EVER SINCE I CAN REMEMBER, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN TORN. The ﬁrst ﬂutterings of crushes I had were as incongruous as they were controversial, running the gamut from tennis pro Tim Henman – a man so squeaky-clean you could eat your dinner off his weedy little pigeon-chest – to AJ from Backstreet Boys who, I think we can all agree, was the one who most looked like he was on a watchlist somewhere.
To me, a horse-loving 12-year-old middle-class white girl from Surrey, this was the purest form of catnip available. So whenever the funfair came to town – a caravanserai of candyﬂoss and boys with ASBOs – I was there like a shot, resplendent in a Tammy Girl crop top and Buffalo platform trainers that made walking anywhere, for any length of time, a bit of an issue. An early indication of my willingness to wear ridiculous footwear in order to capture a man’s attention. Side note: this only actually stopped last year.
And why? Why did I risk a sprained ankle and a bit of a snifﬂe? Dear reader, I’ll tell you. I did it for the ﬂeeting thrill of being spun a wee bit faster on the waltzer by a boy with a stud in his ear and a twinkle in his eye. For, to a 12-year-old girl, it’s times like that when you know you’re really alive.
This inevitably segued into a series of teenage dalliances with drummers, labourers and men called Darryl, none of whom I could take home to my dad, and all of whom fell neatly under the category ‘Scrubs’, as succinctly deﬁned by TLC back in the day. There’s a rather more risqué name for them in 2017, but the fundamentals have remained the same. Flight risk. Wild child. Charming to the point of sociopathic and in possession of the kind of mischievous grin that could topple empires. All in all, pretty damn hot, really. And – more worryingly – almost irresistible.
Spare a thought, then, for Chloe Green, whose current romantic situation is potentially ruinous, yet has simultaneously caused me to be the most jealous I’ve been of anyone in quite a while. The Topshop heiress – and daughter of disgraced billionaire tycoon Sir Philip Green – presently has the onerous task of hanging off the arm of ‘hot convict’-turned-model, Jeremy Meeks. You know the one. That chiselled specimen of a dreamboat – currently not allowed into the UK – who looks like he’d steal your heart, dignity and wallet, and not necessarily in that order.
It could be that, like me, Chloe also had those early, formative experiences on the waltzer, dizzy on the heady combination of exhaust fumes and Lynx Africa. Or it could just be that bad-boy syndrome is innate in us all, and like lambs to the slaughter, we just can’t help ourselves when faced with a rebel without a cause. Especially one with style/a faraway look/good hair/every studio album by The Doors on vinyl. It’s a tale as old as time: the good girl and the bad boy. Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson. Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano. Sandy and Danny. The list is endless.
I won’t pretend the converse isn’t also true, though. How many men are there whose common sense ﬂies out of the window when faced with a can’t-be-tamed, hedonistic kinda girl? Is it just that these cavalier types – the ones that throw caution to the wind rather than suggesting Nando’s and Netﬂix over and over – are fundamentally more attractive to the opposite sex? And if so, why?
Psychologists say it’s all down to unpredictability. During an MRI-scan study where subjects were presented with rewards in an arbitrary pattern, the brain’s pleasure centres lit up far more than when the pattern wasn’t predictable. “The key is that the reward is unanticipated, which makes it particularly powerful and alluring to our brains,” The New York Times wrote when the report was released. Betrayed by our own DNA. Typical.
It echoes Esther Perel’s brilliant TED Talk on the secret of desire in long-term relationships. She explained that we crave familiarity, loyalty and security, but also need surprise, freedom and adventure, often looking for it all from the same person. Problematic? You could say that.
The bad boy, of course, only represents one half of this paradox. He might know the shortcut, or the doorman, and ﬂatter you that you’ve been chosen – however brieﬂy – to be part of his high-octane journey, but when all you really want is a chicken in pita and some Designated Survivor, is the roller coaster really worth it? Just ask yourself this: does he look like Jeremy Meeks? Yes? Carry on.