On Bad Boys and How to Spot Them

This is an excerpt straight out of Chapter 5 of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Irresistible.  It’s an addendum to the HuffingtonPost.com article “Which Part of ‘Bad Boy’ Did You Not Understand, Sandra?”

We talked about noticing aspects of your own behavior that are relevant to your fulfillment.  For example, if you’re chronically getting in the way of your own happiness through self-deprecation, that’s useful to know (and, by the way, stop doing that already.  Thanks.).  Equally important is to notice behaviors of potential male companions which bear on your fulfillment.

This section is for those of you who find yourselves occasionally (or serially) involved with bad boys only to regret the episode afterwards.  If you’ve never had a problem with bad boys and  don’t think you ever will, you may also skip this section.  If you like bad boys and can handle them just fine, then skip this section.  If you’ve ever found a bad boy even slightly appealing and think you could someday get involved with one, read on.

There’s something attractive about bad boys, which is why smart women need to be able to spot them before getting involved with one, because they’re just so darn tasty sometimes.  In a way, getting involved with a bad boy is like obesity: prevention is the best solution.  If it’s already happened, it’s often too late, and the solutions are laborious and ineffective.  So unless you’re signing up for a relationship of limited duration with a definite expiration date, you’re better off avoiding the bad boy altogether.

Also, because of the particularly heady brew of chemicals bad boys induce in your head and body, getting involved with a bad boy makes it more difficult to recognize and appreciate a Good Guy.  Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

My definition of a bad boy is simple: he is a boy (as opposed to a man) who is bad for you in the long term.  By bad I mean that overall, he will bring more pain to your life than joy.  Don’t get me wrong: there will be some good times with the bad boy.  That’s why women get involved with them.  But the net result tends to be more pain than joy.

By you I mean the whole of your life: your mental, spiritual, physical and financial well-being.  No one item here absolutely certifies a person as a bad boy; however, the occurrence of several of these characteristics in one individual should be a warning sign.

Incidentally, a man’s number of sexual partners is not necessarily an indicator of whether he’s a bad boy or not.  This is all about how he treats you in the long term.  It would be just as foolish to let go of a sexually experienced man who loves you and treats you like the queen of the universe as it would be to attach yourself to a monk who disrespects you. In any case, always expect a genuinely desirable man to have been noticed by women before you.

If I were to pick one quality that would be the most accurate indicator of whether someone’s a bad boy, it’s a presence of extremes.  Whether of beauty, wealth, intelligence, tidiness, messiness, neglect or solicitude, extremes are tipoffs that this guy might be a handful who’ll bring you more trouble than it’s worth.  The Tao is about taking the middle path;  those who court extremes are not with the Tao.  If you bring those people into your life, you may be inviting instability and trouble.  Chapter 29 of the Tao Te Ching says:

The sage sees things as they are
And takes the middle path,

Away from the extremes.

Every characteristic listed here is like a double-edged sword: the very thing that makes it appealing can also render it detrimental.  The list is intended to make you aware and wary of whether you’re signing up for the fun or the pain.  Whenever you spot one of these list items, ask yourself: “What’s the purpose of this behavior?  What’s he trying to get out of it?”  Put yourself in his motorcycle boots for a moment, and you’ll gain instant insight into the male mind.

Don’t get me wrong — bad boys can be a lot of fun, and the totally nice guys might be pretty deathly boring.  The purpose of this is, first and foremost, your awareness so you can choose a middle path.  You want a guy who has a little bit of an edge and is decent to boot.

Here are some behaviors that could mean you’re dealing with a bad boy, and how your mind may rationalize it as appealing rather than problematic.  Caveat emptor:

Moving things along too quickly. Bad boys tend to make early declarations of affection – genuinely or for effect.  They also fall in love easily and have no problem proposing a romantic weekend getaway when they’ve known you for less than fifteen minutes.

What it looks like: Spontaneity and joie de vivre.

What it could really be: Impulsiveness; trying to get into your pants as swiftly as possible

What you’re signing up for if you date him: plans only made at the last minute; plans cancelled at the last minute; general irresponsibility; similarly impulsive overtures to other women.

Being just a tad too smooth. When you first meet him, does he touch you too early and too often?  Is he whispering in your ear?  Is he overly generous with his compliments?  Does he attempt to take you away from your friends and get you alone?  Is he always subtly (or blatantly) pushing the boundary of what’s appropriate and comfortable?  Is he telling stories that seem too well-rehearsed and designed to aggrandize him, impress you, and get you worked up?  Is there a lot of showmanship going on?  Once you’ve started dating, are his excuses for marginal behavior all too plausible?  If so, you are almost certainly dealing with a bad boy.

What it looks like: Romance! These men know that this is the ultimate bait for getting a woman, and therefore use it skillfully and without apology.

What it could really be: Too good to be true is almost always exactly that.  Deliberately seductive behavior usually means you’re dealing with an experienced player.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: sexual infidelity (and possibly diseases); unreliability; rapid emotional detachment once he’s gotten what he wants from you.

Thrillseeking behavior. He rides a motorcycle – a big Harley, actually.  He skydives, takes all kinds of drugs, drinks a lot, goes out five times a week or more, and generally looks for the adrenaline rush.

What it looks like: A life of excitement that you want to be a part of.

What it could really be: Although many grown, responsible men take calculated risks, chronic thrillseeking is often a sign of immaturity and recklessness.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: worry; genuine fear; loneliness as he goes off on his jaunts; infidelity; irresponsibility; run-ins with the law.

