When you get older, you realize how sad and embarrassing it is, when your friends had to ask you if your boyfriend at the time had a car and a job because they knew you were dating people without one or the other, or without both. But let me tell you, by going through my bad boy phase I mean that I took it to the extreme: Not only did I date liars, cheaters and losers, but also gang members, alcoholics, criminals – and most of the time, one man combined several of these attributes.
My bad boy phase started after coming to the US (I was born and raised in a German small town until I was 19). I had always been a huge fan of Hip Hop and Rap and was fascinated by parts of the culture that came along with it, such as drugs, gangs, and guns. Coming from a sheltered village in Germany, the crime and violence of big American cities intrigued me because I had never experienced or known anything like it. My curious and adventurous personality only enforced this interest.
My first US boyfriend grew up in Watts and had stories to tell, but apparently, wasn’t bad enough for me. I got bored quickly. From then on, I sought out guys who looked as if they had been through more than him, had several visible tattoos and were dressed a certain way. Two guys particularly stood out: My first love Mike*, and a guy I dated in between our several breakups, let’s call him Phil*.
Mike had grown up in Compton, was gang affiliated, had been to jail/camp for the first time when he was 15 and ever since in and out, had neither job nor car, robbed people and houses, lied to me (sometimes to protect me) and cheated on me several times, but he made me laugh, feel safe, and despite everything he did, loved me like no one had ever loved me before.
Phil was older, “about to get separated from his wife,” an alcoholic, most of the time car — and jobless, had been in and out of jail (he told me it was for dealing with drugs) and constantly begged for my money. He pretended to love me, but all he has ever told me had been a lie. He was simply an evil person.
What drew me to both of them besides the temptations of the bad, exciting and dangerous was my desire to help them. I wanted to be the one to change their ways, and help them to a “better” (in my eyes) life. I wanted to get Mike away from gangs and violence and Phil from alcohol. Of course I did not succeed.
My first turning point came when I discovered that Phil had had other women the whole time he pretended to be with me. When I caught him because one of them answered his phone, our relationship was over for me. The woman and I spent four hours talking to each other. She told me things I had never known before: Phil had not been in jail for dealing with drugs, but for shooting his pregnant wife in her leg. That’s when I realized that I had been with someone so dangerous that he was probably capable of taking my life. It made me come to my senses and I never talked to him again.
However, my bad boy phase was not over yet because I went back to Mike. He ended up being in and out of jail for burglaries. I visited him there and went to court several times. The things I saw there and how it affected the criminals’ loved ones made me realize that I do not want to end up as a “prisoner’s wifey”. Furthermore, I did not want to get pulled into any criminal activities or know more than I should and endanger my life. Being a bystander was excitement enough for me; I did not want to experience firsthand what Mike was going through.
I do not regret my bad boy phase because it made me the strong woman I am today, but I definitely would never go back to it. Now that I am getting older and thinking about a future with fulfilled marriage and kids, I know that a bad boy could never give me all of it.
Now to the things I have learned:
1. Actions speak louder than words: If people know what you want to hear, they will say it often enough until you believe them. But as much as they tell you they love you, i.e., solely their actions will determine if they really do.
2. Do not be too quick to trust: People will manipulate you and if they know you would do anything for them, they will get whatever they want from you. It takes time to build trust and, again, no matter what someone says, do not be too quick to give your trust away easily.
3. Do not lend anyone that you do not completely trust any money because you will never see it again: I have “lent” several hundred dollars to both Mike and Phil and, of course, never seen more than a $20 bill from them. No boyfriend of a few months should ask his girlfriend for money. I am making my own, why can’t you? A real, independent man is too proud to ask his girl for money.
4. You cannot change people unless they want to change themselves: People can be at the very bottom of their lives and say they want to change, or even change for you, but as long as they do not want it 100% themselves, they will never change.
5. Excitement and adrenaline are great, but they wear off after a while. Don’t build your relationship foundation on them.
6. Street-smart and book-smart do not always work out together: If each one of the other is one of them, it will be hard to have deep, meaningful conversations about the topics you are passionate about. At some point, you will not be able to understand each other(‘s actions).
7. The jealousy of one partner believing that the other is better than him/her or more fortunate will make a relationship difficult.
8. You become a stronger, wiser person through every setback and problem you go through.
9. When you are not happy/fulfilled in a relationship, you cannot make your partner happy. That is why you should put yourself first.
10. There is a lot more to my favorite genre of music that the glorification of violence, “bitches” and money, and it is unfortunate that it is not as much promoted as the commercial BS on the radio. Artists such as KRS-One, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, J. Cole, etc. make meaningful music which educates and inspires.
At last, I want to get sentimental and thank my friends, who never judged me by the men I was with, but for the person I am.