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Posts Tagged ‘bad boys’

The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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A good friend in college once admitted to feeling miffed when we were together in public because men sometimes checked me out instead of her.  Apparently, she was attempting to build trust by revealing these monstrous feelings and I was supposed to be touched.

I won’t pretend to have been a saint at the time, somehow immune to male attention.  But the last line of attack I’d have considered for securing guys’ interest was scorning my friends for taking it from me.

Still, like lotsa gals, much of my twenties was spent hoping guys liked me.  A cute one would come ‘round and I’d feel pressured to become a sexier, smarter, sassier version of myself, all smirky and eyelashes aflutter.  When dudes weren’t around, I was relaxed and keeping it real, praying for the day I’d be freed from stressing about being a hit with the boys.

I used to be afraid that day would never come.  But yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

This weekend, a gal named Christina proved those days are long behind me.  We met at a two-day writing conference.  Christina was naughty librarian sexy with the kind of combustible “not quite sure who I am yet” energy that makes folks in their twenties both charming and exasperating.  At breakfast, Christina formed a friend crush on me and a regular old boy crush on Billy, a handsomely tortured grunge king who had all the girls at the workshop in a tizzy.  Ten years ago, I might have had eyes for Billy, too.  Now, I’m wise enough to know self-important hot guys usually have little to offer, especially if they’re flirting with everything in a bra.

Christina wasn’t as wise.  When Billy noticed her, she feigned indifference even though stars were shooting out of her eyes.  When he walked away, her entire being deflated like a popped balloon.  When Billy chose to spend his lunch sitting with a pretty blonde instead of us, Christina sat quietly seething as if plotting her next move.  On the conference’s second day, she showed up in a low-cut shirt and bright red lipstick.  Then she spent the day saying raunchy things super loudly and emanating a willful sexuality as if mind controlling the boy to come to her.

Christina didn’t seem smitten, she just seemed pissed.  I assumed she wasn’t as much interested in Billy as she was bothered he wasn’t noticing her.  Still, she didn’t care when I suggested the boy was obviously a player and not worth the effort.  She didn’t buy my theory that not being desired by every male on the planet was no big thang and that all a gal needed was one decent man to love her.  Ultimately, I stopped offering support altogether once the recurring question of the conference changed from “how can I be a better writer” to “why doesn’t Billy like me?”

Thank God I’m not there anymore.  Really, it’s been ages.  Sure, my relationships or attempts at entering into relationships haven’t always been smooth.  But I’ve been myself every step of the way and couldn’t care less about any man except the one who makes my heart go boom.  Even back in the day, when I was more concerned than I should’ve been about being the cat’s meow, I always knew there was more to life than boys.

However.

Not long ago I met a woman in her fifties who had recently ended a five-year romance.  The woman had no children and had never been married, though she’d had a bunch of boyfriends through the years.  She proudly announced herself finished with men, finished with the anxiety of trying to appeal to them, finished worrying about whether she’s desirable.

I could tell the woman meant it.  Like wives who finally divorce after decades in a rotten marriage, she looked forward to starting life on her own terms.  On one hand, I envied the inner peace she claimed to feel.  On the other hand, I was sad to imagine a life without love.

So, I’m glad to be way past the point of obsessing over boy love but pray I never arrive at the place where I’m glad to be out of the game completely.  I’m not positive how to avoid such a fate, but there’s one thing I know for sure.  Needing to be the prettiest girl in the room ain’t it.

 
[Image from vanityfair.com]

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Monica was this hot mama sex goddess I used to work with serving cocktails in college.  Slinky as a feline, she was nearly six feet tall with curves galore.  She had flawless skin, a magnificent, traffic-stopping face and a personality as colorful as the Bobbi Brown eye shadow she used to drop the cherry on the sundae of her magnetic appeal.  Monica was ravishing enough to date famous athletes, businessmen pulling down six figures and local actors on their way to becoming Hollywood B-listers.  If anyone would’ve ended up sipping daiquiris by the pool of some handsome millionaire’s mansion, it was Monica.

