(I didn’t write this one, I was interviewed for it. Read on.)
(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)

The magazine invited a group of Hartford area students to talk to us. We gave them bottles of soda and sat them around a conference table. We told them we wanted to know about bad boys.
We became intrigued by the topic when a news story broke about the assault of a woman by a man she knew. We were told in the newspaper article that Monica Camby, the 21-year-old sister of NBA star Marcus Camby who was attacked, “liked the bad boys.” Was that a fair comment about somebody who was sexually assaulted, had a knife held to her throat and was in fear of her life?
There is a broad distinction between a career felon and a so- called bad boy. But repeated references in the media and in the community had us wondering. Whether Troy D. Crooms, who police said assaulted Monica in her South Windsor home, is a bad boy is open to interpretation. (In a separate event, a woman who dated Crooms in 1990 also was held by him against her will and assaulted. “I was young,” the woman told a reporter, “I didn’t consider him dangerous.”) But there is no doubt that fatal or near-fatal attractions have been a longtime phenomenon in life and in our culture.
We turned to the girls of Metro Bridge, a monthly magazine written by area students, both boys and girls, and produced with the help of Hartford Courant mentors. The girls write about topics ranging from Internet stalkers to fashion, and prefer writing in the first person.
We wanted their opinions because, at their age, they are tied into the popular culture and are just beginning to explore relationships. Plus they are willing and intelligent commentators.

Their idea of a bad boy is a romantic hero. Bad boys do not follow the crowd. Rather, they set the rules, the girls said. Bad boys are independent and sexy, “the kind of guy every other guy wants to be.” Good girls and bad girls want to be with them, because “they rule.”

Meg Hooker, who is 14, was the youngest member of the group. Meg brought to the discussion a perspective from her private school, Renbrook. Meg, along with Grace M. Kuilan of Hartford High, who is 16, and Irena Kaci of Wethersfield High, who is 17, were less infatuated with bad boys than were the other girls. Andrea Obaez, 17, and also of Hartford High, seemed to occupy a middle ground, having once fallen for a bad boy. The two girls who had the strongest opinions about bad boys were Hillary Herman (a.k.a. Kiwi of a high school that shall remain nameless at her request) — and Keyshawna Sealey, of Weaver High, both 17.
Among their examples of bad boys were Larenz Tate of the movie, “Dead Presidents,” David Boreanaz of the television show, “Angel,” a spinoff of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Going back further in time, other Hollywood bad boys would be Clark Gable in “Gone With the Wind,” and Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones.” Following in that tradition were Mickey Rourke of “9 1/2 Weeks” and Eric Roberts, Rourke’s co-star in “The Pope of Greenwich Village.” More recently, a classic bad boy would be Leonardo DiCaprio, whose independence and working-class cockiness, not to mention his blond good looks, captivated rich girl Kate Winslet in “Titanic.”
For the most part, women are attracted to these characters for their independence and sexiness. Yes, the men are dangerous, but in a romantic, not a violent way.
Who do you think is the ultimate bad boy? None other than Bill Clinton, the girls agreed.
Is George Bush a bad boy? I naively asked.
“No!” the girls screamed.
“What kind of bad boy is that?” Keyshawna asked.
Reforming Your Man
Forget about trying to change a bad boy. These girls already know to avoid that relationship pitfall.
Grace: Seventy-five percent of the Hartford High guys would fit in [the bad boy] category, you know, and I’m not about to go out and date 75 percent of the school to try to change them.
I don’t know. They have to want to change before they would ask for it. So you don’t go around dating people, saying, “OK, you’re going to change,” because they’re not going to want to change. Because they’re going to want to do what they want to do.
Keyshawna: Some of them change on their own like a little bit. Like if you around them a lot and if like they’re always cussing and you don’t cuss they won’t want to cuss a lot around you because they’re going to see how you is and how you present yourself. So it’s not like it’s my plan to change them. It just, you know what I’m saying, happens gradually.
Andrea: It works the same way for the girl. She doesn’t become bad because of him.
Keyshawna: It depends on the situation. You have to be strong not to go into that area. Because that’s what he wanted you for. And that’s what you wanted him for. So it brings out a little you in him and it brings out a little him in you.
Andrea: Something about the bad girls the bad boys want.

