Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Boy, Bad Boy... Whatcha Gonna Do...
(Part 2 of 3?)

No bitter relationship debate blazes hotter than the discussion of a woman's attraction to Bad Boys. In fact, I witnessed quite a few nerds with high-water pants and pocket protectors explode into a messy heap trying to contain their angst about women falling for the stereotypical Bad Boys. So here's Part 2 of my yet-to-be-numbered series on Bad Boys. [Catch-up with Part 1 if you need to]...

Now I am quick to dismiss the culture of "every problem/attitude/behavior deserves a psychological name and new drug treatment." I frowned at that idea once energetic children received labels and got medicated into a stupor. I jumped ship completely when "Road Rage" received it's own designation... and yes... even it's own drug. I don't even want to talk about my reaction to the warnings on depression drugs, which include "depression" and "suicidal tendencies." Give me a friggin break.

In fact, I go so far as to suspect that most labels slapped on folks come from two major sources: Xenophobia (fear of others who aren't "like us"), which I believe leads to believing everything different must be bad, and Laziness (such as a parent who would rather use drugs than proper diet or discipline to handle a child's behavior). If I go off on that tangent, y'all will be here all day. Moving on...

But to do this series justice, I took a detour into the world of psychology to see what explanations exist for Bad Boys and the women who love them. Without injecting more of my personal opinion, yet, I offer you a few findings:

The features people talk about when describing a bad boy are closely related to those of Antisocial Personality Disorder, a specific classification of personality pathology found in approximately 3% of adult males and 1% of adult females.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition Text Revision, individuals with this type of personality pathology fail to conform to societal norms, are often unlawful and sometimes violate the rights of others. They tend to be deceitful or manipulative, especially if they believe their tactics will result in personal gain. In addition, they display impulsivity, irritability, aggressiveness, disregard for safety, continuous irresponsibility and lack of remorse. Although the bad boy or girl in your life might not meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder, the mere presence of certain features may lead to dysfunction in their school, work and private lives.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is difficult to treat and tends to be chronic, but there are some options. The first step involves helping the individual realize that they have a problem and may benefit from treatment. If they are willing to seek professional consultation, a primary care provider or mental health practitioner can assess for a diagnosis, contributing issues and make appropriate referrals for treatment. Often, treatment for antisocial features entails recommendations for one or more of the following: individual therapy - particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, psychoeducation and/or medications. [Source: April 14, 2009, Psychology Today, "A Prince Charming Your Bad Boy Is Not"]

(Okay, so how did I know I would find some type of disorder, counseling, and/or drug treatment when researching Bad Boys? ...But I digress)

Nando Pelusi Ph.D. drops his own opinion on the women who seek Bad Boys. He seems to believe that long-term vs. short-term relationship values and the "fantasies" women read about in romance novels have women... well... twisted... into wanting a Bad Boy to reform into a great mate:

A love of boldness helps women find strong males as mates. Secretly they harbor the fantasy of turning their genetically gifted cads into loving dads who stick around long-term, long enough to help raise the kids. Think Warren Beatty and Keith Richards; fairy tales sometimes come true.

But wait; don't all women want a kind, understanding guy? Of course; it's just that nice isn't a high-caliber turn-on in the short term, unlike bravado. Says Kruger, "Women want their emotions activated." And audacity grabs attention, even if only in the service of marshaling good genes.

A clue to female psychology emerges in a study examining the cheesy best sellers that set millions of women on a Harlequin high. The male protagonists are invariably studs on steeds who morph into devoted dads by novel's end. That is, the women get the best of both worlds.

When women want it all—great genes, and a reliable breadwinner—the odds of finding satisfaction grow slim. It's human nature to want it all; what man doesn't want a gorgeous young woman who is equally devoted to having sex and washing his car? But it's a slightly elusive proposition, because in reality we have forced choices. [Source: Psychology Today Magazine, Jan/Feb 2009, "Neanderthink: The Appeal of the Bad Boy"]

(I can't argue with the underlying implication that women can get fixated on changing their man into who they think he should be. But I don't believe the phenomenon is reserved for converting Bad Boys to Good Boys...)

Rhonda Oliver [Dallas Relationship Psychology Examiner] believes the explanation lies simply in the "roller coaster" and unpredictable nature of Bad Boys:

Bad Boys exude an arrogant, macho-istic, “gangsta” dominance of untamed masculinity (M. Fitzgerald, askmen,com) , which serves as a type of intoxicating attraction to women who like men who live on the edge. Some sport tattoos, the more tattoos the better. If muscles accompany those tattoos, watch out! The psychology of it all is the challenge of "pursuit and conquer". Women who are attracted to the "bad boy" persona tend to be extreme risk takers or seem to dangerously live on the edge. Consultant Psychologist, Petruska Clarkson posits that women have a sexual attraction to bad boys (B. Vaszily, 2006). The movies have, for decades depicted the "Tarzan" image of rescue and protection. Women tend to associate a type of "sexy ruggedness" with the bad boy image.

