Dating the Troy Dyers of the World

It came up one day that Nick had never seen Reality Bites. I insisted we watch it. In addition to being an era flick that characterizes the youth of our generation (okay, we were only in fourth grade when the movie came out about graduating college, but close enough) it also has some great one liners and is completely honest about the fact that yes, reality does in fact bite, at times.

So we watched Reality Bites on the classy ten-year-old, hand-me-down futon in my apartment with the 1970s harvest gold appliances.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to give away the ending to Reality Bites, so if you haven’t seen it but plan to (which would be strange since you’ve had almost twenty years to rent it) do not read further. random aside: I was once watching a youtube spoof on snuggies where they randomly spoiled the Harry Potter series (which I was in the middle of reading at the time). I was stunned. Seriously. Who does that?

Now Nick and I are watching this movie where Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawk’s character) plays a slacker who can’t get his life together. He clearly loves Lanie (played by Winona Ryder) who was just fired for retaliating against her condescending and chauvinist boss (woot!) and is frantically looking for work to pay the bills. Troy is a complete jerk to her and lives with Lanie and her roommate for free, because he refuses to look for a job. After Troy makes several hurtful comments towards Lanie, they eventually have a “moment” in the kitchen that leads to sex. When he wakes up in the morning surprise, surprise he can’t get his clothes on and out the door fast enough.

At this point Nick says, “I’m going to hate this movie if Troy gets with Lanie in the end.”

Well, if you’ve seen the movie you know that he does, in fact, get with Lanie in the end (she tells him off, he leaves, his dad dies, he has a change of heart, he comes back to apologize just as she’s running out to chase after him, they kiss, and it’s all happily ever after).

It made me think when Nick said that though, because of course I’ve always thought it was fantastic Troy and Lanie ended up together- he was just acting out of his hurt all that time, but he’s really a good guy, and he’s a changed man. Right? They were meant for each other, he understands her, bla, bla, fantastic fiction, bla.

What annoys Nick, of course, is not just that the asshole wins- but that 90% of girls watching this movie are rooting for the asshole. And they’re not just rooting for him in the movie, they’re giving up friends, and their dreams, and the chance to be with men who treat them well in order to date the real Troy Dyers of the world.

At this point, I could go into a whole long diatribe about different theories on why good girls like bad guys. I could give you a link to the DMX song with the same name for that matter. But I’m not going to.

I’m only going to speak for myself.

I don’t know why so many girls want to date the jerk, but I know I have. There was something in me that just wanted that guy who was all narcissism and charisma. And there was a time when I really did think “he’s just in college, he won’t act like that forever.” But guys didn’t seem to grow up and they got away with doing whatever they pleased- so why would they sacrifice for a girlfriend or a wife? Why wouldn’t they expect her to cater to him like she and others have been doing their whole lives?

This is what I see in counseling all the time. Girl meets “bad” boy. Boy is fun and charming and says he’ll change. Boy changes…at least for awhile. Then ten or five or one year later, she’s struggling. He said he’d quit smoking; he hasn’t. He said he’d provide for me; he doesn’t. He said he’d go to church with me; he refuses.

But it’s not even as simple as he gets wasted every night or he doesn’t, he still smokes or he quit. There are some fantastic men who are smokers. There are some pretty awful guys who are straight laced.

It’s deeper than that, and maybe that’s what makes it so hard. We see the good hearts of men we want to change. Or we can miss the good hearts of men who aren’t as boisterous.

I think I just got tired of searching for it so hard in the “bad boys.” At some point I realized they may or may not change, but regardless I no longer wanted those guys.

Maybe it took dating Nick to see what it felt like to really be valued and respected. Maybe it took learning to value and respect myself, but I don’t want someone who will change for me anymore. I want someone who has already started to change because he knows (in a relational, not legalistic, sense) a God who is constantly refining him.

And I think I’ve found one.

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7 thoughts on “Dating the Troy Dyers of the World

  1. i get your point, but i don’t know if i agree with your interpretation of the movie. sure mr. dyer is kind of a slacker sleezebag but he was no different from lanie, vickie or sammy. they all had issues. for me, i think you neglected to mention that lanie and troy were friends with history and shared experiences. they understood each other. they weren’t perfect, but in some ways their very imperfections made them a better fit than lanie and michael. and, in the end, they evolved together. i don’t think lanie was asking troy to be someone he’s not. she already knew his underlying good traits; she just wanted him to love her. that’s what every girl wants regardless of bad boy / choir boy.

    1. Sure, I neglected to mention that they were friends first, but I also didn’t go into the long list of ways he would most likely let her down. Just because he loves her does not mean that he’ll suddenly quit being a slacker, move towards conflict instead of always avoiding it, or actually be there for her when she needs him- rather than offering some witty insult to make himself feel better. I don’t think that the death of his father will magically change all those things in him (as the movie suggests). The more I see friends, family, and clients in marriages the more it seems like having someone love you is secondary to having someone with the qualities it takes to love you well.

  2. i wouldn’t prioritize one over the other. you can be with someone good for you but if you don’t love them or they don’t get you, i don’t know if that is healthier than being with someone that does love and understand you but has things to work on… because as a therapist you know that change and growth is possible even if we can’t expect it.

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