The most memorable part of high school graduation was the bonfire and party late that night at one of those middle-of-nowhere deserted rural properties located just off a series of gravel roads and known as simply “the poor farm.” Seems every small midwestern town has one, which may or may not even have outbuildings or the protection of tree cover. I’ve no idea how any of us knew how to get there, but get there we did, as though led by some internal homing device to the desired destination, trouble. We were not “bad” by any standards: we experimented a little with alcohol and cigarettes, as so many young people who’d gone before us. Nothing more exotic.
But, in this particular instance, I was uncoupled, having recently broken up with my prom date and longtime boyfriend. And the deliciously bad boy on whom I’d had a crush (off and on since third grade, mind you) was there sans girlfriend. I followed him back to his car to get more beer and somehow found myself making out with him, leaning against a car. It was a gloriously satisfying make-out session — he was a great kisser! — which was only enhanced by the disgust it was clearly causing my ex boyfriend as he stood by the fire and looked on.
I’ve matured in many ways in the past two-plus decades, outgrown my sadistic streak for the most part — and, yet, all along the way, I’ve found myself drawn to bad boys. In college, these might have been the older students, the dope smokers, motorcycle riders, guys with piercings and/or tattoos. After college, there were a broader variety of substances involved. My wasband was a classic bad boy, who smoked whatever came his way, rode a motorcycle without a helmet and was, ultimately, disinclined to follow a few too many laws for comfort.
In other words, by now you’d think I’d know better. I’ve been meeting and dating some very nice, mature men…who mostly bore the living hell out of me. You see, I still need a little danger. And that need is a part of me that I’m going to have to embrace, because it’s not going away, as much as I’d like it to. Okay, really? No, I don’t want it to go away.
Because the kind of danger I yearn for can come in many ways: it could be he has an edgy sense of humor that keeps me on my toes or is “scary smart” or drives fast cars or bikes or is an artist or plays in a band or owns or runs a business. It could even be someone who pushes the limits sexually (i.e. moves really fast or is more experienced in ways) or is into role-playing.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to put myself at physical, health or emotional risk by entering a relationship with someone who’s unstable or genuinely dangerous in any way. There are ways to mitigate risk with safety equipment such as helmets; a man can be a combination of warmth, kindness and irreverent bullshitter; he can take smart, calculated risks. But I do need a little bit of that thrill, a little bit of swagger, a little bit of danger — combined with genuine, loving decency — to get excited.
And I’m going to embrace that as part of my own unique beauty.