Devil-may-care attitude. He lives by his own rules – and only by his own rules.  He dresses like he wants, works when he wants, eats what he wants, says what he wants.  ‘No one will the boss of me’ is his motto.

What it looks like: Fierce, roguish independence.

What it could really be: Lack of consideration and antisocial behavior, which will inevitably extend to you as well.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: inability to make plans, or broken plans when he does make them; verbal abuse; insensitivity to your feelings and desires; financial distress.

Studied physical appearance. A stylish man is good to find.  However, you can tell if a man has spent more time than normal on his appearance for effect.  Too disheveled goes in the same category as too slick: extremes are what you’re watching out for.  Heavy cologne is often a tip-off.

What it looks like: Style, baby, style.

What it could really be: Narcissism and vanity.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: Player tendencies; mistreatment; self-absorption.

General evasiveness. When a man is evasive about personal questions – especially about dating, the women in his life, the length of relationships and such – beware.  He may be doing it for sport, but chances are he has something to hide.  A good relationship is based on honesty, trust and respect.  Chronic evasiveness precludes all three, so this is an inauspicious start to things. Incidentally, if a man lies to you even once for non-humanitarian reasons (e.g., only something like “There’s no one hiding in the attic from the secret police” is acceptable), that’s grounds for leaving him.

What it looks like: Mystery and intrigue.

What it could really be: Skeletons in the closet.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: Unreliability; mistrust; lies.

Living space that’s too well thought-out or too messy. Psychologists talk about the concept of thin-slicing: how from one snapshot of a person’s life you can intuit fairly accurate information about his character.  In fact, psychologists showed in an experiment that walking through a person’s uninhabited apartment yielded a more accurate character assessment than an interview with that person (Gosling et al., 2002).

As such, the well-appointed love nest and the messy bachelor pad are both potential signs of trouble ahead.  A man’s chic apartment with the bearskin rug in front of the fireplace, four-poster canopied bed, strategically positioned Art of Sensual Massage on the coffee table and scented candles everywhere should make you wonder why he created this ambience from which a woman would supposedly find it difficult to escape – and how many women preceded you and will succeed you.  On the other end of the spectrum, the dishevelment of the messy apartment should make you wonder whether that’s the level of consideration with which he’ll be treating you.

What it looks like: Good taste (love nest), endearingly boyish disorder (messy bachelor pad).

What it could really be: A player.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: See ‘Being too smooth’ entry above.

Inconsideration. Did he ask you out far enough in advance so you’d be able to make plans?  Did he call ahead of time to say he was going to be late?  Did he open your car door for you?  Did he offer to pay when he invited you out?  Did he ask about your sick cat when you said she was sick?  How about your sick grandmother?  How about when you were sick?  Does he offer you his coat when you look cold?  I’m belaboring the point here, and what I’m saying is this: you know what consideration looks like, and it’s different from when a guy’s being a jerk to you.  Any one of these things is not a big deal, but a bunch of them happening in close succession is a sign of trouble.

What it looks like: Non-conformity, roguish independence.

What it could really be: A jerk.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: see Devil-may-care attitude above.

Indecision. This is one of the characteristics that truly separates the men from the boys: can he decide?  Decision means leadership, leadership means responsibility, and responsibility means power.  An indecisive man is a powerless man.  If he waffles and weaves with every decision he makes, or even worse, consults you for all his decisions, run.  Better a man who decides and is wrong on occasion than one who refuses to decide at all.  Of all the characteristics mentioned here, this may very well be the worst.  Just stay away.

What it looks like: Sensitivity and consideration.

What it could really be: Spinelessness, weakness.

What you’re signing up if you date him: Exasperation, ruined plans, total disaster.

Highly selective availability or too much availability. Again, you have to ask yourself why this is the case, because there are usually good reasons for extreme unavailability or availability.  A man with highly selective availability is often seeing other women or married to one.  A man who’s always available may be unemployed or desperate.  Either way, keep your eyes open.

What it looks like: Busy, important man-about-town (unavailable one) or a guy who’s really, really into you (highly available one).

What it could really be: A man with too many or too few options.

What you’re signing up for if you date him: A man who will either keep you hanging on or will be always hanging on you.

Categories: Dating for Women

6 Comments on “On Bad Boys and How to Spot Them”

  1. LyteWeaver

    How true. I read this article just out of interest and it is pretty spot on in my opinion.
    love ‘n’ light,

  2. Pingback: The Tao of Dating by Dr. Ali Binazir » For College Women: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

  3. Nana

    Thank you Dr. Ali!

    Couldn’t hold myself from laughing out loud and exclaiming “Yeah baby!” – so sharp and exact was the portrait of The Bad Boy! I am just out from so called relationship (read ‘mess’) with the perfect sample of those con artists. Mea culpa – I have mistaken a kitch for a real masterpiece. Especially painful because in this case the Bad Boy and myself together are almost 100 years old (48 each) which proves that “BadBoyness” is a timeless attribute.

    I’ve ordered “The Tao of Dating…” yesterday – can’t wait to get it!
    Thanks again!

  4. J-Bone

    Well this is awkward. I appear to others as being every trait except inconsideration and indecision. But I’ve got references for being a caring boyfriend. At least now I know why women mistakenly think I’m a player.

  5. New2datingagain

    I met a man who treats me well. He calls daily, treats me with respect and we have wonderful dates. He says he wants long term with someone. He is divorced but was married a long time. However, he told me he used to smoke pot, currently rides a Harley, has tattoos on his leg, and once spent a day in prison when he was younger. He works full time and owns a home. Please tell me what you think. We are both in our 50s with children. Thanks.