I've had this theory for a while that ABC's The Bachelor is a long con and no one in the last 13 years has been an actual person. Not the bachelors, not the spin-off bachelorettes, not the contestants, not the limo drivers, not the unflappably tan host, Chris Harrison. The I-love-yous, the engagements, the marriages, and the eyelashes have all been painstakingly faked. It's all been an elaborate social experiment, and we all fell for it! Phew.

But alas, no one is that talented/horrible at acting, and I'm about halfway though the 19th season, and it's starting to dawn on me that it isn't a hoax. It's insane. What if I'm the one who needs a lesson in love? After all, these women reeeeaaaallly seem to be into competing with other like-minded women to find love, and the bachelor reeeeaaaallly seems to trust ABC to find him a wife, so maybe there's something to it. Through all the competitions, tears, roses, dates, and swimsuit bottoms covered by black boxes, what can we learn about love from this highly edited version of supervised mate-finding?

You Don't Need to "Know" Someone to Be Madly in Love with Them and Committed to Spending the Rest of Your Life with Them

Chris Soules is a 33-year-old farmer (but, like, the modern, hair-gel kind of millionaire farmer who isn't afraid to be videotaped in a halfway-unzipped periwinkle hoodie) from Iowa who appears to be missing a top lip and has yet to string together a single interesting sentence. That's literally all we know about this season's eligible bachelor. But so what? These women already absolutely L-O-V-E love him, and can definitely see themselves settling down and having children with him. I guess meaningful conversations, or any conversations at all, are less important than having money (and sperm) in the bank. Love is loving someone before you like them.

Make Sure You Have a "Story"

If you're not a virgin or a widow, you better figure out a way to dramatize your life ASAP. The Bachelor teaches us that you can't find love if you can't whittle yourself down into a singular, sensational story that will cause your possible future mate to value you more than other people with more complex existences. Like a Shakespearian tragicomedy, the current season of The Bachelor features two virgins and two widows and the idea that this information will somehow earn points with Chris and could be used as a kind of "secret weapon" to avoid getting kicked off the show. Everyone tries to out-story each other. Mackenzie was bummed that, as a mother, "mother" was the story she was forced to go with, because it disqualified her from being able to say she was also a virgin ("I can't even use that because I have a kid!"). One of the virgins, Ashley I., was upset that having a deceased husband was considered a better story than being a virgin. One of the widows, Kelsey, was pleased that her tragedy was the most tragic, and grinned, "Isn't my story amazing?" Love is about marketing yourself correctly.

If You Want More Attention from a Person, Invade Their Space

Didn't get the one-on-one date you were hoping for? Missed out on some potential Frenching during the group date because there is only so much Frenching that can happen to one bachelor's lips before they fall off? (JUST KIDDING, CHRIS STARTED OFF WITH NO TOP LIP.) (BURN.) We can learn from pretty much every episode of The Bachelor so far that it's perfectly acceptable to barge into someone's hotel room or tent in order to aggressively make out with them to ensure they still remember you. ("I jusss feel liieek we didn't get a chance to connect today at the hay-baling competishhion.") If you love something, track it down and make it love you back.

Nervous? Have You Considered Xanax or Acid?

I admire contestant Ashley S. for being completely bonkers. Sadly, she was eliminated fairly early and we never really got the full story on why Ash acted like she had just arrived from another planet (speculations ranged from "probably just really nervous" to "probably frying on peyote"). But shoot, first dates are awkward, especially when filmed and partially scripted, so why not pop a couple Klonopin and be the absolute most sedated version of yourself you can possibly be? Not that that's what Ashley did, of course, but I certainly wouldn't blame someone for wanting to "loosen the fuck up." Love is about feeling comfortable enough with someone to tell them how weird you think the moon is after you confuse a pomegranate for an onion.

Nothing Is More Important Than Roses

Sure, they're nice to get after your fifth-grade piano recital or as an extravagant gesture every couple years from someone trying to get into your pants, but The Bachelor RUNS on roses and the apparent belief that the modern world of dating and love would be a lot easier if we adopted the rose system. See someone you'd like to bone at a bar? Give them a "first impression" rose. Interested in dating a couple of your coworkers but not sure which one? Give them each a "one-on-one" rose to let them know they're about to go on a date with you. Not really into the person you've been casually dating? Don't bring a rose to your next date with them, and they will leave your presence immediately. Roses aren't just a metaphor for love, roses literally are love.

Pretend to Like Whatever

Iowa? Love it! Camping? Love it! New Mexico? OMG, I've never been out of the country!!! Kelsey HATED camping and pouted during the entire camping group date, but you better believe that when Chris asked her to sit on a log with him, she was all smiles and openmouthed laughing with every single tooth in her mouth. Love is acting like you want to do things you don't actually want to do.

Don't Ask Questions

If the person you're in love with is actively involved with 29 other people and needs to test his tongue out whenever there's a lull in the conversation (spoiler alert: There's always a lull in the conversation), don't you dare question it. Not only is Chris not going to be able to explain himself ("uh, well, I... it's just that... uh"), but questioning the promiscuity of the bachelor is questioning the premise of The Bachelor. Love is biting your tongue, idiot.

Never, Ever Be Yourself

This should go without saying, but it's the most important. Beyond the obligatory tanning, teeth whitening, hair extensions, and other physical modifications that will help you to blend in with the diversificationally challenged cast of The Bachelor, you're going to want to put forth a version of yourself that you think the complete stranger you want to marry will like, and also want to marry. Love is reality television. recommended