Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why We Like Bad Guys

Why do we laud people who misbehave?  Why are women in particular, attracted to bad boys?

In response to a recent posting, I received two responses.  The first was a classic example of "extremism".  The reader opines that maybe my sister married for love and not for designer handbags and luxury SUVs.   You see how this plays out - there are only two extremes in life - abject poverty or obscene wealth.  And I get a lot of responses like that - baiting responses no doubt from our friends in Russia.  "Why bother trying to save money?" one person writes, "You'll never become a billionaire that way!"   You see again how this works - it's billionaire or nothing.   And people who think that way end up with nothing, always.

But it is possible to form a loving relationship with someone who isn't abusive or crazy.   And such relationships tend to be more stable, happier and more productive.  You may think you are in love with your abuser, but in reality, you might just be in love with your own low-self-esteem.   Or you may be in love with someone who looks attractive, but has a lot of ugliness inside.  And oddly enough, billionaires (or billionaire wanna-bes) usually end up falling into that trap - marrying the "trophy wife" who is a hottie, but otherwise is a total stranger - little more than a possession in life, much like the Lamborghini parked in their garage.

It is possible to find some sort of middle ground here - to love someone who isn't crazy, isn't abusive, isn't on drugs - and has a regular job and lives up to their responsibilities in life.   Sadly, our society pushes this idea that there is "one true love" out there destined just for you, and you have to find that one person in a nation of 310 million and a planet of billions - and if you don't, well, then you end up a bachelor or worse - a "spinster".    But as our nation's divorce rate attests, there is no such thing as one predestined true love.  So you can afford to walk away from abusive relationships - there will be another true love out there somewhere - one with a job and without a drug habit.

Another reader writes (and again, perhaps I am being trolled) that his 17-year-old daughter is "dating" a 35-year-old man with a drinking problem and a meth habit.   Hilarity ensues.   Fortunately for him, the "boyfriend" is now in jail - for the time being.   It will not bode well for things down the road.

But sometimes, people figure these things out.  A young friend of mine ran away from home at 14 and hung out with odious people (and men) and sold herself for money and drugs.  She later ended up busted for stealing credit cards.   It is hard to say why someone from a middle-class background who has every opportunity in the world (college, etc.) would end up doing this - again, the low-self-esteem engine is at work.   But she pulled out of that nosedive and today is a bourgeoisie business owner.

And I nearly fell into the same trap - letting low-self-esteem dictate that I was entitled to little in life, and then setting my sights low.   The pressure of trying to succeed seemed too much, and it was easier to just get drunk and high and settle for a dead-end job and a steady paycheck.   And perhaps that same low-self-esteem is what attracted me to crazy people - feeling that that was all I was entitled to, or thinking - and young people do this a lot - that someone I was enamored with was "true love" and that true love was worth putting up with a mountain of horseshit.

I also pulled out of that nosedive.  But it is hard, I think, to overcome this low-self-esteem thing, without going to the other extreme of narcissism.  We all have fears of inadequacy, in one form or another - this is part of the normal human condition.  When they become the front-and-center part of your life, well, it can interfere with living.

But why are men and women attracted to "bad boys" anyway?   It isn't just romantic liaisons, either.  Our television shows usually have bad people as heroes.  We all rooted for Tony Soprano, as he broke hearts and kneecaps, one at a time.   We root for "Dexter" who was actually a serial killer.   What is up with that?   The list goes on and on - a guy who sells methamphetamine has his own television show.

Even on the cop shows, where the perps are bad and the cops are good, the good cops are the ones who break all the rules and "get things done."   Danny Reagan no longer slams the heads of "perps" into the table as he did in the early seasons, but he plays the part of the "bad boy" pretty well.   In the later seasons, they tried to make him "responsible Dad" and I think the ratings plummeted.

There is something to the allure of the outlaw.  Everyone wants to be that guy - or wants him.  Perhaps it is part of our Culture of Belligerence at work, I don't know.  All I know is, people have had this attraction to violence and malfeasance for an awful long time.  Today, we celebrate this history of violence as if it were a fun game.   Pirates are fun, as are Vikings - unless of course, you were some schmuck living in a coastal village, trying to eke out a living fishing and farming.  There was no joy when Pirates or Vikings came ashore.  Today, this is the theme of an amusement park ride at Disney - as well as a film franchise.

It even is present in politics.   Part of the appeal, I think, of Donald Trump to his supporters is that he is a "bad guy" in sort of the professional wrestling sense.  He trash talks - or trash-tweets - and says outrageous things, and the more outrageous he is, the more they love him.  The fact that the New York Times or Washington Post are aghast at what he says just makes it all the better.  It is like bringing home your new biker boyfriend - the fact that Dad freaks out just makes it all that much sweeter.  Now the daughter has power!

And maybe that is what it is, power-shifting.  I sort of hinted at this before - people will destroy their own lives, just to "get even" with parents, relatives, or even spouses.  In my sister's case, she told me in all seriousness that she would have divorced her husband ages ago, but she didn't want my Dad to be proven right.  She stayed in an abusive relationship for decades, to get even with Dad.  People will drive their car off a cliff - sometimes literally - to "prove a point."   The point being.... I forget.  But they made their point!

So self-destruction at first appears to make no sense, until you put it in terms of the power-struggle of relationships.   Getting a divorce is seen by some as "quitting" or "losing" and they don't want to be embarrassed in front of their friends or family.  It is, in a way, like old people here on the island. Many want to move to a smaller home or assisted living, but know that their friends in the Parcheesi club will tut-tut that "Edna gave up!" if she does what is right for her.  So they sit around in an empty house until it is too late.

In other cases, it may merely be a way of getting attention - the friend with the perpetual problem.  It also can be a defined role to play and we like roles, as they provide a level of comfort.  And yet in others, simply a matter of low-self-esteem, as well as a feeling of being trapped. Depression is probably the lowest common denominator of them all.

And depression is sure to ensue if you continue to pursue toxic relationships.  You can't "fix" people, as I've found out the hard way.  You can't stage an intervention, get the alcoholic to stop drinking or the drug addict to stop drugging.   And you can't make your spouse go to work and keep a job, if they are inclined to be a sponge.

A recent article on MSN was brutally honest on this last point.  On the eve of her wedding, a woman in a financially abusive relationship, called the whole thing off, and learned valuable life lessons from it.  And the most valuable was, you can fall in love with someone who is supportive and takes care of themselves.  You don't have to "settle" for an abuser as your only true love.

There is a happy medium between being destitute and depressed, and being a billionaire.  It is possible to be happy in this world, believe it or not - particularly in the richest country in the world.  

Funny thing, that.

UPDATE:  Some guy kills his wife and kids and stuffs them in oil drums and acts like he doesn't care.  He is sent to jail forever, and already is getting love-letters from women who feel a "connection" with him.   WHAT THE  FUCK IS UP WITH THAT?  Worse yet, the media feels it needs to fling this story in our face.

We need more Supermax cells.  Toss 'em in, throw away the key.  No mail, no phone calls, no "conjugal visits!"