Recently, Monica popped up as a friend of a friend on Facebook, so I clicked on her page.  She was gorgeous as ever and though I wasn’t shocked to discover she hadn’t become some Tinseltown trophy wife, I was surprised to see photos of the man she married.  The guy was goofy looking, a squat little pudgeball.  And no Mr. Moneybags was he, as Monica’s other half apparently lived a quiet though comfortable life as the owner of a small electronics company.  But there was one huge difference about the look in her husband’s eye as he cast his gaze upon my old friend, as opposed to the more extraordinary men I’d once seen her with – this guy completely worshipped her.

Monica is one of a slew of foxy female friends who used to date bad boys, sexy studs and all around pricks until they finally settled down with a man who actually liked them.  Maybe these guys don’t look like movie stars or take their women on masochistic joy rides filled with broken promises and non-commitment.  But they do treat their gals with some semblance of respect.  Seems some good guys get the girl in the end.

This week, the University of Nottingham in the UK proved it by releasing a study on the qualities women value in potential mates.  The research suggests ladies used to dig grit and brawn because men needed to feed and defend the brood.  Nowadays, characteristics like “selflessness and empathy” are valued because women want men who will take an active and caring role in raising children.  I wouldn’t be surprised if our desire to have relationships rooted in mutual understanding and kindness had something to do with what lures us, as well.

The best news is these nice guys aren’t faking it.  The qualities are now part of their genetic makeup.  Score.

I’m starting to get it.  Man, it’s taken me a while, but finally something meaningful has clicked.  I’ve spent years pining for the “magic” of edgier dudes, the fantastic dramas their childish self-absorption wreaks in relationships, the post-rejection desperation I confused for love.

Then along came a man who was able to tear his gaze away from his own reflection long enough to notice me.  A man who cared about and even wanted to meet my needs.  A man who was just plain nice to me.  The sense of wellbeing I felt sharing his life, after years of being an afterthought to other dudes, was like touching solid ground after a ten-hour flight through a hailstorm.  And lucky me, he also happened to be one of the sexiest men I’d met in ages.

When a guy’s the center of his own universe, any lady friend may have trouble finding a cozy place in which to fit alongside him.  As I get older, I notice lots of the sexy flake dudes I’ve known are either hopelessly single or in tragically dysfunctional romances rife with infidelity and confidence-killing cruelty.  Nice guys, at least those with some depth, don’t offer relationships devoid of theatrics and challenges.  They just consider it part and parcel to relating and don’t rush out into the world feeding their own egos with bullshit.

And for that, they totally deserve to get the girl.

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In June, I wrote a blog post about my friend Kim who resolved to change her wanton ways in order to better attract the loving, committed relationship she craves.  Kim has spent most of her thirty-plus years supplementing her life as a brilliant, professionally successful dynamo with moments being a horny, somewhat debauched wild child.  Kim finally realized the romantic patterns in which she has entangled herself keep her from the life she wants.  Now, she’s ready to change.

A few days after posting the blog, I got a comment from a reader who thinks Kim’s desires to evolve are doomed.  According to him, “how a person has lived his or her life is the only indicator we have to predict how they will live the rest of it.”

Ouch.

The letter got me thinking about all the people I know who’ve either changed successfully, or wanted to change but failed miserably.  A gal pal of mine used to be a directionless, pot smoking drunk whose greatest ambition in life was to wake up before noon.  She called me one morning having just snorted a mound of coke with a complete stranger she’d also had sex with.  Exactly the kind of wake up call my friend needed.  Today, she’s a sober, married mom with a good job.  Another friend stayed in the same dead-end career for nearly fifteen years and had barely eked out a social life.  Almost forty, she hadn’t had a romantic relationship since college.  Last year, she got a new job, a new boyfriend and a new lease on life.

