‘I saw my friend’s boyfriend on a dating show…do I tell her?’ – Millennial Agony Aunt 41

I saw a friend’s current boyfriend on a dating show! It must be made in the last year and they’ve been together for three. Do I tell her?

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Emily Watkins is a professional Millennial (read: precariously employed twenty-something). Each week, she will answer a generation-specific query from the depths of her on-brand existential crisis. This week, our Aunt-in-Residence looks at a rather modern adaptation of the age old question: to tell or not tell?

Please send any quandaries, issues, troubles or thoughts to aunt@whynow.co.uk for a good dose of aunt-ing.

I was home from work with a cold last week watching daytime TV, and I spotted an old school friend’s current boyfriend on a recent dating show! It must have been made in the last year and they’ve been together for three, so I can’t work out whether to mention it to her or not — surely she knows? What if she doesn’t!?

Wowza. I totally understand why you’re flummoxed – I mean, talk about cocky, right? Cheating on someone is bad enough when the culprit is trying to keep it hush-hush, but dating not only in public but on national television is surely another level of shameless altogether. That is, if dating is the word for it.

I won’t be shocking anyone when I suggest that reality TV isn’t always totally true to life. Much of the time, that’s for the best – without a couple of nudges, even the most outrageous star would get boring pretty quickly. But besides being scintillating, reality TV is supposed to seem, well, real; a tall order, to say the least.

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Ralph Hedley – The Tournament, 1898

Basically, if a producer is doing their job well, a given show should be totally spontaneous (that is, as far as the viewer can see) and brimming with intrigue; that’s achieved with good editing, sure, but preparation starts long before the cameras start rolling – in the casting room. Johan, 24, is looking for someone to join him at the gym; Hailey, 27, is a bookworm who hasn’t exercised since Year 9. Uh oh! Jesse grew up riding horses – will Luca, from Calabria, turn out to be the Italian stallion he’s been looking for? Come back after the break to find out!

You don’t specify the show you saw your friend’s boyfriend on, but I watch enough TV to have a pretty good sense of how it likely looked. I’m picturing talking heads, quirky back stories, a lightly arch voiceover cutting between two daters as their meeting approaches – will-they-won’t-they? Will shots be fired or sparks fly? Am I on the right track? Thought so; once you start looking, all our favourite stories are basically variations on a theme.

As a seasoned trash-TV connoisseur, I’m fine with a string or two being yanked backstage if that’s what’s necessary to deliver the high standards of entertainment to which I have become accustomed: I don’t care whether an argument was a star’s idea or a producer’s, as long as it’s juicy enough for me to suspend disbelief throughout. All this to say – seeing your friend’s boyfriend on a dating show is very different to seeing him on a date. Certainly, there are lots of easier ways to play the field than going through countless casting interviews and then hoping no one you’ve ever met tunes in. 

To return to your question – yeah, I bet your friend knows about her boyfriend being on the show; I’d go so far as to say that I suspect he has her blessing (perhaps as part of some scheme to boost his social media profile?). That’s not to say you shouldn’t mention it to her; normally I’d advise against meddling in other people’s relationships, but the public nature of this one makes acknowledging it hard to avoid. 

On the off chance that this guy is an exhibitionist who has decided to go about infidelity as inefficiently as possible, your friend will thank you for letting her know what the world has already seen. More likely, she’ll laugh and tell you her favourite moment from the episode. 

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