“Fuckboy” gets thrown around a lot these days. Whether you’re describing a self-important fool, a generic douchebag, or a two-timing Tinderer, you should be careful about misusing the term, especially if the guy hitting on you at the bar is actually not a fuckboy, but a puppet given a chance to live life as a real boy.
While fuckboys tend to be after no-strings-attached hookups, “puppet boy,” a term popularized by the story of Pinocchio, implies a much more literal interpretation of the idea of “no strings attached.” A regular at nightclubs and the workshops of reclusive old men, these boys lure you in with their brightly painted eyes and their toddler-like stumbling. They may seem cute, but they can be just as careless with your heart as their fuckboy counterparts. Avoid trying to help a puppet boy as he learns to use his legs for the first time. These rosy-cheeked lads are notorious for using girls for one thing and one thing only: to become real.
“The fuckboys, well, you really won’t know until it’s too late, so I just don’t rush into anything,” says Alana Van Houten, a 26-year-old fashion assistant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “But the puppets are a whole different story. They always seem so sweet at first, and then you’re getting these desperate texts at 3 AM being like ‘Help, help, my dad’s stuck in a whale.’”
She then displays a string of messages, all from boys asking to make “wishes” for them. “Like, dude, we went on two dates. I’m not your girlfriend.”
One of her friends shoves a photo in front of me. “I had literally just met the guy who sent this to me.” She rolls her eyes when I ask if it’s a dick pic. “It’s his gross-ass nose. He kept trying to prove he wasn’t lying, but I was like, ‘Eff off, you clearly have daddy issues.” The young women return to their phones, continuing their search for men in a sea of various types of boys.
Like any new slang, it can be hard to really pinpoint the true PB’s (aka poppet lads, pup-bois, and wire hangers). Clearly a product of our society of overgrown man-children, these boys take no responsibility and instead just search for some manic pixie dream girl to change their lives, or at least some kind of enchanted cricket in a tux.
For millennial women caught between dating apps and hookup culture, it’s easy to see the appeal of a clunky jumble of floppy limbs that move despite a lack of any biological musculature or robotic assistance. They’re simple boys willing to check out that experimental cocktail bar or go salsa dancing because literally every experience is new to them. But whether it’s a typical marionette or a cursed ventriloquist dummy, it always ends with heartbreak when he learns a great life lesson and magically transforms to flesh and blood.
Lost without someone telling him what to do, clueless about the world, and forever worried about his mortality, this “puppet boy” has, unfortunately, become the “real boy.”