I've always bristled at the stereotype that women prefer jerks. That
we're drawn, by some reptilian part of our brain, to guys who would be
capable of bashing in our heads with a rock – and then making us clean
up the mess.
Unfortunately, the stereotype is true.
had just boarded a plane the other day, heading from New York to Los
Angeles. A nor'easter threatened to smash the East Coast. Flights were
being canceled, and security lines at the airport pooled hundreds of
damp people in stagnant lines for more than two hours. I nearly cried
when I got on board, so grateful was I to have finally made it on – and
so relieved that I'd be going home.
The stewardess warned us to
turn off "all electronic devices" as the plane started to taxi. But a
young man kept yapping on his cell phone. He was having some kind of
issue with the airline, something about changing the date of his return
trip. I wasn't really listening, but he was three rows in front of me,
and speaking so loudly, it was hard not to hear.
The stewardess walked over to his seat and asked him to get off the phone.
"I'm almost done," he said.
Sir. You're done right now. We can't take off until you turn off your
phone," she said. The stewardess was British and quite a bit older, and
had it been me, I would have listened. But it wasn't me. It was
"I just need five more minutes," he said.
"You get off the phone, or you're getting off the plane. Is that understood?"
no," I thought. "We're going to have to taxi back to the gate. He'll be
apprehended. By the time things normalize, the nor'easter will have
hit, and I'll be stranded."
The stewardess huffed and puffed,
but ultimately, she let the guy finish his call. When she returned to
her seat, he got up from his.
"Can I just tell you why I was on the phone?" he said, walking toward her seat in the back.
"Sit down!" she said. She was annoyed, but not angry. In fact, was that … amusement I detected in her voice?
escorted him back, returned to her seat and had barely fastened her
seatbelt, when Obnoxious Man popped up out of his chair and headed to
My jaw dropped.
"What do you think you're doing?" the stewardess asked.
"They made me drink my whole bottle of water at security," he said, shutting the door behind him.
looked around at my fellow passengers, most of whom were women, trying
to catch someone's eye and share a can-you-believe-this-guy moment.
Instead I saw a lot of smiles.
These women thought Obnoxious Man was kinda adorable. They thought he was funny. I thought I was going to lose my mind.
this overindulged man child finally sat down, the plane took off. And
almost immediately, the women around Obnoxious Man started chatting him
up. Where was he from? Where was he going? He ate up the attention, and
the women ate up his brazen cluelessness. Two middle-age women giggled
whenever he spoke to them.
When the captain turned off the
seatbelt sign, a cute teenage girl got up out of her seat and stood in
the aisle to talk to Obnoxious Man, hanging on his every word. I don't
know if he got her phone number. I couldn't watch any longer without
reaching for the airsickness bag.
I turned back to my magazine
and fumed. The guy is congenitally stupid, and now he's got a harem? I
understood then why Adam Sandler is a millionaire. All the women who
spoke with Obnoxious Man had the same look in their eyes – like they
were beholding a precious, silly little puppy. A cute thing they wanted
to take home and nurture.
This, I realized, is the true secret
of the jerk. It's not that women want to be mistreated; it's that all
of us want to coddle helpless men.
Well, almost all of us. When
we landed at LAX, I stood behind Obnoxious Man in the aisle, waiting to
get off the plane. Impatient, he whipped his head around and said,
"There should be doors at the back of these, too … oh, wait! There are
"They won't open them," I snapped, so sternly it made the people around us titter. "Not even for you."