And now for something completely different:

Generally, the adage is true: good girls like bad boys, but always go home with good guys. But why is the one about good guys always finishing last also true?

A co-worker and I began this discussion while elbow-deep in dishwater, and it intrigued me so deeply that I went home and did some research, both on the Internet and within my own psyche. Some observations I found rang true to me; others didn’t.

But before I delve too deeply into theory, I’m going to explain this from my gut. I realize I am not, by a long shot, anywhere close to a typical American woman (blame my psychologist parents for that), but I am a female, raised with the American gender identity “woman”, with which I identify most of the time. Speaking of gender identity and the huge grey area existing therein, for the purposes of this conversation, I am speaking from a strictly heterosexual viewpoint here. Anyone who has insight into the dozens of other facets of the gender/sex debate in regards to this issue, feel free to speak up.

Keep in mind that these are my personal reflections, both from experience and from observing others. I’ll let you know when we get down to the science.

Bad boys are attractive to good girls because they set off that alarm voice that says “Honey, this is not a good idea.” But of course, what do most of us do when someone tells us not to do a thing? All of us, women and men, have a destructive impulse buried (or not so buried) somewhere in our psychology. The technical term for this is thanatos, but like I said, I’m not concerning myself with technical right now. This destructive impulse can be turned inward or outward depending on an individual’s psychological build. When the thanatos is turned outward, you get murderers, arsonists, rapists, wife-beaters, etc. When it’s turned toward the self, however, you get suicides, self-abuse, depression, learned helplessness, the “glutton-for-punishment type, addiction, and the general impulse to do what is Not Good For You ©. Which includes risking a solid relationship you may have already built with a good man (or woman) for a temporary, meaningless sexual fling with an anonymous douchebag. Add to that the risk of pregnancy and a cornucopia of delightfully gross diseases, and you have yourself a prime example of the thanatos temporarily running your life.

Bad boys are also attractive because they are often, superficially, much more confident and devil-may-care than their goodly counterparts. They know what they want (sex, and lots of it), they know exactly how to get it, and they’re good at getting it (read: good at manipulating women). This combination often gives women the (mistaken) impression that these men have got it down. They know who they are; they are confident in themselves, and because of that they are able to disregard all the “petty little societal rules” that say “this is the way to court a lady.” Remember this point; I’ll be returning to it later.

Now ladies, I don’t know about you, but the sexiest thing a man can ever do in my presence is to completely know himself. If I were single and off my guard, say, with five or so beers in me, a man who gives the appearance of knowing himself could be (and would be) powerfully attractive to me. What’s also attractive to me (and a lot of women) is deviation. Anything different attracts our attention. A man who gives me an origami penguin on our first date is far more likely to win my attention (and affection) than a man who gives me a rose. Not only does the origami bespeak creativity, but it tells me that this man does not play by the book. He says to himself, “She may not like penguins, but what the hell. I’ll try anyway.” The man with the rose would think “She may not like origami or penguins, so I better just give her a flower. I know she’ll like that.” Not only is Man #2 plain wrong, he plays it too safe. Man #2 may be a bucket of charm once I get to know him, but he may not get that far. Man #1 with the origami bird is guaranteed that, even if I don’t like penguins. I’m going to ask him how he knows origami, what his other interests are, and things will follow from there.

Most of the time, women who are taken in by the false confidence of bad boys aren’t stupid. Drunk, maybe, but not stupid. They may know or guess the man in question has been with several (dozen) women before them. They may know exactly what he is and what he wants. And after they give him what he wants, they wake up in the morning and drown in regret, moaning some variation of “What the hell was I thinking?” They may or may not already be in a committed relationship, but that fact is irrelevant. What matters here is that they did it in the first place. But why, exactly, did they do it?

