“… but when I’m bad, I’m terrific.”

The quote from Mae West supposedly went “When I’m good, I’m very good; but when I’m bad, I’m terrific.” I’ve always liked the humor of it, but it points up something interesting. As a response to my post on the “fines” for being bad, Suzy (who managed a respectable $610.10) had this to say – before she yanked the post from sheer embarrassment:

I actually did this on the up and up. Pretty much all the bad stuff was before I became involved in with Ty. Some of the fun stuff was afterward:)

I’ve known Ty since high school but of course I was not interested in him at all because he was:


Being with him would have seriously derailed my master plan to completely fuck up my life. In the infinite wisdom of youth I wanted guys who were none of the above. Boy there’s another whole blog. Better go before I get all bummed out and start running up the fines again.

Likewise, Kimba had something in a similar vein recently:

Really guys.. I used to like you ten years ago.. So why now are so many of you such uptight, ungenerous, unadventurous, unromantic, pain in the arse bastards?
[Do you] guys get dicked around by women who promise they’ll call and never do.. by women who leave you as soon as the sex is over, your pants still around your ankles?

I’ve belonged to several web groups where the longest running threads often had titles like “Why do women like jerks?” or “I’m a nice guy, why can’t I find a nice girl?” And as much as I hate playing up the stereotypes, I think that this one deserves some discussion. Like Ty, when I was young I thought that the way to attract women was to be polite, decent, honest and considerate.

Umm… not that I ever was all of those things consistently, of course, but I did make an effort.

In high school I did the “nice guy” thing and consequently spent a lot of Saturday nights hanging out with the other nice guys. In college, though, I began to wise up. Good thing, too, or else I’d have missed out on a lot of interesting experiences and this blog would have to be called “The Solid Middle of Vanilla.”

I was reminiscing about some of those experiences from back then, and I remember something interesting. When I was about 21 or 22, I roomed with a guy I’d met when I was a freshman. We became good friends over the next few years, and after college he and I shared an apartment for a while. It was our first bachelor pad. No lava lights or shag carpeting, but it was a nice place, warm, off-street parking, and working utilities. We were both polite, attentive, sensitive, and well read.

Translation: we were often dateless on Saturday nights. And Fridays. Not much happening on Thursdays, either. Well, we did get a lot of the “chaste kiss followed by ‘I really like you as a friend…’ ” routines.

My friend finally snapped under the pressure. He was tired of being a “friend” to all of these women who only wanted to cry over what a jerk their last (or current) boyfriend was being toward them. He decided that the only way to get any action was to be a real jerk, himself. An “insufferable bastard”, I believe he termed it. And he methodically set about acting as boorish and loutish as one could imagine. I tried this, too, but when we traded tales, he was much better at it than I. He stood women up, neglected to call them afterwards, stopped taking them to nice places for dinner and instead took them to dives. He would take their number and not call them after sex – which he seemed to be having in record quantities.

He stopped picking them up, insisting that dates meet him someplace. And unbelievably, his social calendar was always full. He did this for about a year and a half. I met many of his dates; some of them worked with him, some of them met him through other friends. The weirdest part was that some of them told me that they had “never really noticed him before,” but lately found that there was “something different” about him. One of them used to call me monthly to complain about how he never called her anymore, and asked if he had said anything to me about that.

He and I lost touch over the years, but we reconnected a few years ago, and one night we went out to dinner and spent a few hours talking about that whole thing. I now think that he used it as an excuse to take out some hostility, but that’s a completely unprofessional opinion. But the fact remains that date-wise, he was much more successful at attracting women when he acted like a jerk.

He finally met someone that he liked enough to make him stop. There is no small irony in that she turned out to have a bitchy streak a mile wide, and after about 15 years, she divorced him and married the guy that she’d been cheating on him with. An alcoholic with a poor job history and a motorcycle.

There’s a lesson in here someplace. Isn’t there?

About Tom Allen

The Grey Geezer Dauntless defender of, um, something that needed dauntless defending. Dammit, I can't read this script without my glasses. Hey, you kids, get off my damn lawn!
This entry was posted in Communication, intimacy, relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to “… but when I’m bad, I’m terrific.”

  1. kimba says:


    God how transparent..

    Why are we all out to sabotage ourselves??
    I am obviously not getting the balance right with the men that I meet. One ‘nice guy’ called me for ‘manipulative’ even before we had met and then ran away after the date.. literally.. before I had a chance to make him commit to taking me out again..

    I give up.


  2. 2amsomewhere says:

    There’s an old Camille Paglia column on salon.com that touches on this seeming paradox. You also see this dynamic in Chapter 11 of Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage where Audrey is fucking bad boys on the side and depriving her passive husband with a facade of frigidity.

    In No More Mr. Nice Guy, Glover argues that one can get the sex without being the polar opposite of a nice guy. He says that by becoming integrated (or achieving enclosure using the parlance of this blog), a man becomes more assertive toward getting what he wants and learns that girls who really go ga-ga over the bad boys are damaged goods, not worth the energy of pursuit.

    As for me, I really regret deferring non-solo sexual activity into my early 20s. The mere mention of abstinence campaigns for youth makes me want to belch venom. If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would definitely not put the energy I put into suppressing my masculinity (by being a nice guide).



