The Mickey Rourke bandwagon is making the rounds, but I already hopped aboard long before all this Wrestler hullabaloo. Hollywood is working the comeback angle on tough guy Mick who may win an Oscar this year. But the real moral of this story is simpler: being a bad boy is a lousy life choice. Loving one is even worse.
Back when my high school's handsome quarterback wouldn’t notice me, Mickey Rourke came to the rescue. After encountering his chaotic sensuality in The Pope of Greenwich Village, I was maniacal in my pursuit of all things Mickey. I fast-forwarded through Diner to get to his scenes. I suffered through Angel Heart to luxuriate in the sound of his heartbroken voice. And 9 ½ Weeks I watched on repeat until the VHS tape split in two.
The quarterback was the wholesome boy of my dreams. But what I really lusted after was a sexy screw-up with a movie star face, the soul of a brute, and the emotional maturity of a bratty, six-year old girl.
And along came Mickey.
Supposedly, every woman wants a bad boy, and I’ve certainly had my share. There was the Irish mafioso in Boston, the Bulgarian mafioso in Spain. The chef who had tattoos instead of feelings. The policeman who boxed instead of cried.
I finally quit bad boys cold turkey after meeting Dan, the boxing policeman with a raging bull body and Elvis-ian sneer. Six months ago, the two of us enjoyed a passionate but hilariously brief time together, rehashing the ins-and-outs of his suckjob childhood and wondering why life, mostly his, was nothing more than an enormous pile of horse droppings. Instead of a girlfriend, I became a comfort woman, a backbone, a shrink. But what truly ended things was how we always hit an intellectual wall whenever conversation moved beyond cars and punching people in the face. After we parted ways, I went from shrink to 3 am booty call, further evidence of how appreciative Dan was of my wisdom and encouragement.
Truthfully, I was a bit sorry to see Dan go. He boxed. He bellyached. He was my very own Mickey Rourke.
And now, in the days before Rourke might win an Oscar, I get a phone message from Dan. Since our split, he’s thought a lot about me, y’see. Of course, I should ignore the call. Instead I’m wondering why “bad” is so hard to shake.
Is it because we really believe we can save these guys? Or is that we’re still a bunch of cave women pining away for the beefy and strong? We want men who can defend us when necessary against spiders and cat-calls and this mean ol’ grizzly bear called life. But we also want someone who isn’t afraid to burrow down deep into the dirty muck of his own soul, to bring up the pain there and share it with that one special gal. In relationships, women want to feel together, to suffer and prevail as one. Shared feelings equal intimacy. If there’s anything bad boys seem to offer, it’s a well of steamy emotion.
And intensity. Good guys may challenge our minds, but bad boys test our mettle. A significantly more erotic interplay.
But there’s a fly in the ointment. These boys rarely heal. They just keep fighting, getting tattoos, puking up the bile of their own internal suffering and dribbling it into the lives of worn-out girlfriends. Bad boys don’t care about a woman’s personal shit because they’re too busy continually stepping in their own.
After ruining his life with boxing and booze, Mickey Rourke comes back to us with an Elephant-Man-meets-bloated-wino face, and a fat Chihuahua he says is his dearest friend. During the pre-Oscar Barbara Walters interview, Mick gets all self-help on our asses and admits to having issues around abandonment and shame.
“Hardness is a shield,” he says. “It hides other things.”
A man who deals with his issues is hot. A man who’s conscious of other people’s feelings is positively breath-taking. And a man who transcends the pain of his own history? Give this dude a medal.
Tonight, I’ll root for Mickey Rourke to win the Oscar but I won’t return Policeman Dan’s phone call. Like Mick, I stand at a defining moment where I can either move toward emotional redemption and romantic health, or get sucked back into bad boy-ism and a life of needless distress.
Let’s hope Mickey can be as strong as I am.