The thrill of unprecedented, uncertainty is an added attraction to the adventure of relating to a bad boy. The unpredictableness is much like a roller coaster ride's thrill. Remember when you embarked on a roller coaster for the first time? Lack of not knowing what to expect adds to the excitement. Women are "fixers" by nature. The challenge of taming a "bad boy's" roar to a big cat's purr will validate the bad boy's love for the attracted woman. Relationship with a real man, who seemingly breaks all the love rules or makes them appear more exciting, will attract women who are looking for adventure. Living life on the edge is attractive for some….especially the rescue part. There is a thin line between danger and passion. Instinctively, women desire to be pursued by a strong, sexy man of their fantasies and dreams. [source]

(I won't bother with the depth of the cheap stereotype that Bad Boys and tattoos go hand-in-hand. Lord how I hate that...)

One doctor, Donald M. Black, wrote an entire book dedicated to Bad Boys and Antisocial Personality Disorder. According to one editorial review of the book:

"...ample new evidence from genetics and neuroscience supports a biological cause for antisocial personality disorder (ASP), lending truth to the adage "some people are simply born bad." ASP is intimately connected to many of society's ills, including crime, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and even rape and murder. For men with severe ASP, life becomes an opportunity to break all social and moral rules without remorse. But there are ways of detecting warning signs in troubled children, and there are procedures, various combinations of medication, psychotherapy, and social institutional interventions, to prevent and treat ASP." [source]

(Damn. The definition of Bad Boy goes from tattoos to merciless criminal...)

Anyway, I hope to end the series with my personal interjections on the unfortunate stereotypes that pollute the debate, on my specific theories on why certain women seek Bad Boys, and very personal experiences with the Bad Boys I've encountered.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bad Boy, Bad Boy... Whatcha Gonna Do...
(Part 1 of 3?)

Whatcha gonna do when we come for you...

No bitter relationship debate blazes hotter than the discussion of a woman's attraction to Bad Boys. In fact, I witnessed quite a few nerds with high-water pants and pocket protectors explode into a messy heap trying to contain their angst about women falling for the stereotypical Bad Boys.

The blogosphere is loaded with outbreaks of heated exchange about "the good guys finishing last" and I call bullshit on most of it. Far too many of these outbursts feature psycho-babble about women with low self-esteem who cling to Bad Boys while "settling for less" - and worse - enduring all kinds of abuse. Lemme introduce a few points that I hope to break-down later:

The Hypocrisy of "Bad Girlism"
Most of the "good guys" complaining about empty black books perpetrate the same level of discrimination against "good girls." They want "Perfect 10" beautiful women who know how to have a good time. Why not take a second glance at intelligent Plain Janes? In other words, the good boys who complain about dateless nights are ignoring many of the good girls available on Friday nights. Hypocrite much?

Values and Offerings
Without a doubt, we typically chose dates and mates based on current desires and values. My ex-husband looked great on paper. I valued that. I wanted a family man with a great job. I wasn't overly concerned about head-over-heels love or great sex. I didn't think the first was necessary and I had already had tons of the other.

Years after the fiasco marriage ended, I realized I wanted to be madly in love and have great sex. That doesn't mean I dropped the other values, but I adjusted my scale. Money can never compensate for romance and intimacy (unless you're Donald Trump), so my sweetheart... well... let's just say he's looking for work right now but the rest is TIGHT.

Good and Bad Defined
While sniffing around the internet for more blog dialogue about "Good and Bad Boys," I came across Ndel's definition of each:

Good Boys: He’s nice. He has a good job. He brings you flowers. He is faithful. He is honest. Okay, three out of five ain’t bad. Momma said he would be a nice boy, from a good family. Hopefully, a doctor, but not a lawyer. A banker, but not a broker. In insurance, but not in assurance. A police officer, but not a security guard.

Bad Boys: He’s dangerous. He’s fast. He runs with the wrong crowd. He’ll get you in the wrong way. He won’t be faithful. He’ll leave you, or even worse, he’ll leave you with no money. And a vaginally disfiguring disease.

While many definitions seem to focus on looks (nerd vs. hottie), money (doctor vs. janitor), or chivalry (opening doors vs. grabbing crotch), Ndel gets my standing ovation by nailing the heart of the matter:

But let’s expand the definition of Bad Boy. It really includes men with high levels of toxicity of all types – emotional and physical.

And to me, that's the point. So many of these Bad Boy debates are polluted with stereotypes of the hopeless nerd vs. the leather-clad bike rider, and too many participants are arguing from specific bad experiences with a certain "type."

I've dealt with toxic men in all forms... from Bad Boys to those with the appearance of a textbook gentleman. I have also had wonderful experiences with others, including a Bad Boy during my youth who I drove to his probation check-ins (and ultimately returned to jail years after we parted).

So in the next part, I hope to deal with the stereotype and get back to examining "toxicity" as the better foundation for determining what's "Bad" for relationship health.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How childhood advice killed many adult relationships

This blog post came to me as I drove to work today. Seriously. (Damn I watch too much Grey's Anatomy, but I digress.)

