There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.”
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.”
Nature Boy – Nat King Cole
Lana Turner – an actress of the golden but bygone age of old Hollywood – once said that “A gentleman is just a patient wolf.”
I don’t know about you. Who you’ve spent your life waiting for, but as for me, if I learned anything about being a woman from the great women who’ve inspired me over my lifetime, it’s that we deserve a good man. One who sees us for what, and as we are, and loves us anyway. That even if we don’t always get it, we always deserve a man who opens the door and lets us go in first, offers us his coat when we’re cold and tells us we’re beautiful no matter what we look or feel like. Logic would say then that it’s impossible; a real gentleman is incapable of being a wolf…isn’t he? He’s just…good…isn’t he? And aren’t we taught that it’s really only the good guys in the end who are the ones worth waiting for? That ultimately it’s not a case of them finishing last, but rather their being the best that is saved till last?
In all honesty, then, despite believing I deserve a man who sees all these good things as priorities, I will admit here and now that 9 times out of 10, he is not the one I dream about.
My mind, like my eye, wanders instead straight to the one kind of man that ultimately all our mothers warned us about. You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you.
The Bad Boy.I’ve been waiting for science to come out with a cast iron theory as to why we as women are so attracted to the kind of men who draw us in with their charm and just as easily break our hearts with their selfish and/or careless actions. It would be nice to know that it’s all chemical and as such not my fault. That it’s how I’m wired rather than how I choose to be be. But in my heart of hearts, I know this isn’t the case. Well, at least not for me.
What, you might ask, has caused me to set myself to blogging about this in search of an explanation? Well, it’s not so much a ‘what’ as a ‘who’ in this case, and his name is Damon Salvatore.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that apart from this site, I work on a number of other websites, all of which have to do with my favourite show of the moment – The Vampire Diaries.
Okay, okay. Vampires – I know. Vampires, witches and werewolves oh my, I hear you say. Well say what you like, but I’m a proud pop culture junkie and nothing feeds the like of such a person as a network show full of beautiful people who are constantly caught up in one web of angst, love and betrayal or another. As for me, my standard extends to needing a great story and sharp acting to keep me interested, but I’m not going to lie – The Vampire Diaries is full of all those kinds of sharp, sexy characters that manage to speak to every one of our social fears and desires in one way or another.
If you’ve never watched the show before, here it is in a nutshell: two vampire brothers, in love with a human girl who just happens to be a dead ringer for the other common, great love of their existences, a vampire girl. Human girl = good, kind, beautiful. Vampire girl = manaical killing machine. Brothers – one good, one bad (or so it seems) – in constant competition and friction over the women they love. Madness, mayhem and stolen romantic interludes ensue.
There’s Stefan – the good brother, self sacrificing and brooding over the stuggle that is wanting to do what’s right as opposed to his true nature, but always picked by the girl.
And then, the aforementioned Damon – selfish, brutal, charming and self destructive, and always cheated by the girl who picks his sibling.
You see by logic and part-nature, Stefan is the one I was destined to lean to – he has that I-would-do-anything-for-you-because-I-love-you-even-if-it-means-hurting-myself-ness about him. He is, for all his failings and broodiness, the one who would give everything up to be with the one he loved. And by and large, women yearn for that kind of love. Because, in some selfish way, I think, it’s all about her and what she spends all her time expecting. What she needs, what she wants.
The rest of my nature, however seeks out the Damon Salvatore of real life like a heat seeking missile. He is angry, cocky, charming and dangerous on the outside…and unbelieveably bruised and vulnerable on the inside.
So. What is it that makes some girls subconsciously prefer this kind of man?
Well, I think maybe it’s that idea that ultimately, what we are more attracted to is that kind of love that by nature requires it not to be all about us. It’s not about how we deserve the most amazing kind of love there is, and how it’s…I don’t know…made somehow even more amazing if it’s also given at some kind of personal cost by a man.
And by love for the record, I do not mean the pink and fluffy valentine’s day kind.
Real love does not come wrapped in a gossamer bow of perfection and contentment and peace.
