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Originally published Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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"Bachelorette" contestant Jason Mesnick: The nice guy who didn't finish last

It doesn't matter if I think "The Bachelorette" and shows like it are on the list of Reasons Why We Should Go Extinct. The show's popular, and...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It doesn't matter if I think "The Bachelorette" and shows like it are on the list of Reasons Why We Should Go Extinct. The show's popular, and so is nice-guy single-dad account executive Jason Mesnick of Kirkland, who made it all the way to the July 7 finale of the show's fourth season. Really popular: 64 percent of those polled on ABC's site think he should be the next "Bachelor," his MySpace page lists 6,669 (almost all young, female) "friends" and a good portion of the comments for clips of the show on YouTube range from outraged to homicidal that star DeAnna Pappas dumped him in favor of a snowboarder. As irritatingly artificial as those shows are, Mesnick, 32, seemed like the real deal when I caught up with him, uh, to see if he can heal and find love again or something.

Q: I'd like to spend some time talking about our feelings. And I want you to know that I cry easily.

A: (Laughs.) If I can make you cry right now. Without kicking you in the shins or something. That's good.

Q: The premise for people who haven't seen the show: A bunch of alpha males fight to the death and the winner takes the woman, right?

A: I think that sounds completely natural on the outside, but you know they went through this casting process where they found guys that would be a good fit for her, and you know, you should — you cry a lot? I think that all these guys have that same kind of soft heart. In all honesty, we all said from day one, we're here and we're not going to stand in the way of her getting to know any one of us. So I think you found a big group of softies more than anything.

Q: I like my idea better. Also, the woman and the supplicant she chooses in the finale should both be oiled up and ... Well, it's a strange enough fertility ritual on its own, when you really think about it.

A: Yeah, I mean it's definitely not natural, but I think anybody who comes from any walk of life knows that they never know where they're going to meet their spouse. And what are the real chances of 1 in 25 actually happening? It wasn't me. But it obviously happened, and I can say one thing for sure, that both those guys — and I talked to DeAnna and Jesse this past week, and they are both crazy-happy, so the ritual worked for those two.

Q: You didn't think he was kind of a goober or had ridiculous hair?

A: Oh, of course he's got goofy hair, but at the same token, he is — her family asked what's the biggest difference between him and I, and I'm just not nearly as rad as he is. He's a cool, cool, rowdy dude. I mean really.

Q: At first it seemed humiliating for a bunch of guys to be at the mercy of one woman. But then I realized that's about the ratio here in Seattle. Do you think that gave you the advantage of experience?

A: (Laughs.) Ohhh, you mean so many of us and one pretty lady? Yeah, you know I've been single for about three years, and I probably could say that's pretty much on the nose here.

Q: Couldn't you have just tried eHarmony? As cheesy and phony as dating is already, why on earth did you want to go through that on TV?

A: I never thought of it like, "Hey I'm going to be on TV," because I'm not a guy who wants to be in Hollywood. I don't care about any of that kind of stuff. But I know, like I said before, you never know where you're going to meet somebody, and I had a few things happen to me that said, "You know what? This is where I've got to be." I didn't have any expectations of, "Yes I'm going to get married because of this show," but I got pushed in that direction.

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Q: What got cut out that you think viewers should know about?

A: They wouldn't cut out anything that was really good. The only thing that caught me off guard a little bit was at the very last day where, you know I thought it was me. I really did, and I went through the whole proposal, got down on my knee, and it wasn't like she said, "Hey, get up off your knee" real quick. It was a longer experience than that. So that got cut off, and that was a little surprising to me.

Q: So viewers didn't see that she actually let you suffer a while before she lowered the boom.

A: Aaaall right, you could say it like that.

Q: Did you get any crap from your guy friends who watched?

A: Of course. You wouldn't be a guy friend unless you gave me crap, and that's OK, you know. People accept me or they don't, and I can't control what other people do. But most of my close friends know that I was true to myself through the whole experience, and they might give me a little crap for it, but they know me.

Q: What kind of things did they say to you?

A: I mean, the same things you're saying to me now. You're like one of my guy friends. "Who, what, where, why, when?" "Are you kidding?"

Q: How did your family take it? They seemed pretty wild about her. In fact, I think your mom said she loved her the day you brought her home.

A: My mom, more than anything, because I have been through a divorce, my mom didn't want to see me get hurt again. But she's also the same person who told me just to let my heart out there and go for it. I didn't tell my family anything, so we watched the final episode, and like I said, everybody around me thought she (DeAnna) was going to choose me. And when that happened my mom was completely heartbroken. But when we talked things through and she knew where I was — and I am in an OK place — she was OK, too.

Q: She didn't want to stab the girl with a knitting needle?

A: No, she bought a rose to give to me just in case I didn't get one when we watched the show.

Q: I think you are going to make me cry.

A: I know, you told me. You're a softy. You should go on the show!

Q: One door closed and several more opened for you, right? I hear you're spoiled for choice now. Is it like one of the old Hai Karate aftershave commercials?

A: It's definitely interesting, because people have got to know me, and they're so generous and so sweet and so kind, and they know (my son) Ty, and they know my story. I could not tell you how I could begin to start dating right now. I have no idea how to do it. First of all, I want to be generous and kind and get back to the people who were so nice to me, but I can't even attempt to get through some of this stuff, because there's really a lot of it.

Q: I think you're kind of avoiding the direct question, though, here. Do you have a ton of new applicants?

A: Yes. Am I auditioning? Is that your question? I have not begun to do that yet. Right now I have got so much going on as far as work goes and taking care of my son, and trying to sort out like all this mail and fan mail and all that kind of stuff that's coming in, and I don't even know how I could go out on a date right now. And I want to be able to give all of me when I go out on my next date, and I need to make sure. And this just happened over the last week or so that I got through that experience, because I really did care a lot about DeAnna. I do care a lot about DeAnna. But I want to make sure I'm through all that.

Q: Will you be doing another show?

A: I have no idea. Nobody's asked me to do anything yet.

Q: There was a rumor that you were going to do a "Bachelor" show and be on the other end.

A: All I know is it seems to me that all the guys that they've asked — I'm just a single dad from Seattle that is figuring my side out. And the other guys, they've had the Firestone who owns the vineyards, and they've had professional football players, and I don't see how that's me at all.

Q: I'll let you in on a little secret if you do: Try wearing a big clock around your neck.

A: A big clock around my neck?

Q: That's what Flavor Flav does.

A: (Playfully.) A gold, big clock? I go platinum, baby!

Q: I understand the success rate of these TV couplings is pretty low. What do you make of that?

A: I think it's real. I think if you go through and ask anybody how many people they've dated before they're with the person that they end up with the longest — I mean I'm not saying married, because I dated 10 people, got married and it didn't work out. So I would say that if you go to the average person across the country, they date at least 15 people plus before they get married or they're with the person they're with for the longest and there's been 1 out of 15. So I think it's pretty true to how real dating is.

Q: My final question is: If I borrowed your kid, do you think I'd meet better women?

A: Well, he's way cooler than you.

Q: Who isn't?

A: He's a good judge of character, and if he's around and somebody approached me and he walked the other way, I'd think that he'd be right on spot.

Q: Thank you for opening up to me. Now would you like to watch "Sex and the City" and do some shoe-shopping?

A: (Laughs.) I've never seen an episode of "Sex and the City."

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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