Women, on some deep level, respond to men who have this simple, almost primal desire for sex. That’s why bad boys are so good at getting what they want. To be blunt, isn’t it our genetic imperative to procreate? Isn’t it the primary reason we are here on this earth? These men are doing nothing but fulfilling their genetic imperative to pork as many women as they can possibly pork. When you strip away the rules and mores modern culture has imposed on human interaction, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what these men are doing. So why should women shun their advances? Bad boys are taking advantage of a pattern of sexual behavior that has been around since the first mammals crawled out from a crack in the ground. Males spread their genes among as many females as they can, so their issue, not their neighbor’s, will populate the earth. Females respond to this activation of ancient biological impulses. Having as many sexual encounters as we can is in women’s biology too, but to a different end. And now, thanks to the recent cultural revolution (including the invention and acceptance of contraception), modern women can indulge their genetic imperative without the risk of ruining the encounter (and a chunk of their lives) with the risk of pregnancy.

Since I’m veering into the territory of biology here, I may as well make the theoretical leap and cease speaking solely from my own experience. I’d like to revisit the point I made earlier about “petty societal rules”. Blend that with the point of the previous paragraph and you get my next point: the concepts of “good guy” and “bad boy” are extremely modern constructs. I’d go so far as to say the “bad boy” is a vilification of our ancestors’ natural behavior, and the “good guy” is a feminization of man. Let me clarify.

Males did not begin their evolutionary journey as monogamous, self-sacrificing creatures. As humans developed the capacity for abstract thought, self-awareness, culture and society, rules developed in those societies that changed the roles males and females played. With our transition to non-nomadic agricultural societies, there also arose a focus on monogamous relationships, which went hand-in-hand with the increased focus on possessions. A woman needed a man to be there at all times to manage the farmstead, the possessions, and the children they had created, and a man needed a woman for the same reasons; to produce children (not just for the continuation of the species now; it was to help maintain the farm and to take ownership of it when the father died). Imagine how difficult life would be in an agricultural society if men were constantly wandering from one household to the next, impregnating as many women as they could, and then wandering off, leaving the women to raise their dozens of children alone (and manage the farmstead as well). So, monogamous relationships were a necessary by-product and result of the transition from a nomadic to an agricultural society. But that does not remove the males’ biological imperative to spread their genes as far as possible. Unfortunately, it suppresses it. Anything suppressed for long enough returns to the surface with more force than can contain it. So men continue to pursue their biological impulses, but they can no longer merely approach a woman and take what they want from her. Now there are possessions, cultural boundaries and rules to complicate his quest for sex. So he adapts. He uses possessions to his advantage. He finds a way to circumvent societal rules. He breaks boundaries. He manipulates every obstacle thrown in his way, and come hell or high water, he gets what he wants. Because he is not doing what modern society tells him he should do, his behavior is frowned upon, discouraged, and his character attacked. Instead of praising his adaptability and creativity, society, obsessed with maintaining homogeneity, calls his behavior “anti-social” and marks him as a “bad boy”.

But not all males act as freely on their impulses as some. Bad boys tend to have certain personality traits like impulsiveness, callousness, and narcissism. The combination of these qualities, plus a healthy dose of testosterone, makes a man very likely to be a bad boy. A. Grayson of the ABC News Medical Unit states that, in an article called “Why Nice Guys Finish Last”, bad boys possessing these “dark triad” personality traits hold the same appeal as James Bond, who has a penchant for fast cars, faster women and little empathy for others. Grayson quotes psychological researcher P. Jonason and makes the point that “dark triad traits are useful in pursuing our agendas at any given time. If you like someone and want to meet them and date them, people who have the dark triad traits appear to be more successful at facilitating short-term mating.” And that’s what bad boys are after, right?

Let’s not forget the role of testosterone, as I touched on before. Everybody knows that it’s liquid manliness, but what some may not realize is that the more testosterone a person has, the more likely that person will be to possess dominant personality traits like extroversion and impulsiveness. According to Grayson and the study he conducted, men with higher levels of testosterone were rated as “more outgoing and charming than others.”