Being a person who thrives on change, and who’s apt to stir some up when there isn’t enough coming, I can’t understand people who are afraid of the stuff.  However, I’ve known plenty of people who can’t seem to recognize the bad behaviors that keep them spiraling into endless voids of misery and disappointment.

The worst are those of us who regularly fall for emotionally stunted men.  Guys who drink too much, treat the women who love them like afterthoughts or invest in video game collections rather than relationships.  Friends tell us, “give up, he’ll never change.”  But who wants to believe the person you’re crazy about will always have the same weaknesses that stop him or her from being the partner you need.

Sometimes I guess it’s true certain folks will never change.  But is it always?

What say you?

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Sandra Bullock’s hubby has been cheating on her with a tattoo model / porn star.  Hollywood studs cheating on Hollywood babes isn’t shocking.  What’s weird is how often we find ourselves saying, “seriously?  Her?” whenever we see photos of the other women.  Some of our finest looking dames have been made a fool by their better halves – Halle, Sienna Miller, even Angelina supposedly got cuckolded by Billy Bob.  Tiger’s wife looks like Venus emerging from the half shell compared to the silicone-injected Plain Janes he bagged on a regular basis.  Boggles the mind.

One theory suggests men coupled up with women who outshine them beef up their egos by schtupping lesser females.  Hence, the male partners of A-list actresses bedding B-list bimbos.  However, it seems equally possible career-obsessed folks, whether male or female, are too obnoxious and neglectful to make their partners feel loved.  You don’t become a megastar like Sandra Bullock by spending a lot of time stoking the home fires.

Though I don’t know Sandra Bullock personally, I’d see plenty to commit to if I were her man.  All I’d think of when looking at his “Bombshell” mistress is dirty sex.  And therein lies the rub.  Chicks who work so hard to be sex objects – fake boobs, surgically enhanced lips – will probably do anything a guy wants, for as long as he wants and will buy his BS about his (non-existent) divorce and how his wife no longer gets him.  Unfortunately for these gals, men probably see them as little more than blow up dolls come to life.

Maybe the wife isn’t the person with whom you do certain sex acts, so you find “a bad girl.”  Maybe you and the wife are regularly apart, so you screw some brain-dead hottie who won’t threaten your relationship.  Are these desirable solutions to relationship challenges?  Probably not.  But I can imagine this Jesse person thinking Sandra Bullock is the greatest thing since sliced bread yet still screwing some gal he doesn’t give two shits about on the side.

Of course, these are famous people.  They’re vain enough to want the entire planet to know their names, believe themselves deserving of $25 million pay checks and have an endless line of tail offered to them on a daily basis.  Famous people are aberrations and nothing like us.  Drawing conclusions about relationships based on the behavior of celebrities is like basing financial decisions on what the Rockefellers might do.

But what’s unsettling is how often I hear normal men call their own gender out as canine.  “Men are dogs,” some of my male friends say.  “We’re basic, weak, can’t be trusted.”  The other night I heard a dude at a bar say, “Guys will always go after other women.  We’re men, that’s what we do.”  Last Tuesday, I saw a Henry Rollins show.  He said men would even screw trees if they had breasts.

And there’s the sinking feeling every woman suffers.  The fear that no matter how loving and supportive we are, no matter how much we stimulate men’s minds and ravish their bodies, no matter how much freedom we need for ourselves and thus are ready to give them, there will always be some chick with a nice rack he’ll cast us aside to bone.

So, if, as Chris Rock says, “a man is only as faithful as his options,” what are we supposed to do?  Decide the dog myth is true and become bitter and suspicious?  Decide it’s not true and risk being naïve?  Decide it doesn’t matter and turn a blind eye?

I kinda don’t believe it.  I’ve known plenty of men who’ve turned down hot, easy ‘tang because they’re devoted to their main squeezes.  I also appreciate the inevitability of temptation so rarely let it get my panties in a twist.  I even think I could get over my man admitting to a meaningless fling, even if the girl was a tattooed, former stripper, porn star, fetish model who poses in Nazi gear (really, Jesse?)

