September 25, 2007 at 10:30 PM EDT

Today marks my third (not legally recognized) wedding anniversary. I say this not to brag that I’ve managed to avoid divorce proceedings despite forcing my husband to watch entire seasons of Hey Paula, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, and America’s Got Talent — although, come to think of it, that’s mighty impressive! — but because watching last night’s season premiere of The Bachelor reminded me that I haven’t been on a first date in quite some time. And apparently, the threshold of acceptable early-courtship behavior has changed a lot over the course of the last half a decade.

How else to explain Juli (“without an ‘E’ at the end!”) twisting herself into a human-pretzel in an effort to impress carefully stubbled Brad “Let’s have some fun!” Womack? Or Morgan ripping off her shoes, placing her hooves on the table, and demanding The Bachelor “take a good look” at her webbed feet? Or, perhaps most startling of all, Tauni (pictured, right) bending over at the waist and offering up for inspection each side of her derriere, as if she were a butcher with two particularly choice cuts of meat for sale? By comparison, 33-year-old biology teacher Lori seemed like the picture of logic and good taste when she arrived on the scene and announced, “My strategy is to not cry, and to not get drunk.”

Thankfully, Bachelorbot 11.0 seems to have come equipped with not only the fearlessness to take a shower on camera, but also a humor chip — actually laughing till he cried while recounting Morgan’s feet accompli, deciding that Juli’s flexibility was more “strange” than “hot,” and responding to the stream-of-consciousness slurring by Melissa (pictured, left) that “she was enjoying her glass of wine a little more than she was enjoying me.”

addCredit(“Kevin Foley”)

Not to say that the dude’s judgment is infallible. Because while he cutJuli, Morgan, Tauni, Melissa, and poor, dumbfounded Lori all in thefirst round, his hormones clearly got two votes — allowing Mallory andSolisa to crack the final 15. Okay, maybe I’m judging Mallory a littletoo quickly. But I question the overall marriage-mindedness of anywoman who strips down to a bikini in the middle of a cocktail party,dives into a pool, and coos to a man she’s never spoken to one-on-onethat, “I think you should take your pants off.” As for Solisa, you’vegot to give credit to the producers for pairing that soundbite abouther heart jumping out of her chest with a close-up shot of her heavingbazooms, which were crammed into her green gown like a pair of giantcantaloupes into two plastic sandwich bags. And while the precedingsentence would be a perfect segue for discussing that mortifying momentwhen the ladies discovered one of Melissa’s padded breasts on thefloor, my fingers, or perhaps my soul, will not allow it.

Yes,yes, I know…where was my soul when I signed up to blog about yetanother season of a reality show built on a the frail psyches of 25women who step tipsily out of a limousine prepared to enter into thebond of holy matrimony with a complete stranger, knowing only thathe’ll have sculpted abs, good teeth, and a not-empty bank account? Ifthat question is too tough for you, then how about these: Would youagree with my friend Kristen, who just IM’d me to say that there were”a lot of butterfaces in the group”? (Thank you, Kristen, for notmaking me be the first to point out how many busted-looking chickscracked the top 25; see what too much of the hooch does to the face?)Also: who’s your early pick to win it all? (I’m going with bar managerSarah, since Brad looked most excited as she exited the limo.) Andwho’ll be this season’s resident she-beast? (I vote McCarten! And yes,you can only pick one!)

Chris Harrison hosts the veteran reality romance series. Will you accept this rose?
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