I’m a big fan of horror movies. I’ve seen ‘em all. In some perverse sort of way, the stages of my life can almost be catalogued by which movie was scaring the living shit out of me at that particular moment in time. April Fool’s Day, with its Muffy/Buffy twins (trust me; they were terrifying) and that old rickety well filled with dark water and dead bodies tormented me during my elementary-school-sleepover days. Friday the 13th used to slip into my mind constantly back when I was a sleepaway camp counselor and I’d find myself creeping through the woods to my bunk in the dead of night after having sex with my boyfriend on the kickball field. I think about Rosemary’s Baby during every single gynecologist appointment I’ve had since I was seventeen and Goodnight, Mommy – with those creepy little boys who share a penchant for gluing together body parts – entered my life recently, meaning that even my adulthood is defined by having the bejeezus scared out of me. I guess I’ve always succumbed to the notion that there is a joy inherent in the embracing of vicarious fear. Part of that joy involves spotting iconic horror conventions in a piece of entertainment. You just know that the second you see a long narrow hallway or you hear a pronounced creak of a floorboard or a doorway is open just a tiny bit in the back of the frame, it’s time to actively prepare for some onscreen doom. When what you’re watching is fiction, the identification of those terrible elements of horror feels satisfying. When you spot the same tropes in the real world, however, all you are left with is dread. And it turns out that Logan, Kortni’s ex-boyfriend, is a fucking walking horror movie trope.
So the last episode ended with the group only nailing one new measly beam of light and Terrence J telling them their process has been nothing but trash. The episode also ended with Zak rolling his eyes at Bria’s continuing stalker tendencies, which means the two of them will surely hook up tonight because Zak is the only person on the planet who saw Fatal Attraction and walked away thinking that being flattered was the point of the movie.
There have been moments throughout the years when events so questionable transpired on reality television that they caused me to question whether or not there could possibly be a God. Does that sound harsh? Well, you watch someone named Snooki get punched directly in the face on camera and then go ahead and take a gander at the allegedly sane people on Ex and the Beach who cavort like hedonists celebrating successful lobotomy operations and tell me such displays did not prompt you to wonder if 1) You were staring at the literal dismantling of society’s mores or 2) God had grown tired of locusts and instead created a brand new plague that anyone blessed with basic cable was able to watch in high-definition. I’ll admit that there have been a few incidents shown on Floribama Shore that caused the God question to creep menacingly into my head. Those incidents involved Kortni squatting in corners, extreme close-ups of chunky vomit, or Candace referring to her boyfriend as “GatorJay231SouthsideGawd” with a straight face. Still, for all the Gator-pissing-puke moments that propelled me to wonder if crawling into an underground bunker so I could eat canned goods and pray for absolution was maybe a wise idea, there have also been some truly heartwarming moments. Floribama Shore doesn’t cause me to fear the End of Days like many reality shows do on a regular basis. There is an inherent goodness inside the cast members of this show. True, that ingrained goodness tends to dribble out when they are hammered – and they are usually hammered – but as sober people, they often illustrate kindness and empathy and they exhibited both last week when Jeremiah found out his grandfather died.
After the relationship retreat – where exes showed up to berate people they’ve already spent years emotionally abusing – finally ends, it’s time to get back to a more standard episode (complete with the more standard forms of abuse) of Are You the One? It’s morning now on the island and rain is falling in great buckets from the sky. Neon paint is potentially forever tattooed on the dirty feet of our contestants and Samantha is ready to move far beyond the bullshit of her ex and into a relationship where the guy she’s with is more than happy to post her face all over his Instagram. Over in the yoga yurt, Asia and Tevin are doing some deep breathing exercises before he explains that watching Kenya avoid him all last night so she could cuddle with her ex hurt him so deeply that he was forced to suck on Jasmine’s lips in an outdoor shower while cameras filmed them. Tevin’s not sure what all this back and forth hurting of one another means for his future with Kenya, though if he could hear me as I scream at my TV, he would know it means that their relationship is doomed beyond repair and he’s gonna have to learn a far more effective coping mechanism in the coming days besides deep inhalations of breath. By the way, Kenya is thrilled with how last night went because she was able to spoon with her ex-boyfriend all the while knowing Tevin will always take her back, though Jasmine – the Perpetual Side Piece – now thinks she and Tevin will be together forever and she was right to swallow her dignity for a couple of weeks and just wait for the perfect moment when Tevin had to lower himself to his second choice. What word means the exact opposite of “romance”? Because that's the word that perfectly defines this entire situation.