But the last thing any of us should do is blame bad behavior on anything other than choice.  We aren’t animals, none of us are dogs.  If we’ve got seemingly unquenchable desires mucking with our ability to form healthy relationships, we may want to work on them.  If you’re a career freak who neglects relationships or a booty hound who can’t keep it in his pants, you should probably do something about it.  Relationships are good things.  The people we let into our lives are decent folk with fragile hearts who are just trying to love us.  Why not put our egos aside every once in a while and try to love them back?

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My friend Kim is an addict. 

Pills are not her poison, nor gambling or booze.  Emotionally maladjusted men have been her drug of choice.  Since her first crush on a sexually confused Cure fan with mommy issues, she has ridden nearly every loop on the roller coaster ride of human psychological dysfunction. 

Higher up the chain we have sexy artists and brainy academics with intimacy issues.  Further down, we find bad boys.  Slackers.  Dumbasses. 

Kim is smart, successful and easy on the peepers, so finding a suitable mate shouldn’t be such an ordeal.  She has tried to rid herself of this addiction, but Lordy, how quickly the rationalizations come: “Just one last postdoc afraid to leave his house during winter,” or, “What’s one more cute fireman who can’t tell time gonna hurt?” 

Everyone has patterns.  My friend Kyle only dates dippy women so he doesn’t feel bad when he gets bored and dumps them.  My friend Erica only finds herself attracted to men with wives and girlfriends.  But we stand at the dawn of a new decade.  The time has come to make different choices.  

Admittedly, I’m often drawn to psychologically messy men myself.  Maybe it’s the misguided notion that by putting together the disjointed puzzle pieces of a person’s psyche, he’ll be yours forever.  Or maybe it’s because when you’ve got your act together and enjoy a mostly solid sense of self, being inside another person’s chaos brings a peculiar kind of rush.  

Regardless of the reasons, one day you have to wake up, face your addictions and simply quit cold turkey.  I figure breaking romantic patterns is like quitting smoking.  You need a few last cigarettes before you finally kick it for good.  

One of Kim’s last cigarettes was a perpetually unemployed bartender, twice divorced before the age of thirty and covered in tattoos.  When she saw him in a café, a mild-mannered looking gentleman was reading an Abe Lincoln biography three tables away.  Mr. Mild Mannered was definitely the person she should’ve talked to, but no, Kim had to go with the dickweed in tattoos.  The bartender had only two interests: motorcycles and booze.  The last “book” he’d read was the Cliff Notes on Macbeth in high school.  Of course the relationship didn’t last.  She could’ve had more sparkling conversation with a ham sandwich.  

After Kim ended things with the bartender, I suggested introducing her to a friendly, emotionally sturdy teacher pal of mine.  

“This guy may not be ‘the One,’” I said, “but he does have a job.”  I was always introducing prospective love interests to Kim the same way: “He may not be ‘the One’ but…he doesn’t have a drinking problem,” or, “he’s never been institutionalized,” or, “he can read.” 

Kim realized her pattern had reached its sell-by date six months ago when she told me about her budding relationship with Troy, a pothead college dropout who lived in his brother’s basement.  I must have looked at her as if a turtle was crawling out of her nose because she promised not to meet with me again until she was in a relationship with a worthwhile partner.  “But,” I wailed.  “That could take years!” 

She ditched Troy the next day.  It’s been six months and she claims not to even feel the cravings.  Does she miss these guys?  Not really.  Was she tempted to reignite the flame with the bartender when she ran into him a few weeks ago?  Nah.  Did she ask out the sexy dreadlocked guy on our bus who’s reading the Dummy’s Guide to raising ferrets?  Nope.  

Call it progress.    

I’m trying to learn from Kim’s example.  Examine my own pattern and, like a bad tooth, extract it before the rot seeps too deeply into the root.  Nothing wrong with artists and thinkers or men with tattoos, as long as they’re doing something purposeful with themselves.  As long as they’ve dug themselves out from the emotional holes everyone falls into now and then.  Walking along the edges and margins certainly makes life a more interesting journey.  Though, how far are you going to get with a cripple as a guide? 

