“You Naughty Boy, You”

The bad boy look: not to be attempted by amateurs.

As we raced along the motorway in his sports car, the smell of his leather jacket and the smoke exuding from his cigarette filling the air, I thought to myself, “My God, I want him.” Despite being 20 I became reduced to the mentality of a 15 year old. His carefree, ‘carpe diem’ attitude absolutely enthralled me. I simply had to have him. In a nutshell, Leon presented to me the ‘he’s-bad-news-but-Christ-almighty- I-fancy-the-pants-off-him-anyway’ syndrome. Why would you be with your nice, sensible, reliable boyfriend when you could be on a roller-coaster ride of excitement with this guy? Yes, it all seems like a great idea at the time, but when you’re cradling your broken heart afterwards and all those around you can say is, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you”, it’s a very different kettle of fish. And so you swear for the umpteenth time that such types are to be henceforth avoided…

As a language assistant in a French primary school, I find myself in the perfect position to see exactly how these ‘bad boys’ start off in life. Although they evidently still lack the charisma and suavity that will render them nigh on magnetic in later life, the appeal of these boys is definitely already making its way to the surface. In my Thursday school, the Year 6 equivalent possesses two such specimens: they never listen, they’re constantly distracted and fail completely to understand the concept of silence, but yet they’re hilarious in a way the studious, quiet children could never be.Their rude jokes, their farting and endless sparring with one another never fails to amuse me. Today I was forced to hide my unstoppable giggles before my fellow teacher (who is far from entertained by these kids and remains intensely irritated on a weekly basis) could see my mirth. I myself felt like a naughty schoolgirl! There is nothing more satisfying than realising that it is these two who have mastered the topic at hand despite their apparent total lack of attention – when it is they, rather than the silent girls at the front, who answer what their favourite foods and sports are. Sadly such effects are not to be had with all children; more than once have I asked, “How are you?” and to be told, “I’m 9 years old”. But then they tell me they love me (yes, literally) and look up at me with big brown eyes…and they’ve got me, I’m helpless. But still, it’s always the ‘bad boys’ who surprise me with their knowledge, in-between bouts of disobedience, which have a special place in my heart. A blank stare every time is far from attractive no matter how beautiful their blond curls are…

Of course we all know the ‘bad boy’ stereotypes: tattooed, smokes, takes drugs, sleeps with hundreds of women, owns a motorbike/fast car, skives all responsibility, and is absolutely no good for you. Having recently spoken to a self- confessed French ‘bad boy’, I have gleaned that more often than not there is a real reason why these youngsters establish this hard exterior complete with insolence and a devil-may-care attitude. Bullying, at a young age for instance, can force them to put up a shell as a defence mechanism and then nothing can hurt them. This is referred to in France as,”le loi du talion”, which translates along the lines of, ‘the survival of the fittest’ or, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. Make yourself top-dog by any means possible and you are unbeatable.

My first encounter with such a type was at 16 and who presented my mother with several months of heightened anxiety. He belonged in the goth/emo category and smoked constantly (incidentally he also had greasy hair and terrible acne thus adding him to a long line of men about whom I think “WHY Harriet?”). Whilst I went to violin lessons and learnt ancient Greek, he skipped lessons and did weed behind the bike sheds. It’s safe to say that we had absolutely nothing in common and he only wanted one thing from me. Thankfully I left the ephemeral relationship unscarred but I do in fact still believe that such a period of rebellion (and it really was the only one) was necessary during my youth. If nothing else it made me realise what kind of man I don’t want in my life! (Plus his mum worked for Wonderbra and gave me multiple free brassieres…)

Nowadays, I for one could never be in a relationship with a stupid person, no matter how many leather jackets they owned; intelligence and knowledge are wholly necessary. As wise John Waters once said, “If you go back to man’s house and he doesn’t have any books – don’t sleep with him”. I believe it’s fair to say that the ideal is the ‘bad boy’ on the outside but the romantic on the inside. We’ve all seen the romantic comedies: girl meets boy, girl changes boy’s outlook on life and he sees the error of his ways, they fall in love and snog – a lot. If this really happens, fantastic! But if a ‘bad boy’ is nothing more than a bad boy and has the intelligence level of a porcupine, then frankly I’m not sure I’m interested in anything long term. Sure, living life on the edge with him would be fun for a few days or so, but no more. What’s more I feel my compatibility ranking with such a man could be very low: he’d require sex on demand, edgy music and several spliffs a day (well… If the generalising stereotypes are anything to go by), and truthfully I’d rather read, do missionary position and drink milk. As my idol Miranda Hart said in her sitcom “Miranda”, when presented with the concept of partying until dawn: “The only reason I’d be up at 6 in the morning was if I woke up in the middle of the night needing the loo”. And I frankly could not agree more.

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