I'm in my last two weeks of my 39-year career, and that involves a lot of file clearing. I came across this-- one of the pieces from my local weekly newspaper column-- and it seems oddly apropos at the moment. While it's not explicitly about school, watching my own students is where I observed all of this. The column garnered huge student response-- one at a time. Breaking the cycle of bad high school relationships seems like one of the ongoing challenges at my school.
When you want romantic tragedy, it’s hard to beat a teaming of a sad girl with an angry boy.
Most people know one of these couples. They are not only locally numerous, but they are usually kind of, well, noisy. People often find their partnership mysterious, marked mostly by abuse, meanness, and co-dependency.
Friends of Sad Girl wonder why she takes it. He’s neglectful, mean, and misbehaves badly.
Sad Girl cannot be swayed. “You just don’t understand him like I do,” she’ll say. She may acknowledge that he has a problem with drug abuse, general responsibility, or faithfulness—but those little issues don’t matter. They aren’t the real him. He’s really a wonderful, sweet guy.
Does he push her around, call her names, treat her with enormous disrespect? It’s his unhappy home life, or her fault for the way she behaves.
Sad Girl stays for two apparently contradictory reasons—1) she doesn’t believe she deserves anything better, and 2) the fact that she is the only human being who can see the golden part of this guy is proof of her own special qualities. There’s a certain cachet in being the beauty who can tame the beast.
It’s easier to see why angry boys stay with their sad girls. The world is not exactly filled with people who want to put up with their misbehavior. It’s an area in which the sad girls and angry boys are in perfect agreement—none of the Bad Things in his life are actually his fault.
Can’t hold a job? It’s the fault of his stupid bosses who get all upset just because he won’t show up for work every day, and on time. Got in a screaming match with a relative? It’s because that big stupid jerk disagreed with him.
Broke again? It’s not his fault that people keep taking his money for the things he wants. Stoned or drunk yet again? Hey, he’s entitled to an escape when everyone keeps pushing him and picking on him. Arrested for breaking a law? Again? It’s those darn police who just keep trying to push him around. They don’t like him. They’re out to get him. Just like his school teachers and the mailman and the checkout girl at Giant Eagle.
Angry Boy is angry so much of the time because he can’t quite get a handle on his life. He wants to be able to do what he feels like, when he feels like it, but he still wants things to turn out the way he wants them to.
Somehow, the whole cause and effect thing escapes him. If he feels like hitting himself in the head with a hammer, then by god nobody should be able to stop him—but afterwards why should his head hurt? It’s just not fair. It must be somebody’s fault. Just not his.
It is easy to imagine that Sad Girl and Angry Boy are, well, not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. But this is often not the case. I’ve known lots of Sad Girls who were poised to graduate near the top of their classes who still worked hard to maintain their devotion to an Angry Boy.
Her friends tell her to get out. Even if she have started to think she should, she feels responsible for Angry Boy. “If I leave him,” she says, whiningly, “I don’t know what he’ll do.” In her mind, his fate is in her hands.
Which is part of the attraction, though she would never admit it—perhaps not even to herself. Sad Girl is usually sad because she has lived a lonely, powerless existence. But oddly enough, with Angry Boy, she has some real power over someone.
Still, as much as she hates to give up the power, she usually does. After all, the alternative is to eventually marry him so that he won’t be upset. Sometimes he stomps off; she always begs for him to come back, and he always does.
This is how Angry Boy wants it. Angry Boy never, ever breaks up with Sad Girl. He just keeps pushing her until she’s finally had enough and walks away. This suits him fine, because the end of their relationship, just like every other rotten thing in his life, is not his fault. She walked out on him. She’s just one more person who has dumped on him. In fact, her rotten betrayal will make a great story for softening up the next Sad Girl he meets.
She hurts him when she pulls away(or glances at other guys). He hurts her when he is thoughtless and mean. But don’t tell them to get away from each other. After all, it’s True Love.