Speaking of bad girls …
Grace: Humm, that’s 50 percent of the Hartford High girls. And the 75 percent of bad boys want to date the 50 percent.
Meg: Well, I’m in middle school and I guess our private school definition of going out is, “I think you’re cute,” and “so do I.”
There’s always the girls who get the most attention, they get the captains’ spots on the sports teams because they’re the team queens. They’re who everyone else wants to be. And then the guys go after them. They put everyone down, they decide what you wear, if it’s cool or not — this is the way you have to be. You have to fit this little profile and then you can be friends with them.
They’re usually the prettiest girls in middle school — so the guys all want to go out with them. But they aren’t the nicest people in the world.
Andrea: By the time they get to high school they look like hell. (They laugh.)
Grace: And then they’re pregnant.
Andrea: The bad girls seem to get along with the guys better than the girls. If anything comes up, in some magical way, they all seem to back her up, you know. And it’s like the person that you never see in class, they have straight A’s.
Keyshawna: You think the bad girl the trashiest one?
Hillary: I don’t know, I don’t know about that. Our school never been like that. All the girls take charge at my school. The girls rule stuff at my school. They decide whatever they want. My boys just sit around and wait for someone to pick them up. I don’t know about your school. Our school, don’t like, the boys don’t judge the girls on how they act and if they put somebody down because all our girls want to be on top … or whatever, so they like flaunt it.
Keyshawna: In my school, all the girls be trying to set an image, to like (“Exactly!” Hillary says) skip class or go talk to this boy or to go grab a boy instead of the other way around. They have like an image they’re supposed to always represent when they’re there, but who knows what they’re doing when they’re not there. And that’s why it don’t make a difference.
Hillary: The boys in our school, they don’t judge the girls by intelligence or nothing. They judge them by their body. And it ain’t never been intelligence or how you act or nothing like that. Boys in our school just judge you by your body. If you have a nice body, they’re gonna go with you.
A Bad Boy Is:

Hillary: Outcast!
Meg: Not outcast, but like the guy every other guy wants to be like.
Andrea: Cool, calm and collected.
Grace: And dangerous.
Hillary: I don’t think it’s that either. I think it’s the outcast. I think it’s mainly the outcast and like the person that represents their selves by their selves.
Keyshawna: And they rule!
Hillary: Yeah, and they speak their mind and nobody want to be around them because they tell the truth.
Keyshawna: And he don’t care because he rule.
Hillary: Exactly. I don’t think it’s nobody that like everybody want to be like or nothing like that. I think it’s like the outcast.
So he’s like an independent person? We adults in the room ask.

Keyshawna and Hillary: Exactly.

Hillary: He have his own style.

Keyshawna: And he have no intention of being with anybody or having anybody being with him.

Keyshawna: He rule. He’s a leader.

Grace: And if there are set rules, he’s the one who breaks them.

Andrea: And he always looks good at it.

Grace: Basically looks good in general.

Keyshawna: If you want him to be ugly, he can be an ugly bad boy. He’s still an outcast. He’s just
out there by himself.

We ask for examples of bad boys from television and the movies.

Irena: Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.”

Grace: Classic!

Meg says bad boys are different in the movies than they are in real life. “From the discussion so far, it’s totally different than in the movies where everything works out OK in the end. In real life it doesn’t,” she says.

But Andrea and Grace are in a groove.

“How about, “Out of Sight?” Andrea asks, referring to the movie that starred bad boy George Clooney as a bank robber and bad girl Jennifer Lopez as the federal agent pursuing him in more ways than one.

Grace: How about Romeo and Juliet? That’s what happens when you fall in love with a bad boy. You end up killing yourself!

(The girls laugh.)
An Essay By Hillary
“The other day I was talking to some classmates and we just happened to get on the subject of how men think that they are the rulers of this earth or something. And then one boy in my class, I’m not going to say the name, but by the looks of things, ladies, you know he was still a boy, but anyway, he yelled out, `If it wasn’t for us men, you women would not be here today, because we are the ones that gave y’all the rib.’

“Now you know me, big Kiwi, was not taking that. I recall his name was Adam, not Tom, Dick or Harry and if y’all was anything like Adam, y’all would know how to treat a girl, woman, female, right. I mean, I thank Adam for sparing us a rib, but I think if God would have known how much fuss y’all was making about it I’m sure he could have created us without the help of any of your bones. Trust! I mean, what are men thinking — that they are so much more powerful and greater than women are? We can do anything and everything that y’all can do – – just way better. And I’m thinking that y’all should learn to respect that.”