I think I’ve pretty much beat that horse dead. The corollary to the bad boy horse is this horse, which is so far still alive: why do nice guys seem to finish last? The answer is simple but unfortunate: because they are set up to.

Good guys do what bad boys don’t: they maintain the homogeneity society so strictly enforces. They adhere to the set of morals and edicts that modern civilization tells them they should. They are the ones good at building a solid foundation (trust, respect, loyalty) for a long-term relationship. They, instead of being impulsive, callous and self-centered, are generous, self-sacrificing and empathic. Sounds great, right? What woman would not want a man who listens to her, understands her viewpoints, trusts her with his whole soul and would not even dream of leaving her? Well, most women want a man like that. But so often good men are cuckolded when their women, failing to hold themselves to the same standards their men do, let themselves be taken by bad boys who promise them everything their safe, predictable, comfortable good man does not give them (the thrill of doing something forbidden, primarily). This is why so many “good guys” are stereotyped as timid, milquetoast, whipped by their women, overly romantic or otherwise emasculated. Most of them aren’t, but they possess some traits (like empathy, compassion, patience, etc.) that are stereotypically feminine, and so are portrayed as more feminine (therefore weaker) than their bad-boy counterparts by the very same society that urged them into that paradigm in the first place. Funny how that works.

Good men: please do not take this as a thinly-veiled suggestion to suddenly become douchebags. If your lifelong ambition is to pork as many women as you can possibly pork, in that case, grow a pencil beard, wear vomitous amounts of Axe body spray and Ed Hardy clothing, and make sure to renew your membership to the tanning salon. But I doubt you want to spend your lives trotting from one strange bedroom to another. Good men, I have good news.

Bad boys may have more short-term sexual success, but the very qualities that help them get dozens of one-night stands actually ruin their chances at success with meaningful long-term partnerships. Hopefully y’all have been paying attention long enough to realize why this is so. Nobody can deal with a narcissistic asshole for very long. If all he is concerned about is his hair, what he’ll drink at the bar tonight and how many reps he’ll do at the gym today, he won’t make a very good listener when you’ve just found out your brother has pancreatic cancer or your sister’s dog died.

I suppose the lesson to heterosexual women out there is this: there will always be bad boys. Whether or not you succumb to their charms is under your control. The more you know about yourself and your desires (both sexual and emotional), the better equipped you are to see bad boys for what they are and decide if you want to enter the relationship (however brief). Keep in mind also that there is no blatantly obvious line dividing the good guys from the bad boys. Like everything else in life, there are shades of grey here. Bad boys can turn good once they meet the right woman; a bad breakup can turn a good guy bad in one hell of a hurry. Bad boys have good in them, and vice versa. This is why it’s so important for you to know yourself, your standards, your wants and your limits. The more self-aware you are, the more you will be aware of others.

Thoughts? Points? Arguments? Do you agree with every syllable I say or am I so achingly wrong about every single point that I should just stop speaking forever? Either way, I want to hear what you have to say. So feel free to share in the comments. I opened them to anonymous posters, so go nuts. But be nice to each other. I don’t care if you swear, but no defamation of character please.


I'm road-tripping from now on.

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that the TSA did not feel the urge to violate me (with gloved hands) for the sake of a false sense of safety.

The bad news is that I’m beginning to really hate the process of flying.

It used to be a thrill and a pleasure—all the stuff between being dropped off at the airport and feeling that gentle swoop in my stomach at liftoff was just that—stuff. Even when the lines at the check-in counter were always longer than the ones at security, even before all the modern “convenience” of online check-in, it was less stressful. I think because it was predictable. You knew how long it would take at the ticket counter; you knew how long it took to go through security (5 minutes, max, on a busy day), and so did most everybody else. So things flowed as nicely as they could in a place like that.

