Spoilers ahead for Dating Around Season 1, Episode 2. First dates can be incredibly intimidating, but agreeing to be on camera for one is even worse. Each episode of Netflix’s Dating Around features someone on five different first dates, after which they choose one person to go out with again — well, most of the time. Gurki from Dating Around Episode 2 decides not to keep seeing anyone, and while this is radical for a reality show about relationships, it may have something to do with one of her dates.
Gurki, a 36-year-old jewelry buyer for Barney’s New York, has dinner with five different men: Salim, Justin, Bam, Jay, and Manny. However, Dating Around is unique in that viewers aren’t privy to any on-camera interviews, voiceovers, or learn what the contestants are thinking at any point — just what happens during the course of the dates. So while Gurki seems to hit it off with Manny — a 27-year-old divorcé with a daughter — she decides not to pursue any of her prospective suitors. And while some of it may have to do with compatibility, she also has a pretty traumatic experience with a white guy named Justin.
It should have been obvious that he was trouble as soon as he ordered a Miller High Life and referred to cats as "the devil," and the date goes downhill from there. He says things like, "Rosé all day," and describes his dream as being onstage every night with a guitar, despite not knowing how to play. But things really take a turn for the worst when Gurki explains that she’s a divorcée.
We see Gurki disclose to several of her dates that her ex-husband was her first boyfriend and that they started dating when she was 17. They were together all through college, got married when she was 25, and were divorced by the time she was 30. Manny is sympathetic because he had a similar experience, but Justin can’t imagine being in her situation.
Most of this has to do with their cultural differences. Gurki’s parents are from the Punjab province in India, she explains, and met on their wedding day. While arranged marriages are common in Indian culture, Justin can’t fully wrap his head around this concept, becoming even more belligerent when she starts talking about her marriage.
She explains that her ex was Punjabi, as well, so there was pressure from their families to get married. "It was very taboo for people to be dating and not have marriage as the end goal," she explains. However, Gurki also admits that she had doubts about their relationship early on, which Justin latches onto. "Who says yes to getting married, and you have doubts?!" he asks, confounded. "This is called culture clash," she responds, reiterating that he doesn’t understand what it was like to be in her position.
Unfortunately, the conversation doesn’t end there. Although Gurki has already told Justin that the marriage ended when her ex-husband cheated, he accuses her of lying to a man and wasting eight years. "You agreed to spend the rest of your life with someone in front of friends and family, and it was a complete lie!" he says, getting agitated. "How could I ever trust you? How would anyone ever trust you?!"
Besides being an incredibly hurtful thing to say, it’s wild that Justin is seemingly forgetting that it takes two to tango. And while we have no way of knowing what was going on in her ex-husband’s head when they got married, it’s likely that he was feeling the same kind of cultural pressure Gurki was. What’s more, she explains that she did love her husband.
But despite the fact that Gurki is hardly the first person to get married and divorced in her 20s, Justin treats her failed marriage as some kind of scarlet letter to be derided and examined, which is both incredibly inappropriate and culturally insensitive. The night is mercifully cut short when Justin storms out of the bar, commenting, "I’m over this."
So it’s no wonder that at the end of Episode 2, Gurki is shown walking solo down the street, smiling hopefully at different men in passing. It’s not a sad ending — on the contrary, it’s very optimistic. And while she may have had some chemistry with Manny, he’s nine years younger than her, has a daughter, and tells her that he wants to have more children. Gurki says she isn’t sure if she wants to have a family at this point in her life, so perhaps she decided they didn’t have the same priorities, or maybe she just wasn’t feeling it in the end.
In any event, that Gurki didn’t feel pressured to pick any one of her five dates speaks volumes about Dating Around. Not only does a subject on a dating reality series choose to be alone, but her decision is treated with both respect and nuance. By contrast, similar shows like The Bachelor franchise, MTV’s Are You the One?, and even the new Temptation Island reboot tend to portray being in a life partnership as the ultimate (and often only) end goal, when in reality, being single is not a failure — nor is it necessarily realistic that you’d just so happen to find your soulmate within a group of people picked out for you by TV producers. First dates are often awkward, bad, and don’t work out, and Dating Around is a much-needed testament to the way we actually experience dating in real life.
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