  3. Well you see the problem with this scenerio is that it doesn’t account for the changing roles in relationships. We no longer can mimick our parents roles but yet we are still attracted to those types of “roles.” Girls all want the nice guy but years of being raised by absent and distant fathers and mothers who revered their husbands has taught us to be attracted to that role. But it isn’t what we want. Not only are guys slowly shifting their role to be involved parents but are shifting to becoming the kind of “new” husband we want. Girls problem is that we don’t know how to handle the dynamics of such a person/relationship. So we are having ti figure out our own role in this new dynamic all the while trying to figure out how not to be attracted to guys like daddy, or guys that mommy loved. We are on the edge of insanity because we are covering new ground, making new roles, and redefining ourselves… and frankly we don’t know what the hell we are doing because no one has ever done it before.


  4. darklily says:

    I dated a few jerks in high school. It wasn’t that I was attracted to them because they were jerks, I don’t think. In fact…at first I thought they were interesting people. In any event they were the only ones that had the balls to ask me out(according to my DH I was intellectually and physically? intimidating…not that I knew it at the time). When I got to know them (whether it took just a couple of dates or a couple of months) and found that they didn’t really have an interest in me as a person… well, I didn’t go out with them again or I broke up.

    And then one day I opened my eyes and fell head over heels for a guy that was already a friend of mine. And a nice guy…which was what I was looking for. That was 20 years ago this month. But that whole story is a subject for my blog.


  5. Cat says:

    I think I commented on this before but I do think women are attracted to confidence and mistake arrogance or controlling behavior for confidence and assertiveness all the time. I also think women have been conditioned to accept poor behavior as strength and taught to believe men without that “strength” will not make good mates. It’s a mistake common especially in women just starting out. But I like to think as we get older we are smarter and more inclined to see a nice guy for what he is and not a big wimp and the jerk for what he is not strong and assertive just a jerk.


  6. Silverkey says:

    I think it’s definately the thrill of the catch. Cause once you catch a bad guy, they really aren’t that much fun. Just a lot of work. In high school I dated a lot of jerks. Then one day I made a conscious decision to date a nice guy. I picked one out…the cutest one! Well, the rest is history. We have been married for almost 9 years!


  7. Tom Allen says:

    2am – I love Camille Paglia. Totally a riot.
    I was a nice guy in high school, but not too nice. Once it got around that I was a bit kinky, it seemed to open up a few other doors for dating.

    Pretty – I’m going to disagree with you here. The phenomenon has been around long before the current “absent fathers” situation. You can read books from a century ago (or more!) in which the stories of women choosing the rouge over the nice guy are not uncommon.

    DL & Cat – I suspect that you both have a point: when you’re young, it’s easy to mistake jerkiness and anti-social behavior as “strong” or “manly.” Hell, at 16 or even 26, sometimes we simply aren’t sure ourselves. And its interesting, too, that there are a lot of behaviors that seem cool in high school, but which make you look pretty stupid in your 30s.

    Silverkey – so, you’re saying that the jerks are high maintenance?

    BTW, people should note that Silverkey is a new addition to my blogroll. She has an interesting tale to tell about her and her husband adopting a femdomme approach to their marriage.


  8. kimba says:

    Off topic.. Tom.. honey I have a picie of me over at mine.. and it’s just for you… *wink*

    It’s in my sidebar.. I was inspired after your cheekiness today.


  9. Tom Allen says:

    Ban the Tom?
    Long way to go for a lame joke!

    BTW, the Meez was the closest that I could get to what I actually look like. There was no option for grey hair. My wife cracked up when she saw it.


  10. Crash says:

    I dunno. I’ve been resisting chiming in here, but I will say this for what it’s worth. We’ve been married for twenty years plus a little, and I’ve been the nice guy … safe, secure, all that jazz.

    But that doesn’t stop her from liking the bad boys for fantasy purposes.

    I don’t see it being any different for men, to be honest. Ludacris said it … “We want a lady in the street, but a freak in the bed.”

    Six of one, half dozen of the other … if you ask me.


  11. Silverkey says:

    Of course! You spend all kinds of time chasing them when it should be the other way around!


  12. elise says:

    Well, I have a knack for choosing the wrong men. I don’t think about it at the time. . hmm. .well he’s a bad boy and I’m pretty sure he’ll end up hurting me I think I should date him. It just happens. These are the men I’m attracted to. If I’m ever single again I vow to only date nice men. But I don’t think I can ever really rid myself of the bad-boy attraction. . .”Hi my name is Elise and I’m a bad-boy-a-holic”


  13. Tom Allen says:

    Don’t sell yourself short, Elise. We all have certain things that attract us. Certain looks, attitudes, styles, whatever it is, we all have some things that push a button for us. I happen to like women who are somewhat quirky, independent, bright and perceptive. Some of my guy friends like the cute, perky, bouncy types. A few of my friends seem to go for women who are moody and bitchy.

    I’m not saying that all women go for jerks, of course. And certainly, some guys who were jerks at 18 eventually outgrew it. It’s just one of those interesting patterns of human behavior that I find interesting.


  14. Serenity says:

    There is a difference though, within the “bad boy” spectrum. Damaged goods that evoke a mothering response are an entirely different subject from the ones who just want the upper hand through arrogance or anger.
    Same with “nice guys.” I’ve had nice guys who surprised me with their willingness to push the vanilla envelope, and i have a current FWB who is the living embodiment of “Nice” and who will never approach the edge with me.
    If I have a point, it’s that no one really needs any kind of label. Everyone gets evaluated on their own merit and the rich diversity is what makes the searching so interesting.


  15. skywindows says:

    You are on the money Tom… Good boys bore me to tears, but the Bad Boys??? Yum.


  16. Verity says:

    I have never been attracted to jerks. What does that say about me?


  17. Tom Allen says:

    Verity, it probably means that you are wise beyond your years. You go, grrl!


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