In the past nine years (especially in the past five), things have changed so much and so quickly that it’s impossible to bank on anything. Blame the threat of airborne terrorism, blame the TSA, blame whoever you please. But nothing’s for sure. I’ve spent a grand total of six minutes (yes I timed it) getting from the car to my gate. I’ve spent more than twelve times that doing the same thing. Both incidences occurred in the past two years. Y’all have y’all’s own horror stories, I’m sure. Feel free to share in the comments.

So what actually happened to me? Well, nothing life-alteringly scarring or newsworthy, so if you’re looking for a sensational story about how I got sexually assaulted by a stinking brutish TSA lout and I’m so psychologically damaged I’m suing TSA for weeks of intense therapy, then you can just pass this post on by. What occurred was less an event and more a source of deep irritation. But I do place most of the blame on the heightened regulations imposed on the process of flying by the TSA.

My fiancé and I awoke at the bright and gleaming hour of 4am so I could make my 5:50am flight. He graciously dropped me off at the airport at a shade before 5, both of us figuring that five minutes shy of an hour would be plenty of time since I had already checked in the night before and printed my boarding pass. All I had to do was drop my checked bag off and zip through security.

I noticed rather immediately that I wouldn’t be doing a lot of zipping. Most check-in counters nowadays have an express lane or similar, for those passengers wise enough to have taken advantage of advance check-in. JetBlue had no such check-in lane this morning. So I had to wait in line for 14 minutes (yes I timed it) just to drop my bag off. However, I did get a little reward from the ticket lady.

Me: “Hi. I’ve already checked in; I just need to drop my bag off. I’m on the 5:50 flight to JFK.”

Ticket lady (of middling age, way more cheerful than I was): “Oh, okay. Is this your first time flying alone, hon?”

Me, confused: “Uh. No. I’m twenty-four.”

Ticket lady, confused: “No you’re not. Are you sure? Can I see your ID?”

I handed her my driver’s license, with which she confirmed my age. She handed it back to me with the same expression with which a cow looks at an oncoming train.  “You have such a babyface, hon!”

I thanked her with a genuine but sleepy smile and made use of my finely-tuned crowd-weaving skills to make it through the throng (there are always more people than you think that fly in the stupid hours of the morning) to the security checkpoint. I checked my watch again; it was 5:16. My flight started boarding in four minutes. No worries, though, I still had almost a half hour before they closed the gate. I gauged the length of the line and the number of checkpoints they had open, and by the slipshod, half-asleep breed of mathematics all veteran flyers possess, estimated I’d be through security in another ten minutes, barring unforeseen catastrophe.

I shouldn’t have jinxed it like that.

Even though I didn’t get fed through the naked machine or subjected to an “enhanced patdown” (aka Step Right Up and Get Violated by Your Government), I had the dubious pleasure of being pulled aside and verbally searched. I got through the metal detector fine. My shoes, laptop, cell phone and wallet got through the x-ray machine fine. But something about or in my backpack didn’t sit so well with the guy whose eyes were glued to the screen. He said he’d put it through again. I said okay. So far I was three minutes short of my ten; I could deal. The portly guy at the x-ray machine stopped the conveyor when my bag came around again. He squinched his eyes up and put his nose to the screen. Blinked. Backed the conveyor up. Moved it forward a few inches. Paused. Blinked again. Then my backpack came out of the scanner, and I thought I was clear to go. But the guy scooped it up again, handed it to another taller gentleman who just looked so in love with his job. This overly sanguine fellow pinned me to the wall with his eyes as the chubby x-ray operator pointed at me and mouthed the words “That’s her bag over there.” I was ushered unceremoniously to an out-of-the-way spot with a table and a stool. The thin gent told me (not asked me, told me) to empty my pockets and sit down. He commenced emptying my backpack. Which included: a book, a laptop, a power cord, two notebooks, a couple of pens and a granola bar. That was it. How he could turn that into a 4-minute process I will never know. Maybe he just did it to spite me. I really believe he just sat there with my laptop thinking “Maybe if I stare at this thing long enough it will turn into a bomb and we can arrest this bitch.” I could tell he even wanted to open my granola bar. You never know, I could be hiding plastic explosive in between those delicious crunchy clusters.