Hillary: I didn’t write that essay about boys in my school, I wrote it about the boys on the block. Thuggish kind of people. I wrote that because while they come mostly from school, boys always think they have all the power over women. And like for the year 2000, we’re showing them differently and that’s the main thing that I wrote about. Because like boys always say they can do this and if they hadn’t given us this we wouldn’t be here. … And that’s mainly their excuse for us being here: “If we didn’t give y’all a rib you wouldn’t be here in the first place.” I’m like, whatever, we’d still be here. It has nothing to do with your little rib.

No Happy Ending

Andrea: I know the ultimate bad boy. Bill Clinton.

Grace: He has been no help.

Keyshawna: He helped me, I don’t know about y’all.

Grace: Because of him there have been a shortness of interns everywhere!

Keyshawna: That’s my boy. He gave scholarships.

Grace: But we don’t know what’s going on in the closet.

Keyshawna: I don’t care what’s in the closet!

Hillary: That’s their personal life.

Meg: I think Bill Clinton was like a bad guy because he’s not the happy ending. He’s sort of what happens. Yeah, they cheat on their wives. Because that’s like who they are. He cheated on more than one woman while he was President of the United States because he didn’t care. She stayed with him because she needed him because she was running for the governor of the state of New York. So that kind of boosts it just a tad. … I probably would have said drop him and run. I’m just sorry she had to put up with that, that he did that to her while he was such a huge public figure. …

Bad Boy Crushes

Has anyone had a crush on a bad boy and you didn’t want anyone to know?

Grace: There was a bad boy going to my church, and I was in awe that he was against everything that I was brought up to believe. And I was so scared to even tell anyone for fear that my mother would find out. You know. But the infatuation doesn’t last very long, and then you move on to your next victim. (She giggles.)

Hillary: To me, every bad date is like being with a bad boy because to me they do stuff I would not do in my lifetime. But no, I never had a crush on anyone that I didn’t ever tell. It’s like every time I dated someone who was thuggish was like normal. Everyone expected me to do it because that’s what I do.

When asked if a bad boy would make a good husband, the girls came alive.

Keyshawna: They have experience and they know, like if they started smoking at 13, when they have kids, they’re going to know that’s what’s going through that child’s mind with their peers and stuff so they would know what to expect.

Bad Boy Stories

Keyshawna: He was, oh my gosh, he was sexy! He was so attractive. And he was nice, I mean when I first met him, whatever, he used to do stupid things and then he realizes that was not helping him be with me. So he changed little stuff in his life, not because I asked him to, but because he wanted the relationship with me to work or whatever. So he changed little stuff in his life to accommodate both of us and then, well, skip all the other stuff to the end — he went right back to his old ways because he realized that’s what he enjoyed and that meant more to him. I mean there are some situations it works out and some it doesn’t. But it’s for the best.

Meg: A guy in seventh grade got a lot of attention. He used to get written up. He came to a birthday party drunk.

Keyshawna: What was he drinking?

Meg: Wine.

Keyshawna: That’s only 7 percent alcohol.

Meg: He drank two bottles. This is seventh grade. And he came drunk. He puked all over this nice person’s rug, everywhere.

(Laughter)

Hillary: Guess he can’t hold his liquor.

Meg: And his parents are never home. He lives in this huge house and he’s all alone most of the time. And so you felt real bad for him because he was kind of like crying out for help.

Keyshawna: That was his way to deal with the time he wasn’t spending with his parents. That was how his mind was occupied.

Meg: He was crying out for attention.

Keyshawna: Sometimes it’s not even that. That’s just the way you have to do stuff for yourself. And some people go the wrong way, but it’s not really crying out for attention. It’s something to fill your time with. Like the people be out on the street selling drugs. Some of them bad, some of them not. It’s not really they want to be caught by the police. It’s what they trying to do to make their money and that’s what they’re doing with their time.

Irena: I know of people from a distance, and I know TV characters, but I don’t know any bad boys personally.

Good Boys

Keyshawna: At Weaver, some of them is nice and you can really tell they have good intentions, and they like, you can tell they’re gonna be lawyers and stuff when they get older. But like, they boring. It’s like, they dragging, they lacking, it’s something like, they don’t got any excitement in their lives. All they do is ask, “You wanna go to the movies?” “No, not with you!” And then they’d want to go see some love movie!

