite a challenge for me.
The rocket scientist gets her turn to sit on a totally new couch (sofa? davenport? settee?) with Luke, and is concerned she’s going to get cut because she’s a rocket scientist. Luke reassures her in the least reassuring way possible. Oddly, Luke seems most drawn to the women who are the most fragile, which probably speaks to my discomfort with him. Any guy who prefers women to be insecure and unsure of themselves? That’s a red flag for me, not because it’s not possible that Luke honestly wants to help these broads, but because I don’t fully trust him with that task.
Lauren’s also worried about being cut, as she shares with some other laydeez, and she’s been looking for love for 26 years. Given that Lauren is 26 years old, that’s since birth, y’all. She got started early. Or else she’s a daughter of the gods, who sprung fully-grown from her father’s forehead after he swallowed her pregnant mother. (The classical mythology jokes, do they hit with people anymore?)
Danielle is still swimming and chatting with two other ladies (all about Luke, of course – this show’s whole run will never once pass the Bechdel test, mark me) and when she kicks back away from the side of the pool, her dress floats up underwater and ever so briefly reveal her underpants and WE HAVE ROLLS, FOLKS. IT’S A FAT ROLLY BELLY ON NATIONAL TV AND OH SHIT IS THAT AWESOME. Michelle says “I think I saw your underwear,” – NO YOU SAW ROLLLLLLLSSSS!!!!!! – and she and her blonde couchsitting companion mention they’re both wearing Spanx, which leads to nods, knowing glances and a high five (over Spanx? really? Solidarity in your sausagey discomfort, laydeez! Sadly this is what so many fat women bond over; we bond over Spanx.) It is worth noting that Danielle is NOT wearing Spanx and so she gets points from me in spite of the pool-jumping shenanigans. Meanwhile, Michelle interviews that this whole experience is amazing to be a part of – what with Luke openly saying he likes big women on national TV, and the women coming out “and saying we’re sexy and smart and attractive, and that’s awesome.” Michelle, way to take the long view. I dig you! The clip is below.
We go back to Luke, who’s sitting with Malissa on couch #7263549C, and she tells him that she’s been studying French in France (of all places!) but she knows more Spanish than anything else. Luke practically interrupts to LEAP upon this golden opportunity and asks her how to say “kiss” in Spanish. Malissa responds with a word that sounds like bay-su, and which Google informs me is spelled beso. If you can’t see where this is going, then you don’t know men who know how to exploit a woman in an awkward semi-public situation. Mispronouncing the word, the oafish Luke basically demands she kiss him, and she obliges after laughing nervously at the request. In the moment before she goes in for the lips, I swear, if the the word AWKWAAAAAARRRD was in the dictionary, her face right now would be illustrating it. And then, Luke suddenly gets really unlikeable, when he oh-so-casually mentions that he has to cut some laydeez tonight and TOTALLY UNRELATED but maybe she should kiss him again. She does, and I am caught between wanting to throw up and wanting to punch Luke in his smug face.
Socialization time is over, and the laydeez reassemble in the laydee-stacking room where they first got their rings. Emme’s back! And she wants the rings Luke just gave them! The laydeez are devastated. You’d think Emme had handed them all kittens and then told them they would have to be euthanized. The laydeez are supposed to put the rings in a big random bowl, and later Luke will return rings to only fifteen of the assembled twenty. OH, this is like the part of the state fair livestock competition where the judges narrow down the field slowly before they select the prize pig! Awesome. Many laydeez are anxious – nay, distraught – about returning these rings, since they only just got the damn things and is Fox really going to reuse them or what?
Luke gives the usual “I have a tough decision to make!” speech which is standard to pretty much every show like this, then leaves to, I don’t know, think about it.
The remaining laydeez sit wringing their hands and worrying. The difference between the women on More to Love and the women on pretty much any other elimination-driven dating-themed reality show is that these women are so fragile. They are brittle and vulnerable and easily hurt. Many of these women are so emotionally delicate that simply looking at them the wrong way could cause them to shatter. A majority, it would seem, really think Luke is the greatest, though sadly, it’s not because Luke is so great. It’s because for some of the assembled, Luke is the first guy they’ve met who isn’t candidly and outspokenly put off by their size, but who is instead attracted to it. In many cases, Luke may be the first guy who’s not their dad to tell these women that they’re beautiful. And they’re not willing to let that fantasy go, not yet – Fox, you evil bastards, please don’t tear that hope away from them just yet; give them another day to feel what it’s like to have someone want you just as you are, without judging, without resentment, without baggage. That kind of perfect relationship is a ultimately a fantasy and maybe only half of them know that but let them keep it anyway, just for a little while longer, so when they leave and go back to their regular lives, they can remember that if there was one guy who found them beautiful and desireable just as they are, then surely there are more, they just need to take some risks, learn to handle disappointment, put their hearts out there and trust that if they’re broken they will survive.
Luke returns to deliver the verdict. He tells them, yet again, how beautiful they all are before moving on to the ring-bestowing. The ritual of the ring-toss runs like this: Luke says, “Will you wear this ring?” and the laydee in question answers in the affirmative (presumably). Then, occasionally, Luke says “All right” sort of half-aloud, and it sounds vaguely like Quagmire from Family Guy, such that my husband at this point takes to repeating “Giggity” and “All right!” in Quagmire-voice after each laydee takes her jewelry back.
Anna gets a ring. Malissa’s unenthusiastic “Spanish” kissing paid off, as she gets one too. As does Magali, Heather, Mandy, Amanda, Venessa, Tali, Lauren, Bonnie, Kristina, and Danielle, whom Luke calls “Dani”.
In interview, Melissa is crying again, desperate to be chosen, and she says she hopes that fate has brought them together (to which my husband quips, “Fate, and television producers.”).
We’re down to the last three rings. Cabaret-performing dinosaur Arianne gets one. YES! Now do “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”! Sweetly terrified Kristian gets one. Now Emme reappears, apropos of nothing, to announce the stunningly obvious – THERE’S ONLY ONE RING LEFT IN THE BOX! Why’d she leave, anyway? Was she in the loo?
More importantly, who gets the last ring? PICK MICHELLE, who is sobbing and heartbroken in the interview cuts! Give us more than one episode with some actual fat-positivity in it!
Nope, it’s Melissa. Which means this episode ends with Natasha the rocket scientist (who ought to find herself a nice nerd boy) and Shari in her awesome maxi both going home, as well as two blondes, Natalia and Sandy. Michelle – also blonde, now that I think about it – and her fledgling FA principles are gone too. Bye, rejected fatties! Michelle, drop me an email sometime, okay?
Until next week.
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