As a young woman I was always attracted to the bad boys. I was a goody-two-shoes myself. Maybe what I saw in the bad boys was excitement; something so different from my normal life. My friends and family wrung their hands and worried about me. They knew me to be a fairly level-headed, bright person. So why couldn’t I see that I was going to get burned?

I remember recognizing the folly of my attraction. But, as the old song said, “Still I look to find a reason to believe.” Now I look back on that time with wonder. As I grew older I was increasingly drawn to reason and logic. How could I not see the fallacy of my thinking? I think part of it was that I overlaid the bad boy’s badness with what I wanted to see—not what was. Also, I was raised in a society that treats bad men with a kind of bemused acceptance. We don’t call them men. We say, “Boys will be boys” and allow behavior that should never be excused for grown men.

I remember when I heard the quote from Maya Angelou: “When a person shows you who they are, believe them.” I heard that and saw the wisdom of it. But I still looked to find a reason to believe. It took me many, many years to actually practice that wisdom in my own life. While I got burned over and over again, I was unwilling (unable?) to admit to myself and to my friends that I was making a great mistake.

So I have some sympathy for those who are mesmerized by America’s bad boy. The problem is, it is not just those people who are being burned by him. He has burned us all. He has torn asunder the American fabric. I know. The fabric was already frayed. But just as my bad boys created a chasm between me and my family, so has America’s bad boy made holiday dinners tense and unpleasant for so many of us.

But I now know, down to my bones, when you are constantly willing to overlook things you know to be wrong, when you keep justifying a man’s badness, when you have to search for a reason for a to believe, you are doing great damage to yourself and those who love you.

Tobey Miller, Fort Payne, Alabama

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