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Natalie Alms: Luke is selling control, not romance, on this season of the Bachelorette

I’m a romantic, and why not? Reality’s boundaries are too constricting.

You improve your chances with a rosy, if impractical, outlook and ambitious, if idealistic, expectations.

I think it follows that I watch the shows in the Bachelor franchise. For the uninitiated, it’s a dating show where one single, attractive man or woman is courted by handfuls of attractive singles of the opposite sex.

Hannah is this season’s bachelorette. Of the 30 men she started with, Luke P. is the one that she is embarrassed to say that she likes and the one that all the other contestants love to say that they hate. If you’re anything like me, he’s made the show both difficult to enjoy and hard to look away from.

“It’s really not adding up. Everyone that I’ve ever met, every place, every school I’ve ever been, anywhere I’ve ever been in my whole life, everyone loves me,” Luke told Hannah in a recent episode.

She had spent the day communicating that he seems disingenuous and arrogant, that no one on the show likes him and that she can’t get to know him because he tailors his talking points to what he thinks she wants to hear.

His refusal to admit any wrongdoing is stunning.

“If there is something that I do or say or a trait that I have that you don’t think is okay, I wanna know,” he said after a full day of Hannah telling him all the reasons she is upset with him. “I don’t think I right now I have any of those.”

Hannah (finally!) decided to send Luke home in that episode and asked him to respect that decision, only for him to come back to her that same evening and for her to allow him to stay.

I’ll admit that Luke looks like a human version of Disney’s animated Hercules and that some people might find that attractive, but Luke’s overall effect for me is revulsion.

Grand gestures litter romantic comedy movies, romance novels and my imagination. If you care about someone, why not tell them in a huge way that mirrors the strength of that emotion? Shouldn’t you insist that it works out somehow, someway, even as they voice their concerns and objections? That seems to be the storyline Luke is claiming to follow. He either cares enough about Hannah or disrespects her enough, or both, to come back to her after she tells him not to. When they attempt to have conversations, it’s like Hannah is shouting into a cave as Luke echoes back whatever he thinks she just asked for. But his alleged obsession with her and the way he blatantly ignores her wishes to pursue her at all costs doesn’t look romantic. It just looks creepy.

In this week’s episode, Hannah went bungee jumping naked with another contestant (it’s reality TV). Luke’s jealousy was on full display as he told her that her body is a temple that she shouldn’t share with anyone but him. It’s a dating reality TV show that starts with over 25 contestants, so I don’t know what he was expecting.

I wonder what it would be like to receive Luke’s level of commitment. On first glance, it sounds nice to have someone that refuses to leave, that boomerangs back to you time after time and is sure that the two of you belong together, despite your doubts or the constraints of the circumstances.

Luke’s insistence on ignoring the facts of the situation, his deafness to Hannah’s concerns and his record of going against her wishes confuse this storyline. Some have labeled his behavior as gas-lighting, where someone uses psychological manipulation to cause a person to doubt their own head.

Hannah told him she didn’t appreciate his concerns about the bungee jumping in Monday’s episode, and he quickly claimed that he had been misunderstood.

Maybe Hannah is a dreamer, and maybe giving someone the benefit of the doubt will sometimes work in your favor. It’s clear that Hannah has given Luke a lot of chances to transform himself.

But as I watch it all play out, I hope that she can get her head out of the clouds and take a look at the facts. As appealing as it might be to accept someone because they tell you that they want you over and over, real love should be about freedom, not a constraint. And the evidence suggests that Luke is offering only control.

Natalie Alms is a news intern at the Post. Email her at natalie.alms@salisburypost.com.

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