The Good in Feeling Bad

Not all negative emotions are bad for you. Plus, greeting obstacles with joy, pain but not suffering, nastiness and what matters to us.

What I Learned From My Bad Boyfriends

You want a "Nice" boyfriend or "Bad" boyfriend?

From my bad boyfriends, I learned that life is not easy and that relationships were not always emotionally safe.

From my good boyfriends, I learned an even more daunting lesson: that the very promise of safety is an illusion. I learned that while some choices seem less dangerous than others, life is not ultimately a game of tag.

In this respect, boring boyfriends are indeed dangerous because they lead you to repeat mistakes with genuinely bad boyfriends.

You're so thoroughly mind-numbingly dulled by your good boyfriend that the first time a bad boy with a sly grin rolls up his sleeves and looks your way, you throw your virtue, your conscience, and your sense of self-worth out the window along with your panties.

That's the double meaning of getting caught: getting caught is great if you're falling, but it's terrible if you're running away. And it isn't as if it was easy to decide what choices to make, either. The right man at the wrong time is the wrong man. And the wrong man at the right time is still the wrong man.

Nice boyfriend or bad boyfriend?

These nice boyfriends were as compelling as yesterday's news. They were clippings from a magazine that seemed interesting at the time, but to which I would never again refer. They were like wrapping paper that you remove neatly, fold, put away, and eventually throw out, crumpled up at a later date because you could never find a use for it.

Bad boys, in contrast, were literature.

Like literature, they had a long shelf life in your imagination. They were complicated.

They had great dialogue and interesting back-stories. They were memorable characters. They were always present. They were unavoidable. They took center stage, whether or not they were the leading man.

In fact, you can rarely distinguish the bad guy from the romantic lead.

That's why the smart woman writes her own story. She develops her own plot, stays in charge of the narrative, and chooses the wisest conclusion: she gives herself a comic, rather than a tragic, ending.

The Good in Feeling Bad