Not just a stereotype
I swear most people go through a bad boy (or girl) stage sometime in high school. According to my friend, Melissa, I have a “thing” for bad boys. And maybe I do…but not just the stereotype that most people think of.
Back in high school, if you asked me what a “bad boy” looked like, I would say the ones who smoked and drank and skipped school and had tattoos and rebelled against everyone and everything.
I also would have said I wouldn’t go near any of them with a ten-foot pole.
As I aged, I realized something poignant. Good guys can be bad boys, too.
My impression of them during high school was based only on outward appearances. There was one guy that I think fit some of those and I was friendly with him, but never considered dating him because he wasn’t academic and I thought he was a partier. He was also the one who let me wear his jersey a lot during football season, without question, and would be my escort for the wrestling and pom pon state assembly. He was just a nice guy.
On the flip side, there was the pretty boy who was smart, and cute, and flirtatious, and definitely a “good guy.” However, he was the type that would lead me on, and then use me to help him date another girl.
As Stephanie Tanner would say, “How rude!”
I seemed to fall in this trap a lot since boys came into my life. A guy would seem like he was decent and interested, then when it was time to actually take me out on dates, he would somehow be too busy, or think that we lived too far away, or blame my job for his lack of interest.
So that was one guy. From eHarmony. But he fits! He was gainfully employed, had good relations with his family, and reached out to me even though he knew I lived about two hours away.
Gretchen’s “bad boy” boyfriend is Eric. Of course, he has his flaws, but he isn’t fitting the typical mold of bad boys. He has a rougher home life, but he’s involved in sports. He isn’t the most reliable in relationships, but he can be a caring person. Eric has good qualities as well as bad ones. I wanted him to be human.
I also didn’t want to make Eric too unique or special. So often, the other person in the relationship with the protagonist has something unique about their flaws. I wanted Eric to be ordinary. Gretchen should be special, not Eric, nor their relationship.
That’s why I made Gretchen to be a strong-willed person, so she wouldn’t be the type who would totally give into what another person wants. However, she does let her heart get pulled into what is good about Eric, and that’s what makes their relationship an accurate portrayal of a lot of teenage relationships. They don’t meet a stereotype. They meet something typical.
One thing that rings true for Gretchen that has for many, many people in her situation: she learns from her relationship with the “bad boy.” She learned qualities she wanted in a boyfriend…and ones she needed to run away from. Most importantly, she learned more about herself, her capabilities, her flaws, and her self-acceptance.