For most of us ladies, it’s a rite of passage, isn’t it?
At one stage in our lives, we have all said the following (and say it with me loudly and clearly, y’all):
“I love bad boys!”
Yep. We’ve all said that. We love bad boys because they’re…well, bad. They represent danger. They represent intrigue and drama. And, for most of us (well, most definitely for someone like me), they represent everything that I am not.
If y’all have read my money columns, you know how boring and staid I am about money. While I may not be that vanilla about other aspects of my life, it would be no exaggeration if I said that I’m definitely more on the “I’m safe than sorry” end of the lifestyle spectrum.
So bad boys then represent all that we probably wish we could be but are not. Our mental image of a bad boy is more often than not someone who—if not gorgeous to look at—is definitely striking. In our daydreams, they ride bikes like a…well, a dream. They probably have thick, luscious hair that stands on its end when they ride said bike at 200 mph. And we find ourselves clinging to them for dear life as they give us a ride from Los Angeles to Napa Valley. (Or some such childish nonsense.)
There is no doubt whatsoever that the bad boy image is romanticized by the movies we watch and the books we read. Heck, for a lot of us, the bad boy we find irresistible probably started with Charlotte Bronte’s Mr. Rochester of Jane Eyre and Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
Literature has done its part in making the bad boy seem irresistible to us, no? So much that Mills & Boon and Harlequin romances have created a million-dollar industry and have kept it going for a century. Over the past decade-plus years, the publishing industry all over the world has taken a hit with reading as a lifestyle choice and/or hobby, and the book industry has suffered untold losses. But guess which genre continued to do well? Yep. The romance genre.
The modern Harlequin bad boy, of course, is dark, tall, and handsome (they’re always tall, mind you. They can be ugly as sin, but they’re never ever short). And they’re rich as sin. Not just millionaire-rich. They’re billionaire, shortly-to-be trillionaire, rich. They’re also playboys who sleep around with hot models or actresses. One click of their finger brings everyone scurrying around to make sure every wish of theirs is fulfilled.
They never fly first class. That’s so passé! They have their own jets. Mills & Boon and Harlequin romances tap into this innate wish-fulfilment that most women desire from their partners. And these publishing houses continue to laugh all the way to the bank, churning out these romantic tropes month after month.
In our real lives, though, the average bad boy that most of us meet is the boy close to next door, who probably looks yummy and good enough to eat, has a devilish charm, and sleeps around (honestly, who can resist him, amirite?), is someone who says it like it is (which we swoon over), doesn’t have to be loaded with cash (hey, we believe in equality, and we can spot him 100 or 200 bucks if he wanted, right?), and so on.
Thing is, though, in real life, none of these bad boy traits translate into what we think or hope they would be.
The bad boy is just…bad. Like, just f*cking bad. Calling them playboys is more of a compliment they don’t really deserve. They might be f*ckboys who can and will and do sleep around with anyone who will allow them. They’re indiscriminate. They run the gamut between having no money whatsoever to being rich as f*ck. They probably drink like a fish and can be manipulative.
Unlike romance novels, in real life, the bad guy is never satisfied. Maybe this is a gross generalization, but the bad boy who miraculously becomes a faithful family man who loves his wife even after she has had his three kids and doesn’t look as svelte and stunning as she did when they just got married is not even a myth. It’s a full-on fantasy.
When something looks too good to be true? It is.
I still remember so, so, so vividly when a friend of mine hooked up with this so-called bad boy that literally everyone in our friend circle wanted to hook up with (including yours, faithfully). Later, my friends told me I was smart not to do anything about my crush. I wish I could take credit for being smart. I was as dumb and as stupid as the rest of my girlfriends; I was also just honest about my chances with a dude everyone and their grandmothers (and a few grandfathers) wanted to hook up with. Given how stunningly beautiful some of my girlfriends then were, I knew I had no chance. So, yeah, I was as culpable and as dumb as the rest of them. I was just realistic about my chances.
So this girlfriend of mine was stunning. Just traffic-stopping stunning. And this bad boy we all adored was luckier than hell that he got to call my friend his girlfriend. And in the initial phase, it seemed perfect. He seemed like a reformed rake. He wooed her, said all the right things, took her to all the rights spots, and just made a big fuss over her.
But soon enough, his eyes started to wander. Even with the most beautiful woman in his arms, he would make eyes at other women. And it didn’t matter if the other women were as attractive as his girlfriend or not. If she was a woman, he looked. And eventually, he cheated on my friend.
Remember Bollywood superstars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone? Kapoor had f*cking Deepika Padukone and he still cheated on her! He “traded up” with Katrina Kaif and then when she “got to be too much,” he dumped her for Alia Bhatt.
But ask almost any actress in Indian cinema today as to who they’d like to be with; I can bet my right arm the answer is Ranbir Kapoor! Even though he has never made his modus operandi a big secret. That’s because he epitomizes the “bad guy” and all the girls want to be “the one who changes him.”
Hugh Grant was with Elizabeth Hurley and still cheated on her. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Hart cheated on their stunning partners when they were pregnant. Tiger Woods slept with literally any woman he came across when he was with a stunningly beautiful woman, Erin Nordegren. Nick Cannon has had four kids in the last six months with three different women.
This, in reality, is what bad boys are about.
The whole, “I can change him” never works.
I can bet anything that Darcy would’ve found Elizabeth Bennet a complete embarrassment once the initial “love” phase got over. Her frank and blunt and decidedly middle-class behavior would’ve gotten on his innate upper-class snotty nerves, and chances are that they would’ve separated a few years later. Their ending would probably be dramatic as f*ck where Lizzy would’ve yelled, “Get stuffed, you sanctimonious prick!” and Darcy would’ve politely but cuttingly retorted, “Uncouth as ever, Mrs. Darcy.”
As I grew up and experienced life and started to understand it and myself better, not just did I not like bad boys anymore, but I started to find them boring. They started to grate—and get on my nerves. When a dude is too good-looking or too slick or says all the right things, I know something else is up with him. And it always is.
With experience, I also realized that it’s a lot harder to be a good guy than bad. A bad guy lives life without consequences since society has zero expectations of him and he is, therefore, under no obligation to worry about them. He is a “bad boy,” see? That means he is forgiven all the transgressions in life.
But a good boy is hardworking, caring about family and the world around him, doesn’t think honesty is boring, believes that being faithful is sexy. He is probably not a risk-taker and not as overtly dynamic as you wish. He is dependable. He is the guy who will show up when you need him at 2 a.m. in the morning. And despite being a good guy, he is also dismissed by many with a snarky, “Oh, god! He is a nice guy!” Meaning, a good guy is boring. But he soldiers on. And with experience, you realize that it’s a lot of hard work being nice. And when a dude sticks to his goodness (despite all of the derogatory dismissals that he faces), that one’s a keeper. And is sexy as f*ck.
Girls, take it from someone who has lived life. It’s probably a smart move to sow your wild oats and have a few flings with bad boys and get them out of your system. But you should always, always, always take the good dude home to your parents.
They’re the ones who last. They’re the ones who’ll be there for you. They’re the ones who may look (and, honestly, who doesn’t?) but will never act on it because they understand that one shag is not worth breaking up a life with someone and disrespect their love.
Finally, bow down to the genius of Toni Morrison.
So, when a man tells you he is bad? Believe him.