“Can I see your ID, miss,” he barked. Again, not a question. I gave it to him, making it very clear, nonverbally, that I did not appreciate his tone. He stared at my license for a while, then flicked his eyes up to me. Back to my license. Back to me.

“What is your full name, miss.”

I told him.

“Your date of birth.”

I gave it.

“Your current address.”

“It’s not on there,” I said, pointing to my license. “I moved.” Then I recited my address in Buffalo.

“When did you move and why?”

The words shot out before I could stop them. “Why is that your business?” I snapped my mouth shut so hard I heard my teeth click.

“What is your Social Security number, miss.”

Chagrined and confused, I recited it. Then added: “I don’t know why you need that either.”

“Wait here,” Mr Charming said, and put out his hand as if he was telling his dog to stay. He turned and left.

My thoughts ran thusly: Okay, I pissed him off.
            He looks chronically pissed-off
            He’s going to make the next few minutes very unpleasant for me.
            I only have 20 minutes until my plane takes off. What if I don’t make it?
            I will carve a smile onto this fucker’s face. Or maybe a more permanent frown. If that’s possible.
            That will definitely get me arrested.
            Wait, I don’t even have anything sharp to carve with.
            Damn, maybe I should have packed some plastic explosives in my granola bar. I could feed it to him and then set it off. Play Gallagher with this asshole’s head.

I swear I do not normally think like this. Call it a situational mood disorder.

Mr Charming left me in stir for another five minutes or so (didn’t time this one; too busy letting my imagination run rampant with Mr Charming’s death). Upon his return, he asked to see my boarding pass. I handed him both the one to JFK and my connection to Charlotte. He stood there, looking dour, puzzling over my documents like a first-year lit student with War and Peace. The clock had left 5:30 in the dust and was rapidly hurtling toward 5:45. I told myself very insistently to make nice to him, to do whatever he said and not under any circumstances mouth off to him so I could get on my way as quick as I could. My wounded sense of self would heal.

Mr Charming handed me my documents and I braced myself for an “enhanced patdown”. At least, I thought to myself, he doesn’t look like the kind of man that would savor the experience any more than I would.

Instead, he asked me if I was aware that the new TSA regulations require all passengers to register their full name, gender, date of birth and social security number with the airline before departure?

“No,” I said honestly. “That’s news to me.”

“You should have been notified when you purchased your tickets and when you checked in, miss,” he spat. Clearly he’d done this before, and clearly he was none too happy about having to do it one more time.

“I did everything online, so maybe that’s…”

“There are notices on JetBlue’s website and posted signs in the check-in area. We make sure to inform all our customers of this new regulation. Is this your first time flying?”

Jesus pleezus, does everyone think I’m a sixteen-year-old virgin lamb?

“Nosir. I just haven’t flown since all the bullsh—er, stuff with TSA regulations. And stuff.”

Open mouth, insert both feet. For good measure.

“You still should have been notified. I went ahead and registered you.” But don’t fall on your knees and thank me or anything. It’s not like I did you a favor, his eyes said. “But if you fly a different airline next time, make sure you register your information with them.”

“But TSA has all my information now. Why do I have to re-register with each airline?”

“TSA is not allowed to store this information. So if you fly with a different airline you must re-register with your full name, gender, date of birth and Social Security number.”

I wanted to say: “For a bunch of folks who are so obsessed with the security and safety of their customers, you sure are playing fast and loose with their identities.”

I wanted to say: “I hope they have saved an incredibly uncomfortable place in hell for you.”

I wanted to say: “I call bullshit. Just grope me and let me the fuck go.”

I said: “Thanks for letting me know. Am I cool to leave?”

He said: “Yes. Enjoy your flight, miss.”

After that little interlude, a burned-out engine and a tailspin into the side of a mountain would be enjoyable.

More good news: I made my flight. With just a minute to spare.