Sarah Byrd wrote a book called “The Boyfriend School.” It made me howl with laughter. If you can find it, I hope you enjoy it half as much as I did. It had a riff on why we love bad boys.
a few weeks ago that were wonderful. One man was described as Looks Good On Paper. The other was Motorcycle Man with no Checking Account.
You’d always wait by the phone for Motorcycle Man. He’s the alluring Bad Boy.
I married an Eagle Scout, proving I have some brain function. My longest relationship before him was a Bad Boy. He’s been on my mind a good deal lately. I’m at the age when I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with guilt and regrets.
Sometimes being young is not enough of an excuse. From now on this gets really serious, so bail while you have the chance. Seriously, run away. I have no other place to put this.
People who read this journal will instantly understand the attraction of a very blond, blue eyed, muscular, slim badass.
We went to the same college. He played guitar in local bands. He was three years older than my 18-year-old self, which seemed a huge difference back then. He was a slacker who read a lot and maintained a dangerous alluring aloofness. He had a great sense of humor. He was really, really pretty.
I remember the first time I noticed him, Friday night in a college bar. He was standing in a crowd of other really pretty men. They were the center of attention. I had just transferred in, a 2nd semester sophomore, just off a bad romance.
“Who’s the candy?” I asked a girlfriend, pointing at him.
“Kirk,” my friend told me. He’s in high demand.”
He had noticed me and called across the bar “It’s rude to point.”
“I’ll never do it again,” I assured him and made tracks for the dance floor.
I stayed on the dance floor all night, but I noticed what he was doing. Just like every other girl in the room. He had beautiful arms. I had dated eye candy before, but he really - I don’t know. I could tell where he was in the room without looking.
The next night, I was at a party and ran into him. I was getting my coat, ready to leave.
“Where are you going?” he asked, “It’s early, and we’re going to jam.”
“I don’t really know anybody, and the girl I came with left with some random guy.”
“Come play darts. You didn’t wear that shirt to leave early.”
So I did. I can make anyone laugh, and after being humiliated at darts I stomped all over him in backgammon. We had fun. Turned out we liked some of the same authors.
Then it was guitar time with the friends. As soon as he got involved with the music I slipped out and headed home. I was sound asleep when a housemate woke me up. Telephone.
“Where did you go”? He was a little drunk, and indignant.
I don’t really remember the rest of that conversation, but I am never at my friendliest when I’m woken up at 4am.
I ran into him on campus. He was mildly pissy to me so I said “Did you really think I was going home with you after darts?”
“Well,” he told me, “the guitar thing usually works at parties.”
“Think of it as a narrow escape. But thanks for being so nice Saturday.”
He was a little surprised by my bluntness. “I had fun.”
“Me too. You’re ok for eye candy.” It made him laugh again.
I saw him around the rest of that semester. I enjoyed a brief status as a new hot thing on campus (it was a really small school) and dated a nice guy fairly steady. Classes fascinated me. I went out dancing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Bad romance was totally forgotten.
That summer, I saw him in a club in DC. “You’re looking good,” he told me. “You going back in August?”
“Yep – two more years of dancing and then I graduate. What about you?”
“I’m going to try it another year. See you there.”
He was everywhere on campus. We went for milkshakes one day, coffee the next. I ran into him at parties and bars. We were comfortable talking to each other.
“Who’s the mark tonight? I'd ask him.
“Got my eye on something different”, he say..
One evening he stopped by and said, “Want to come see a band?” I was my usual self, drinking club soda and dancing. He played pool and drank beer. When the bar closed he walked me home.
“Are you going to let me take advantage of you? I’ve been on my best behavior for a while.” We were at the front door of my house.
I got flippant.” I’m taking advantage of you. You’ll be begging for mercy. Then I’ll throw you out and you’ll just wish I’d give you one more chance.”
He backed me against the door and kissed me. That was that. I was amazed by how boyfriend he was, the wild man who had all the notches on his belt. I teased him about slowing down. “I’ve developed a thing for tall girls with dark curly hair,” he told me. “Live with it.”
That year and the following summer were bliss. He decided not to come back to school. He’d come to visit some weekends. After six months of long distance love, we had a big fight. Things got bad.
I fooled around with other guys. Finally, one of my flings got back to him and we had a messy breakup. By the time I graduated, he had left DC for Denver. I moved into a group house, got a job and started my post college life. The Christmas after I graduated he came back to town and we had a messy reunion.
It lasted another few years. I had a progression of ever more serious jobs. I didn’t want to go out as much. He partied a lot. The thing about bad boys is that they are often really damaged. He had serious family issues, too much money for his own good and a girlfriend he loved more than he was loved in return. I didn’t understand the signs of alcoholism. All I saw was a boyfriend that was incapable of settling down to adult life. He had become an embarrassment.
When you break someone’s heart, you shouldn’t be ambivalent. I hurt him much more because I thought things could get better if only. Our last fight was horrible. He proposed marriage at 7am with a beer in his hand. He had been out all night partying. I had a big day ahead at work.
“No more,” I told him. “It’s over” “I feel like I’m losing a limb,” he said. The look on his face when he left has haunted me ever since.
Five years later I married Mr. Wonderful. Two months after the wedding, Bad Boy’s best friend (also a dear friend of mine) died. We went to the funeral together. We talked. We got to a place that didn’t hurt. He knew I was happy in my marriage. I knew I had made the right decision. We kept in touch by sending each other birthday cards or the occasional odd letter, back in the days of snail mail.
The last time I saw him; I took my daughter, then three, and met him at his brother’s house for an afternoon. He let her paint his fingernails and listened to her chatter. We were both on a Robert Parker reading kick. He was happy with a steady girlfriend who drank as much as he did. I was happy with my life and Mr. Wonderful the Eagle Scout.
I knew, at the end of that afternoon, putting my daughter into her car seat. “I won’t see you again, will I?” “Nah, he said, “its too hard on me, thinking about what might have been if I’d had my shit together.”
A few summers ago, I got the call. Dead of a heart attack. He never quit drinking or smoking and ignored all medical advice.
He would have been 54 today. I hope he is at peace, wherever he is now. I wish I had been kinder to him.