Grace: I disagree. Sometimes those are the guys who have the biggest hearts, you know, and really know how to care and love for someone.

Andrea: They’re still boring.

(They argue.)

Irena: The bad boy image — the guy who’s out every night and drinking or doing something insane (“Because he has more experience,” Keyshawna interrupts.) — that excites you. But there are, like, the good guys. They’re the guys that are sensible. They’re not boring. They know their limits and they don’t push them for whatever reason. I mean, it only makes sense. And if you get past your desire to just break all the rules like you basically go through in your teen years, once you get past that, you know that’s a person you want to be with. Somebody that’s slick.

Hillary and Keyshawna, alternately: We’re not saying it’s not. We’re not saying it’s not like attractive or anything. We’re just saying good girls usually want to be with bad boys because they’re doing stuff that they’re not doing. It’s like they have interest in them, it’s not like they don’t like the other boys; they’re attracted to them too. But it’s like, the bad boys are like, exciting. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next. With them, you know what’s gonna happen next … . Why I want that? I want this. I want something I don’t have.

Meg: I think it’s not necessarily the good girls who want the bad boys. I guess it depends on your generation, how far apart you are in grade or age. The different ways you’re brought up. … I’d rather talk or hang out with a guy who is not the kind of guy who I can picture going to a party getting drunk or smashed … I’d want to hang out with a guy I can have a legitimate conversation with.

Hillary: She wants a lawyer.

Meg: Um, no, I think more along the lines of someone interested in science, but that’s OK.

Grace: I was brought up the typical good girl. You know, my mom and I go to church every Sunday and a lot of times during the week. And I’ve always been gung-ho on school work and doing my homework. I never wanted the bad guys. I don’t want the bad guys. I want someone who is going to see me for my intellect instead of me for my outward appearance. You know that’s all I’m asking.

Keyshawna: Well, regardless of good or bad, I want somebody I can grow with. Bad or good, If I can grow with that person, if we can learn from each other, then that’s the kind of person I want.

Hillary: When I was a good girl, when people were drinking and smoking around me, I wasn’t doing it, I was just watching them and I was gonna see how they react to it. Even if he smoked or drinked, I still wanted to go with him. That wasn’t going to change anything.

Grace: But if you don’t want to smoke or drink, why go out with someone who does?

Hillary: Because it’s not like they’re forcing you to do it. It’s not like they say, “Here. Take some. Come on, I ain’t going with you if you don’t smoke it.” It’s not like that. Maybe you don’t want to be around him when he’s smoking, but maybe you that kind of person, “You can smoke but I’m not gonna do it.”

Grace: But then you’re compromising. Because if you don’t want to do it and you’re going to hang around someone who is going to do it, then sooner or later, the compromising level of “I’m not gonna do it” is well, one drink or one smoke.

Avoiding Violence

We return to Monica Camby’s story and the possibility of getting involved with a violent person. The important question is, how do you know if a bad boy is violent?

Meg: I think you can tell if you hang out with a guy long enough. You can tell if they have the tendency to do something like that. I think you sort of can get yourself out of that situation by checking the guy out first.

Grace: If people watch Lifetime enough they basically know what they want and don’t want. I’ve watched a lot of movies with my mom and she says, “That’s probably not the type of guy you want.” But it seems to me Monica knew exactly what she wanted [the boyfriend, that is] and when she got it I don’t think she was ready for what happened, the repercussions.

Andrea: I think no matter how well you know someone, you never know what they’re capable of. … If there’s something that aggravates you, you can stop. But sometimes you can’t differentiate.

Keyshawna: That’s the type of relationship you stay out of if you can’t handle it. You meet somebody and he killed people before and you still want to be with him because you don’t think he’s gonna kill you … then that’s a messed-up relationship.

Hillary: Sometimes you can talk. You can figure out how he is.

Keyshawna: You can tell at some point you can’t handle it. If one time he gets off at you and … you know when to get out of that relationship that’s just being dumb, staying in it.

Irena: A guy either hides his violent impulses at first or grows violent. Because I don’t think anyone would want to get involved with someone who’s openly violent on like the first date, like stab someone with a fork because they got the wrong muffin or whatever. (Everyone laughs.)

Grace: Then you gotta run!

Irena: I don’t think I’d go back and ask for a second date. You know what I mean? I just think it happens, eventually, and then you’re in love with this guy and then you don’t know how to handle it.

Jane Ellen Dee