...between ages 15 and 19.
He really was quite sweet when he was clean and sober: funny, gentle, kind to children and animals. And it was that side of him that hooked me. I wasn’t looking for a “bad boy” at all. I emphatically didn’t want to repeat my mother’s mistakes. (My biological father was a handsome, charming, smart ne’er-do-well with a staggering array of compulsions that included drinking, gambling, and womanizing – and those are just the ones I know about! My stepfather didn’t drink or gamble, but he too was an unrepentant womanizer who couldn’t hold a job.)
When I finally realized that my teen beau couldn’t be “reformed” by the love of a good woman, I extricated myself from that relationship – mind you, not until I’d suffered through what, in hindsight, was a severe clinical depression that rested on thinking that all our troubles were somehow my fault, and wound up dropping out of university in my second year (perhaps my biggest regret).
I’m pleased to note that I never again dated a bad boy (or even a merely bad-for-me boy) for longer than it took to figure out his true colours: 3 weeks maximum. I deserve better, and over the years I’ve been privileged to spend serious time with some genuinely spectacular men – mature, emotionally literate, hard-working, and compulsion-free (as well as funny, gentle, and kind to children and animals). Even so, I once calculated that I kissed at least 5 frogs for every prince I connected with.
As for that original bad boy: he died a couple of years ago, just shy of his 52nd birthday. We’d stayed in touch even after our split (I’m not one to cut important people completely out of my life unless they hurt me badly). I helped him out whenever I could – with small loans, an apartment sublet, job referrals, and research on affordable housing for the disabled – but only when he was in a “good boy” period.
The woman he eventually married became one of my closest friends, and although she ultimately left him for the same reasons I had (drinking, drugs, endless trouble with the law), she and I were both at his side during his final 7 weeks of life.
Being a bad boy didn’t exactly kill him – he had Huntington’s Disease, a vicious hereditary condition. But a last binge may have tipped him over the edge. Probably he preferred the relatively quick decline he experienced to the idea of lingering for another 10 years in a nursing home, unable even to feed himself.
Would I do it over again? Hmmm. I have mixed feelings about that. Being with him for those four years meant being unavailable to several fine fellows who would otherwise, I think, have made much better long-term prospects. And I’ve already noted that our miserable last year together resulted in my leaving school – a wise decision under the circumstances, but one that I’ve since rued many times over.
On the other hand, I might not have known several of the aforementioned spectacular men had I not left school, because I met them through my work.
All in all, I’ve come down on the side of “Worth doing” – if only for the life lessons that I learned early enough to do me some good. 5 years ago