Listen: I refuse to even entertain the notion that Jeremiah and Kortni would make a good couple. I don’t care that people have caught them sharing long and seemingly profound glances. I don’t care that Jeremiah has the power to sort of neutralize her crazy, like he’s a vet who just shot a rabid animal with a tranquilizer dart. I don’t care that it would probably be good for Kortni to date someone normal – especially a man who could conceivably act as a bodyguard and protect her from a lunatic she actually needs to be protected from – and I really don’t care that it might prove interesting to watch Jeremiah shake up his life by cuddling with a woman born with limited bladder control. I don’t even care that Jeremiah clearly has a bit of a savior complex (you didn’t think those Clark Kent glasses were just a fashion statement, did you?) and that Kortni would be his toughest assignment yet. These two together as anything other than friends is pure idiocy, but I suppose contemplating the will-they-or-won’t-they is at least more interesting than wondering if Codi will ever actually bang Candace (he won’t) or if Kirk will puke all over the floor of another dining establishment (he will) – and it’s definitely more comforting than wondering if Kortni is pregnant with Lucifer’s child.
There are those collective anxiety dreams a ton of us share. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? The nocturnal miseries I tend to experience on repeat are of having to run but not being able to move or searching for a classroom to go take some test I didn’t study for in a class I’ve cut for an entire semester. I’ve only had the delightful whoops-I-just-showed-up-in-public-naked dream once, but I do often awake knowing I’ve just been tormented through a final REM cycle because Dream Me ran into one or three of my exes when I was least expecting it – and when my hair looked like shit. Well, MTV has decided to take that last night terror and make it real on tonight’s Are You the One? while ostensibly still pretending that every hideous thing they are doing is all in our contestants’ very best interests.
I suppose the only positive thing about Logan stalking Kortni while cameras follow his every terrifying move is that we now have yet another visual example of toxic masculinity should anyone still be unclear about what it looks like. TMZ reported just a few days ago that Logan was arrested for violating the restraining order Kortni eventually had to take out on him and every single sign that he is legitimately and dangerously unbalanced has played out on our television screens – and it continues to do so this week.
I realize, of course, that very few people are drawn to Are You the One? because of the mathematical strategies that must be employed for twenty-two people to have a shot at splitting a million dollars, but for those who are interested, the statistics at this point are as follows:
• 3 beams of light were nabbed in 2 consecutive ceremonies.
• 0 matches were made from 2 sojourns into the Truth Booth.
• 1 guy received head from Kenya during a luau.
• 1 girl named Lauren has received approximately 36 seconds of screen time.
• 7 blowups have gone down courtesy of Bria and 4 of them required she be physically restrained.
• And the number of women still convinced something real and true exists beneath Zak’s staggering and smelly layers of douchiness? Well, that number would probably measure somewhere near infinity.
A few of the men I’ve dated have had some flaws. One had severe commitment issues. One’s favorite hobby was telling me complicated lies. One thought it would be totally normal if we eventually had separate bedrooms. And one was a clinical narcissist who should really be studied by a team of very brave experts who do not scare easy. But not one of them ever grabbed a phone out of my hands when a male friend called and blubbered, “Who is this?” in a manner that required both subtitles and a straightjacket.
I used to fall asleep without praying. For decades, I would crawl into bed, arrange my pillows into a fluffy mountain to keep my head elevated all night, turn immediately onto my side with my legs curled in sort of a tree pose, and drift off to a choppy dreamland often marked by sugarplum dreams dosed slightly with acid. There was something comforting about getting into bed and just being done. Though my mind would often spin with unanswered questions and unrequited longings, those thoughts were never linear and they certainly weren’t planned out and there was a freedom to my nighttime ritual I wish I could reclaim. Because the thing is, I don’t quite know what happened or even when it happened, but I pray every single night now and it takes me a while to do and, rather than feeling quieted by my prayers, they cause nocturnal anxiety. I think it’s probably that my prayers, though coated with gratitude, are also motivated by fears I spend all day pretending are not there. I speak of my family and my wishes for them and I ask for safety and protection for all of us and I pepper my words with a request that those I care about will be alleviated from whatever ails them. I pray that those I loved who have passed on are at peace and that they are together in a spiritual stratosphere I’m not even sure I believe exists, and I end with thoughts of appreciation. All of it is done in my head; I do it whether I’m alone in my bed or not, and I never really talk about it with anyone – about how I feel like I have to do it now, about the way it’s almost become a superstition, about how I’m not even sure it helps anything, about the way I’ve convinced myself it cannot possibly hurt.
If I prayed for you at one point, you probably remain in my nightly thoughts. I’ve never been all that good at the process of elimination.