Good Girl Gone Bad

Recently I’ve been asking a question that always takes my friends aback: am I a good girl or a bad girl? In asking, I never define the terms, so my poor respondents are left considering the vast social and sexual minefield between good and bad. The guys I ask, in particular seem to have been brought up thinking bad girl equals slut, but the idea I’m trying to get at is broader – who am I? What defines me? Am I an academic achiever? New York review of books reader? The girl who has a Github repo or the girl who has a social skills blog?

As expected, the responses I receive depend heavily on the context in which I know the person. People I pset with or lecture to will unequivocally say good girl. People I’ve met at parties or hostels will qualify that. My closest girlfriends laugh, and given the number of conversations we’ve had under the influence of Cards Against Humanity, I forgive them. One friend says I’m a good girl pretending to be a bad girl pretending to be a good girl, which is just aphoristic enough to be right.

The truth, of course, is that I’m both and neither. I’m a bad girl insofar as it is possible to go to Harvard and Columbia and latex my homework and still be a bad girl. I love dancing at nightclubs. I love tight dresses. I love Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto, celebrity gossip, the feel of tensed abs under my tongue. These things aren’t necessarily consistent with each other and they are all part of me. If I were a matrix, I’d be full rank.

I think often times people will say they’re looking for depth in a friend or potential mate but not know what that quality really is. They’ll hear a guy spouting Nietzsche and think that’s depth. That’s not depth. Depth is the ability to be both good girl and bad girl, Madonna and Merkel and Magellan, and as importantly, to convey that sense of self to others. This last bit is crucial, because being complex and multifaceted is in and of itself not enough. The challenge is to transmit that depth when in interactions we often flatten out. For a mathematical analogy, imagine yourself as a datapoint in some high-dimensional space. Each dimension corresponds to a characteristic of yours. This is how you view yourself. Your interaction with others is a projection down to a low-dimensional subspace. Depending on the projection, we can make guarantees about preserving distances or maximizing variance, but usually some information will have been lost. You want to pick a good projection.

From the beginning of I Don’t Date Athletes, Robert and I have placed tremendous emphasis on the possibility of improving yourself. It is the promise that underpins all our advice, that given enough effort, you can be different next month, next year. Here I reiterate that, but I also want to add that you can be different people at the same time. The most attractive people (and this holds in both romantic and platonic relationships) are those who have a seemingly bottomless reservoir of talents and interests (talents and interests broadly construed). They are the ones you do the most learning with, both from and about. They are the ones who every time you see them you meet anew.

-Ren