Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Beware the Manic Pixie Dream Boyfriend

When I was in college I dated a guy who always checked that I was listening closely before making proclamations like “Dead flowers are more beautiful than live flowers.” After learning my building had roof access, he insisted we sit up there one night and chain-smoke Marlboro 27s. I was too anxious that my super would find out, and he was disappointed. “You’re totally closed off!" he exclaimed. “You’re never open to what the world is telling you.”

By “the world,” he obviously meant himself. If the world was telling me anything, it was Dump this idiot. (He was hot, though.)

This sort of guy can be irresistible, especially to goal-oriented women who need a break from obsessing about work. “I had serious obligations, and cared about success, and he was just, YOLO,” explains Beth, a 26-year-old union organizer, of her ex-boyfriend. “He was like, I'll read you my poetry and be romantic and freeing because I'll find things about you that are valuable that have nothing to do with your personal or career goals.” In your early 20s, they’re the opposite of the boring lawyer you “should” be dating.

The college guy was my first encounter with a type I have come to think of as the Manic Pixie Dream Boy: the self-mythologizing “free-spirited” dude who’s determined to make your life magical, whether you want it or not.

Think of him as a variation on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a term A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin coined in 2007 to describe the whimsical female onscreen love interest whose sole narrative purpose is to help the sad boy hero cheer up. The Manic Pixie Dream Boy has a cultivated crunchy-eclectic-hipster aesthetic. (“He had a tattoo of a deer woodcut with a banner that said, ‘Stay Hungry,’” recalled my friend Jenna, 31, of her MPDB. “While we were making out he kept the poncho on that he got in Guatemala during his gap year,” said another friend, Margaux, 28.) Back when I was in school, he listened to Panda Bear; ten years later, as a late-20-something, he listens to Getz/Gilberto — on vinyl, obviously. He relishes breaking rules, and relishes even more his complete lack of concern that he’ll get caught. He gushes about tripping on mushrooms at Burning Man and he’s happy to supply you with some, as long as you promise to do them in nature. And he is determined to show women — no matter how much more successful, wealthy, beautiful, happy, and confident they are than him — that they aren’t living life to the fullest.

by Anna Breslaw, NY Magazine | Read more:
Image: Cultura/DUEL/Getty Images