When I found out that a California casting company is in Alaska auditioning bachelors for a reality show, I got a little upset. I thought, here we go again, exploiting the myth of the surplus of single Alaskan men looking for wives. This round of exploitation is spurred by a poll showing that women in the Lower 48 complain that men are noncommittal. All the men in the Lower 48, I guess. (I'm no Freud, but if commitment was all women wanted, things would be different.) I fumed, then I checked the Web site of the company, then I got my mind right. Why are we selling oil when we can sell our bachelors? You and I know they aren't really committed, that's why we call them bachelors. We can sell them more than once.
This concept is not new. Talkeetna has had an annual bachelor auction for years. The local men make a big deal out of getting cleaned up (Sorry, Dennis, but they do) for the event, everyone drinks a lot, has a good time, money changes hands and the profits go to local charity. A trainload of women come from Anchorage every year for it. A friend of mine said she used to go and even bought a bachelor once. She didn't keep him, and he was likely on the block again the following year. Renewable resource.
You may think I don't respect our bachelors, but I do. They are my neighbors, coworkers and some of my best friends. I even married one. We met in Talkeetna, actually. Heck, my brother is a bachelor. I have seen countless women over the years sadly disappointed in our men, looking for what doesn't exist and dismissing the unique qualities that make them who they are. Treasures that they are, it sometimes takes a gifted woman to, well, you know, you live here. So, the chances are slim that we will lose very many bachelors to our shoppers, the Women From the Lower 48. We could cycle through the same guys with different background sets (dog team, floatplane, fishing boat, cubicle with a killer view).
We have all humored television specials, magazines and features about Alaska's men and the image of ruggedly independent, capable, wealthy, unpretentious guys with infrequent haircuts. Someone makes money off each feature. We could be making that money and more if we get organized and get a business plan. Starting now, I suggest all Alaskan men who are unmarried by age 25 register with the state bachelor bureau. It's in the Department of Economic Development. In their spare time, guys could participate in filmed interviews or take a turn hosting visiting husband-shoppers. Our guests who don't find a life partner won't go home empty handed because we'll have a line of merchandise as unique and rugged as our individuals. (Sometimes shopping is attractive to women, too.) This could be a good industry for our seasonal workers who are available in the spring and fall when ferry and air fares are lower. There could be some very attractive package deals for our Lower 48 clientele.
Take my brother, please. No, seriously, picture my brother at the end of the construction season, climbing down out of his loader as the first swirl of snow dusts the rugged Alaskan gravel pit. He doffs his kidney belt and tosses it into his rugged pickup, adjusts his rugged Cat hat and looks into the camera. "Well, winter's coming. Time to put up the firewood and bring in a moose. I need a good woman, too, but they're pretty scarce around here. Anybody's looking for me, I'll be down at the Moosehead, over a hot cup of herbal tea." He drives away as the screen goes to the toll free number where operators (non-bachelors, guys like me we all have to do our part) are standing by to take your call. He's invested a few minutes, we've invested a few minutes, he gets to meet someone who hasn't heard his bad jokes yet, we all get dividend checks.
OK now, we have to watch and learn from this California outfit while they're here because they are the pros. And as soon as they leave, we show some commitment, put a new shine on the myth and exploit our bachelors ourselves.
Nita Nettleton can be reached at email@example.com.