Will You Be My Wife? (Just Kidding.)

The Bachelor

Thrusting a lampoon through the hearts of romantics everywhere, this week The Bachelor 's Jason Mesnick popped the question to Melissa Rycroft (left), professing his love and affection and claiming that she had made him "the happiest man in the universe." Apparently, that happiness was short-lived, because, as stunned viewers learned in the "After the Rose" special that aired immediately following the gushing finale, Mesnick had a change of heart and renounced the betrothal, claiming that his feelings had changed. A devastated Rycroft sobbed, "You should get engaged once in your life and you stole that from me." Enter bachelorette number two, his runner-up Molly Malaney. The tossed-off runner-up was brought back, informed that Jason had changed his mind and wanted another chance with her. Needless to say, she was very receptive to the idea.

Can't say as we blame Mesnick all that much for the turnabout. After all, feelings can change and who knows what transpired between him and Rycroft in the weeks after he offered his proposal. Perhaps away from the glare of the cameras, he got to know a different woman from the one she played on the show. And though I feel sorry for his once-bride-to-be, she, too, knew that when it comes to reality television romance, exploitation is the name of the game. She'll recover soon enough, perhaps with a show of her own.

But it will take far longer for the hearts of America's romantics to recover. And for this,

the ratings-hungry producers of the ABC show are clearly culpable. They may have scored a surprise publicity bonanza, but in the process they also sowed the seeds of doubt among every woman who longs to one day find her prince.

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