The world around us is adorned with associations, inept as they are with firm founding. Like reading classic fiction? You’ve probably got good grades too. Wear a lot of make up? You’re a whore. Listen to Taylor Swift? You’re hardly likely to be snorting lines of cocaine in your spare time. Each subtext of likes and interests is as false as the last in labelling what kind of person you are.
It was recently that a thought intrigued me, an idea that began after reading an article by Hannah Swerling of Elle Magazine. In ‘Good Girl vs. Bad Girl’, she discusses her life as an inherent ‘good girl’ – never skipping classes, keeping to deadlines, and never being too excessive in rebelling against society and its standards. She then contemplates the polar opposite – the so-called ‘bad girl’ amidst connotations of smoking, drink, drugs and dancing on tables and the draw many people feel to the girl who ‘rages against convention, yet still seems to come out on top’. Of course, I am no authority and I am no journalist for one of the top magazines in the world, but I have to ask when anything was ever as black and white as bad vs. good. Life is a spectrum of grey. I think you’d be challenged to find anyone that fits exactly at either end of any scale.
Yet, this is not breaking news. Parents and teachers drum it into us from an early age ‘never to judge a book by its cover’, but human nature prevails at making us assume things about others. Perhaps it’s better to leave things as they are and be whatever we feel like being – whether that be good, bad or anything in between.
It’s the ‘anything in between’ that interested me, which made me consider this so-called ‘bad/good girl’ idea. Contradicting ideas are everywhere. A friend of mine manages to get top marks in her exams and seems a sensible student on first meeting – yet the tales of her weekend escapades would be enough to make her mother faint. I’m in a class with a girl who I know to drink, smoke and dabble in drugs – yet if you never knew otherwise, you’d’ never meet someone so sweet and studious. It hardly seems as if anyone is perfectly pure – because where’s the fun in that? I’d make a bet that many ‘good girls’ hide behind a facade of something perhaps more sinister – even if it’s just having ‘one too many’ with friends one time on a Friday night.
Disney star Demi Lovato (you may know her as a sensibly dressed, non-make-up clad fifteen-year-old in 2008’s Camp Rock) recently checked unexpectedly into rehab for ‘personal issues’, but among rumours over everything from depression due to the death of an ex-boyfriend to being a cocaine and alcohol addict, it’s hard to know whether the girl that once seemed so wholesome hadn’t been a little bit ‘edgy’ away from the cameras after all. Once cute-faced child star Taylor Momsen (the little girl in ‘The Grinch’, anyone?), now seventeen, has been busy flashing her breasts on stage deliberately to the horror/sick amusement of audiences in New York, encouraging young girls to masturbate and, whilst performing smoking cigarettes (under-agedly, obviously) and crooning: “abuse me, shut up and do me”, you can’t help but sense a ‘wild child’ streak in the girl too. Let’s not condemn. Need I mention these are two wildly successful young women with all the opportunity, money and prospects anyone could ever hope for? ‘Bad girl’ or not, no one makes themselves a world-wide million-dollar brand by not working hard.
And myself? I’ve never danced on a table in a drunken stupor, but I did go to a party once dressed up as a prostitute and, to put it as nicely as can be, vomit on one. There is a story, should you ever encounter any of my friends bursting to tell you it, involving a slightly-out-of-control house party which I started, a whisk, carpet cleaner and myself dancing with/falling on/hanging off some poor guy’s neck screaming the words…well…actually, I think I’ll leave that one to the imagination. Letting go and being stupid once in a while doesn’t make me, or anyone else, a rebel. It just makes you human. And considering I only ever had one detention in my life, I would never dream of just handing in work late because I ‘can’t be bothered’, and I’m (my mother will tell you in despair) a workaholic, it hardly seems these natural ‘good’ characteristics would be dabbled with the same girl who snuck out of her house one time to dye her hair orange against her mother’s wishes…but they are.
It’s all relative, is it not? I may have thrown up (oh, how lady-like of me) on that table, but I didn’t then turn up at an office, a class or a family gathering sporting the same behaviour. If the rumours are true, I doubt Disney’s Demi ever went round to her Grandparents’ house and earnestly offered them some coke. I’ll bet Miss. Momsen never turns up for a meeting, sans underwear, and knocks back seven vodka shots before she’s even said ‘hello’ to her manager.
And the ‘bad’ girl? I have to question whether she is even ‘bad’ at all, at least not anymore. Are we not in a world of ever-expanding horizons, where totally normal behaviours of women today would have shocked fifty years ago? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll isn’t so hardcore when so many are donning attitudes of ‘too cool to care’ and ‘I really don’t give a f***’. Because the thing is, honey, every ‘bad’ thing you do has been done by millions of girls before you.
She may like to party, drink a little too much and do things her father wishes he could lock her up for, yet that doesn’t stop the same girl working hard in her day job, earning an honest living, listening to classical music or doing work for a charitable cause. People are as complex as the A grade that same girl may have earned in Advanced Physics at school. You know what they say: you haven’t lived until you’ve spent a night cleaning your someone’s vomit off your cream carpet, ate an out-of-date yoghurt mixed with vodka with some friends at two in the morning and accidently made out with your best friend’s nose. Yeah. Sorry about that.