Anyway, I thought of the four major bits of advice that my mother offered about marriage/relationships:

1. Men want a lady in public and a freak in the bedroom.

2. Keep your hygiene tight.

3. Don't be dependent on anybody. Be an independent woman with your own stuff so you can take care of yourself.

4. Men are intimidated by smart women. You'll probably need an older man to appreciate and keep pace with you.

Some of that information is useful, or at least backed by a reasonable principle. But do you see what's missing?

Don't see it? Lemme take you to a conversation I overhead in the ladies room between a young teen and an older bitter hag woman:

Honey... Please. Forget about the fantasy. Find yourself a rich older man and get yourself some money. My husband is a pain in the ass.

Do you see what's missing from this advice?

Just in case your brain is functioning at the same level as the nearest coma patient, here's one more try. This came from a slightly older woman as I lamented during the lowest point of my failed marriage:

Marriage isn't great. You're just supposed to be content, not necessarily elated. You raise the kids and have a partner.

What's desperately missing from the stories we pass down is what a strong partnership can and should be. Relationship advice from bitter adults is loaded with warnings... and flags... and hurt... and sirens... and selfishness. How in the fucking world do we hope our kids find love when we made marriage seem like a black hole of despair? How do we skip over the lessons about the giving nature of love right to the "get yours or get out?" How do we roll our eyes at romance and wonder why girls and boys invent words like "da hookup?"

This is where I admit that I am a lucky sonofabitch. My man and I somehow managed to come out of such mine-fields with deep faith in the power of love. We didn't buy the hype that marriage is a booby-trap and life-long love can't exist. We still fight the demons that cling to our clothes as we sprint away from the lies and experiences that almost broke us. Shit, sometimes I give him the side-eye as a potential cheater only because his anatomy features a twig and man-berries (or because I'm overcome by demonic PMS). That's the baggage, ladies and gentleman, that we need to spare dumping on the next girl or boy who just might grow-up to make a great spouse if we let 'em.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slow Your Roll, Wild One

So I walked into this blog with my guns blazing. If you happened to mosey into the joint while enjoying the scenery and eating an ice cream cone, you probably felt like you stumbled into into a bank robbery. Not the quiet ones of today with concealed weapons and sissy notes to the teller. I mean the old time heists complete with horses, gun battles, chases, and those sexy spurs.

You see, HisSide isn't computer savvy, but he surprised me several months ago with a fantastic suggestion: "Let's start a blog about our relationship and tell folks all the stuff that others won't admit to."

This was shocking pillow talk coming from a man who thinks the internet is evil. (Seriously. He does.) I was drooling over the idea. I often complain about the useless nature of the sugar-coated love stories that elders tell younguns to help promote relationship bliss.

"What? You never had a single fight your entire relationship, grandma? That is awesome. You really love each other."

I dislike such nonsense. I once lost an eye when it dislodged from the socket during an eye-rolling episode in reaction to a story much like that one. (I'm better now. And I'm also kidding.) Never fighting means you were never engaged with enough passion to bother. I bet grandpa argued more with the mistress than grandma. (Damn. Did I say that?)

So I eventually managed to actually start the damned blog, and my timing was fantastic. As you can see from the archive, me and HisSide were fighting. Not once, but in a chronic downward spiral. Now that I've been here for a minute and my guns aren't blazing, I must slow down long enough to say: The man with which I share this blog is my best friend, an endless source of laughter, a die-hard protector, and one of the greatest joys of my day. He has flaws that make me think twice. And some of those flaws even robbed numerous days of peaceful existence.

But guess what? My shit stinks too. Some of that criticizing I do has a lot to do with my human flaws qualities such as impatience and selfishness. (Yeah, I admitted it. Can you?) While improved communication skills (and such) can be learned by two dedicated people, you can't "learn" friendship, love, compatibility, commitment, or the blessedly-balanced sexual and non-sexual "chemistry" that leaves two people stuck like glue inside and outside of the bedroom.

See you back here next time.

Friday, April 3, 2009

HerSide History: Part 0 - Introduction
('Cause Big Mark made me do it).

I love love love reading the comments at this blog, and Big Mark's recent comments reminded me of something important: Y'all don't have any historical context for the rantings on this blog. That's probably because I finally got this thing rolling while HisSide and I were in the middle of some energetic conflicts. I skipped right over the "how we met" and "why I'm in love with him" -- straight to the "why I wanna stab him right now."

So in the spirit of fairness, I will run a series called "HerSide History." Those posts will feature something about our past, starting from how we met, and run right up to where we are today. That's only fair since our relationship isn't just a series of fights and flaws taped together like poorly executed gift wrapping. We may even sprinkle in our own personal histories to thicken the plot. Past relationships, family histories, and all that jazz certainly play some kinda tiny role in how we relate.

HisSide will eventually mosey into the room, and give his own history lessons along with other things. Last night he made another pledge to finally say something. It's like he wants to create an air of suspense, so when he finally walks into the room, we'll all scream and grab at his clothes like he's a rockstar.

::rolling eyes::

I just know if he doesn't speak soon, I'm gonna tell everybody what happened to his jeans a year ago when he yelled for me to stop the washing machine... because he had a clothes washing emergency [just kidding honey... kinda...]