It takes a lot these days to get me to wash my hair and put on a bra. A Zoom “date” with The Bachelorette castoff Kenny Braasch, in fact. If you’ve kept up with season 16’s stars Clare and Tayshia and their respective journeys to coveted Neil Lane sparklers, then you already know that Kenny is the hard-bodied, generously tattooed boy-band manager and nude model from Oak Lawn who competed for both of their hearts, only to return home to Chicago’s COVID-addled dating scene, single once again.
A couple of days before our date, Kenny follows me on Instagram, which is how I know things are getting serious. I follow him back and land on a video of him in his underwear. Inexplicably, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” is the soundtrack to a slow zoom into and out from Kenny’s rock-hard abs until — BAM! — he punches the camera. This performative masculinity reminds me of a wild night I spent in Las Vegas at Magic Mike Live. It’s hard to believe that Kenny and I have much in common, and that with hobbies like knitting, reading, and podcasting about the ’80s YA series Sweet Valley High, I’m the single mom Kenny’s been looking for. But then I remember the thrill of the Magic Mike dancers humping the floor with butts so tight you could bounce quarters off them and think, Why not jump into the Kenny Braasch fantasy? It’s gotta be better than another hour of Bridgerton.
What is the etiquette for a Zoom date? Who sends the link? Well, I do, and he responds with a :). For a moment I wonder if he’ll do something cute, like send me a bottle of wine to drink during our Zoom, but then I remember this is not a TV show; this is just real life, where the effort single men spend on romance is akin to putting on flip-flops — there’s no unnecessary exertion, no flare, and it exposes an ugly part of them. And I adjust my expectations.
Time for the important stuff: What should I wear? (A black V-neck sweater with sweatpants.) What is my Cher Horowitz–inspired lighting scheme? (A cheap ring light sent to me as a holiday gift from my employer.) What am I drinking? (Sparkling rosé.) Now it’s time to log on, and there’s Kenny on my laptop, very handsome, with a great smile. We launch into standard first-date protocol — where are you from, what do you do, tell me about The Bachelorette.
But Kenny really comes alive when we talk about his exercise and nutrition routine. Kenny works out every morning with his parents, Ken and Judy, and brings a potato with him to the gym. I find this all very endearing and decide clearly Kenny needs a vegan fitness influencer, not me, for his wife. “But I eat meat,” he protests. Oh, Kenny, I’m not a fortuneteller, but I’m certain if you ever take a wife, she will be a Revolve-clad wellness enthusiast with tasteful (hopefully) lip fillers. When we briefly touch upon his nude modeling photos (easily available through Google, hint, hint), he says sheepishly, “Women give me shit about it; gay men seem to like it,” and I come to the conclusion that Kenny is a catch. Self-reflective, hard-bodied, can microwave a potato for you — what more could a girl want?