If life has taught me anything, it’s that real love is painful and costs us. It wades into the mud of life and fights for what it believes in. Even when it’s weak, it does not give up. Even when it’s tempted, it does not give in. It’s coarse and as capable of wildness as it is of bringing perfect calm into life when it’s nothing but a mad house. It can be quiet, but will be loud when it needs to be. It can comfort you, or turn up in the form of a kick in the pants that you might be given or be called to give in order that people are made to remember the stuff that matters.
Where then does the bad boy attraction fit in to all of this?
I think – and this is just my observation, so by all means argue with it – it’s because it can require of us just this kind of attitude. It’s about about more than seeing something broken and being desperate to fix it, to make it better, happier, content. It’s about getting your hands dirty if that’s what it takes. In short, it’s love asked of you, that you are not the centre of.
Now, I’m a big girl – falling in love with fictional characters has not been high on my list for a while now. Well, not since Astro Boy when I was little (oy – now that was a clanger of a relationship. I cried for three weeks once according to my mum when he was damaged or something; I think they took his batteries out maybe? Either way, tough break up.) But this character – considering all the time I spend making sure I’ve got their stories right so I can write a decent recap – has really got me thinking, something that great writing and great drama will always do.
And in the context of the fictional character world within the Vampire Diaries, granted, in this case it helps a girl along muchly that Damon Salvatore is portrayed by the blue-eyed, black haired, set-you-on-fire-with-his-very-stare package that is Ian Somerhalder – there’s the automatic, sensory intoxication of a handsome man armed with a vendetta and fantastic half-smile, and I’ll be honest that – for all my fangirling over everything Stefan (and Paul Wesley ;) ) – I think I fell prey to the former’s bad-boy a long time ago as a character.
In the most recent episode (the Season 2 premiere, in fact), there’s this moment where he is confronted by two women. The first, Katherine, is the destructive love of his past who, after he has spent 150 years unwaveringly in love with her and hunting a way to free her from a tomb in which she was encased (long story), turns up, looks him in the eye and says she had only ever loved his brother, his opposite. Shattered, he then goes to her identical looking but opposite acting other, the human girl Elena, who he now has feelings for and who has done nothing but believe that there was good in him. Yet she too, looks him in the eye and says exactly the same thing: it is now, and will always be his brother. The better one.
Now again, I don’t know about you, but I know for myself that, for whatever positive emotional reinforcement I’ve had in my lifetime – and there has been a lot – it has taken me years to learn that for all my quips, quirks and faults, I am not lesser than anybody else because of them. In many ways, it gets to be a very easy habit to fall back into – this believing that there can and will inevitably always be someone better for the people you care about than you.
And when you see that one you love, or in the very least are attracted to, pick the other person – who’s seems perfect because they’re not you, and full of all the things you believe you’re not – it creates a kind of black hole inside you if you’re not careful, one that eats at you from the inside. I think for me, here lies my attraction bad boys: being possessed of the power that is knowing somebody at their worst and wanting, sometimes even loving them anyway. I want that for me, therefore the thought of giving it to someone else – especially if he’s charismatic, and takes me down a peg on a regular basis by perpetually lobbing the romantic ball back into my forecourt, and is…you know…*cough* devastatingly handsome – is so very appealing.
Now I know this isn’t always the case. A lot of the time, the bad boy is a bad boy not because of any other reason than that he’s a douchebag with more tickets on himself than are sold to a U2 concert. These guys? I like to think I know enough of them having had enough experience with them. As such, quite frankly I wouldn’t care how handsome they were. I’d rather have my head repetitively slammed in a car door whilst being subjected to the greatest hits of a d-grade yodeller that get tied up with one of them.
No. It’s the Damon Salvatores branch of the bad boy species that hooks me every time. The one that challenges me to relate to them without care for their faults and failings, because it’s how I yearn for people to relate to me.
I think of it like this. Nat King Cole did not once famously sing that the greatest gift is just to be loved by someone willing to give up everything for us. Had he done, I wonder how much that song would still have resonated.
No. It was that the greatest gift we’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Like I said, life, and in this devilishly handsome case, Damon Salvatore, have reminded me that true love – real love – gets its hands dirty. How amazing to be loved like that. How much more amazing that we have the capacity to love another in the same way.