So in 2010, I’m joining Kim in resolving to no longer date bad boys and meanies and men who have lint for brains.  I will no longer become enchanted by a guy with a Texas-sized ego or the relating skills of a turnip.  Emotional dysfunction may be thrilling.  But the ride rarely ends without somebody barfing.  

Here’s to a happier, healthier 2010!

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Couples therapyRecently, I met up with a couple old friends, a married woman and a single gal enjoying the fruits of a new romance.  I told them about all my turbulent relationships, joking about the slackers and bad boys, the commitment-phobes and jerky alpha-males who’d come into my life since we’d last seen each other.

“Oh, I’ve been there loads of times,” my married friend said after I described my most recent run-in with a sexy, relationship-shy stoner.

She’d been there loads of times?  Shocking.

Married women, especially once they’re moms, seem to me so organized and fulfilled, it’s hard to imagine any of these poised individuals knocking around with losers.  But once I thought about it, I remembered all the other married women I know who’ve admitted to the same sordid pasts.

My friend Sonya’s husband is a successful TV producer with a taste for fine wine, classical music, and most interestingly, fidelity.  But before she met him, Sonya was chasing after an egomaniacal actor who was two-timing her with a co-worker.  My friend Jane married a well-to-do marketing exec who’s the most loving, mild-mannered husband in human history.  Before him, she dated a series of flakes, most notably, a lunatic with an addiction to crystal meth.

The other intriguing comment from my married friend was in response to my single pal’s confession that she thought her new flame was “super nice,” but her “heart didn’t skip a beat” when he walked into a room.

“Never mind that,” my married friend said.  “The man you feel passionate about is not the one you should be with.”

So the good news is single women who constantly meet up with commitment-phobes and jerks can rest assured they’re not aberrations on the dating landscape.  Apparently, it’s normal to meet a bunch of meatballs before you find the good man you’ll call your own.

The other side of the story is how so many of my wifely friends admit these meatballs made their hearts go gaga and their loins lava hot.  On occasion, some of them even miss the beloved jerks who made them so loony, reminiscing about the roller coaster ride that added kick to life, the emotional depths they found themselves swimming through, and of course, the fantastic sex.  But these wives also seem glad to have been saved by their husbands.

Since the end of my marriage, probably ninety-five percent of the men I’ve dated fueled my engine, but were certainly not stars on which to hitch my wagon.  The “nice guys” who’ve entered my world always become friends while the not so nice become much more.  Maybe it’s because I’m a writer or because I bore easily and dig emotional extremes.  I’ve always preferred the roller coaster to the merry-go-round.

Of course, passion fades over time.  Unfortunately, even the most constant love can, too.  Both scenarios leave one numb.  So I’m wondering about this passion thing.  What is it anyway?

A skim through the dictionary will tell you passion is all about lust.  It also describes the most amorous love, the deepest hate and every overpowering emotion in between.  But the word comes from the story of Jesus, referring to the pain the man endured before he was nailed to the cross.

Thus, passion is really about suffering.  And, well, I’m tired of suffering in relationships and tired of deprivation.  You get to a point where the inner turmoil of loving a maniac loses its romantic sparkle and you want something that sticks.

Still, I am who I am, and I want to be as hot and bothered by a man, as I am comforted and contained.

Rather than finding someone who stirs my passion, maybe the point should be to find someone who has his own passion, so our two fires can fuse together and spark a volcano.  Rather than connecting myself to someone who lets me know through suffering how deeply I can love, the goal should be to find a person who doesn’t consider sharing and intimacy a death sentence.

A man can be a maverick without being a loser, and his intensity can be unwavering instead of chaotic.  He can be hot-blooded and also able to commit himself, self-assured without forgetting to be kind.  The challenge for a woman is to be emotionally ready for such a unique individual.

And be lucky enough to find him.

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