"Toxic" Men: A Meaningless Word to Describe Dating Bad Guys

The word "toxic" has been fully accepted into the mainstream—for worse.

Posted Sep 27, 2013

I don't know if I can pinpoint why the term "toxic" as a descriptor of character bothers me so much. Honestly, the same publisher who published my book published one from another self-help author, and it was called "Toxic Men." Now, I'm not one to trash other people personally or publically, so I'll be careful with what I say here.

The term "toxic" is a bad term, particularly when used to describe men, because it doesn't mean anything. It is meaningless psychobabble that doesn't really say anything about the person to whom you're referring. Fine, I'll go there: In what way is he toxic? Is he a good guy but does some bad things, or is he a bad guy who usually does bad things? See, you've called him "toxic" but you've essentially wasted your own time by saying something that doesn't say anything at all! Your time is too valuable for that.

There are guys who are abusers, have addictions or even have deep-seated anger or even hatred toward women and act accordingly, but I don't even know if I would describe these subtypes as "toxic." These guys are really severe, and my association to "toxic" is "bad for you." The real meaning of toxic refers to a negative reaction to chemicals - and that sounds pretty serious if what you mean to say by calling a man "toxic" is that he is a type of guy to avoid. 

I think the word is just ridiculous, end of story. The bigger point is that the language we use can be so helpful as a means of communicating with each other. If we all take an occasional moment in describing someone or something and wait for the best word, you will share the word and whomever you're talking to will be more connected with you in that moment because he or she now has a picture—based soley on a specific word or two you chose. Being careful with the words we choose is something worth valuing.