Recently another grad student, raising his eyebrow accusingly, asked, “You’re not one of those girls that likes bad boys, are you?” No! I answered immediately. Of course not. I will always go for the nice guys. But then, as is often my problem, I started thinking about it. I thought of my romantic heroes: V, Bruce Wayne, Athos, Gambit, Spike, Han Solo, Thomas Raith…. all heroes, to be sure, but certainly not nice guys, and definitely not for the women in their lives.
But that’s fiction, not real life. Yet, I can see it. Not necessarily the men I dated, but all the way back to Chris in kindergarten, the only 6 year old bad enough to wear a leather jacket I have, in fact, liked the bad boys.
Okay, don’t panic. There has to be a reasonable explanation for this. I am a smart young woman. There must be a reason I am attracted to jerks. Evolutionarily speaking it makes sense. I would want someone who could take of himself, me, and our tiny offspring. But that seems reductive. I would like to think I am a little more than the random sparks of instinct from a long dead jungle. So it must be something else.
So why do I do it? What attracts me about my heroes? They’re all passionate men, each so focused on their goals that they are oblivious to the outside needs and wants of humanity, or, in some cases, so in tune with those needs that they are completely unable to focus on themselves. Passion is sexy, as talent is. This is a fact. I’m not talking here about hobbies or likes, but when your significant other has something that makes them really, truly big-stupid-grin happy, it has a similar effect on you. The fact that, in this case, those passions tend to be semi self-destructive is, while worrying, no less impressive.
But what about the women? Abandoned, tortured, longing, left again and again, they certainly aren’t treated like princesses. But, and I think this is the heart of the matter, they are treated like the only thing of notice in the world. They are, in fact, the only thing that could make these characters focus on something other than their own goals. They are what every girl secretly wants to be: the only woman in the world. It’s classic Rebel Without a Cause Effect.
It’s a stereotype of women that we want to change men, and maybe in some sense this is true, but maybe not because we want to ‘fix’ them. Perhaps it is only because we want to be the thing that improves them, that motivates them, that turns them from their path if even for a second. And I don’t think it’s just women. I’ve seen dozens of relationships flare up between a ‘nice ____’ and a known heartbreaker. We all want to be the One, and this is easier to measure when the other person doesn’t seem to care for anyone else.
So, do I want a bad boy? Heavens, no. So you can all relax your eyebrows. You too. You know who you are. But I do want to feel like that. I don’t think that’s so odd.