Why Are We Still Obsessed With Loving The Bad Boy?

Jesse Herzog
Jesse Herzog

I’m genuinely asking, am I supposed to have a thing for bad boys?

I might not be the target audience for succumbing to the bad boy appeal considering I’m basically a Grandmother in 20-something clothing who refused to drink until officially turning 21. OH YEAH, you bet I’m fun at parties. Regular goddamn wild child.

But still, even if I’m not actually the one throwing my panties at the asshole on stage, it’s still a question I’ve found myself wondering. When you watch your friends and peers fall into the same heartbreaking cycle, it becomes a nagging thing in the back of your mind. It’s incredibly difficult to watch friends swoon for the dudes everyone knew weren’t going to call, the ones who offered to smoke you out (and yes, probably eat you out, too), the boys who puffed out their chests and called themselves men, but we all know what they are. Just little, little boys.

You reach a point of wanting to shake people you love by the shoulders and shout, “Look! Look at how unattractive this person is on the inside? Why do you want that?”

Listen, I’m no stranger to developing toxic relationships with misery. You can read my melodramatic lamenting almost anywhere you look on this website. But mine usually resulted from some grossly average turn out. When my romantic developments fell apart, it wasn’t because I was involved with a shitty person, and that shitty things beget more shitty things. Instead, it was something totally benign — timing, inability to communicate, or a decision that we tried and it was time to move on.

But it wasn’t ever because I was in love with someone who treated me terribly. Because that’s not a thing I know how to love, or how to lust for.

Though it’s pretty reductive to simplify things to just good or bad, it still baffled me. Why go for the person with the “He Makes People Feel Like Shit” reputation? Is it a self-loathing thing? I just can’t wrap my head around it. Life is hard enough. Finding someone to complicate it even more seems downright masochistic.

So again, I’m sincerely wondering, what am I missing?

Do these forbidden fruit fellas provide mind-blowing orgasms or something? Should I get all tingly below when a dude walks into the bar with his distressed leather jacket and pack of Camels tucked into his jean pocket?

Also, why do I think bad boys look like 1950s Greasers? Like a bunch G-Eazy clones are about to all collectively get off their motorcycles in unison and begin spitting game at the first short skirt they see.

Yeah, okay. Maybe I don’t even know what constitutes a bad boy since I seem stuck imagining James Dean a la Rebel Without A Cause.

I asked one of my close friends (who readily admits she has terrible taste in men) what it is about the bad boy that is so alluring. And I think what she said speaks to an interesting part of the human condition.

“We want things we know are bad for us. It’s why we smoke, or drink too much. It feels good to be bad.”

I thought back on some of my damaging habits — though they aren’t involving broody men, they aren’t great either. Why is it that we insist on making things harder for us?

Do we feel like, for whatever reason, we deserve a little punishment?

I think being happy can be scary to people. I find it scary! There’s something fantastical about it that freaks me out. It’s akin to stumbling upon a unicorn while hiking. You’re kind of like, “Okay, so, that’s fucking beautiful but??? Not real????” We don’t know what to do when we see it. Do we embrace the beauty of such a thing? Or do we let it go, pretend it was never even here to begin with?

I used to think my type somehow meant I wasn’t as into self-sabotaging. Sure, I love the guys who don’t care about playing it cool. The ones who are going to text you as soon as they get your number, and be goofy and unashamed of how much they like me. Yes, I’m always going to choose the Seth Cohen over the Tim Riggins.

But I still want things that aren’t always good for me. Maybe we all fall for a little bit of bad, eventually. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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