Stupid Boys: Mistakes I Made This Year I’ll Never Make Again
“Settle into your temperament,” wrote Chani Nicholas, my favorite astrologist, as a part of this week’s Taurus horoscope. That’s me, I’m a Taurus, and it’s my 23rd birthday.
I’m stubborn, sensitive, and a proud lover of alone time. My personal issue: I’ve never felt comfortable being any of those things. I’m a practical person and I know that none of those traits are practical. I’m still settling into my temperament, okay?
I met Abeline last year through work. She’s my best friend now. I spend a lot of my time wishing I was less fragile. And no, I’m not saying I’m weak, I just need to be handled with extra care. Abeline gets insulted by the word “fragile,” she prefers the word “strong.” I rarely take my feet off the ground because maintaining my emotional equilibrium is very important to me. Failures never feel like setbacks, but new ideas do. Abeline has a new idea every minute.
When somebody else takes me out of my element, testing my fixed nature, I lose my f*cking mind. The first time I ever worked closely with Abeline was on an essay I wrote for Galore titled “How I Gained 15 Thousand Followers And Became A Miserable Person,” which was simultaneously the first time I ever blindly trusted another person’s criticism in regards to my own writing process. It was also the first time I ever wrote something honest about my ex boyfriend. I asked Abeline to edit that essay with me from the beginning to the end. She did, and it’s my favorite essay so far.
Last Summer, Abeline and I took our first trip to New York. We stayed at her family’s apartment in Tribeca. I grew up in a small suburban apartment with only my mom. Abeline grew up living in a full house. Between beautiful dinner parties on the balcony, alternating French guests, and an open door policy, I had never been around so many people in my life. Abeline has a lot of friends, and most of them are men. Prior to our Summer in New York, I didn’t have any.
Abeline’s closest male friend named Steve asked if he could interview me for a film project he was working on. I wanted him to be my friend, so I said yes. With questions like what does intimacy mean to you and do you remember your first kiss with the last person you dated, the interview revealed some of my most personal thoughts.
“Taking responsibility for a man’s reality will only mess up my own.”
We went to Lucien afterwards, a hip downtown restaurant that Abeline’s friends have turned into their hangout spot. I took one sip of my vodka soda before Steve decided to announce in front of a 6-person table: “I’d never been attracted to Mallory until I watched her from behind the camera.” I attempted to laugh it off, which only made things worse. “I didn’t think you were attractive until I heard you speak,” another friend named Trevor yelled from across the table. Why did they feel entitled to judge my intelligence from my looks? Why did they think I cared if they were attracted me? Why did they feel what they had to say was important enough for the entire table to hear? I felt insulted, embarrassed, and confused.
I laughed at Steve’s comments to make him comfortable, so that he wouldn’t look like an idiot in front of the entire table. But all that did was make him think I valued what he had to say, which then made all the people at the table listen to him. I put his feelings before my own because I wanted him to be my friend. He put his feelings before my own because he knew he could.
I’ve always been emotionally independent. I might complain (a lot), but I don’t expect anyone else to fix my problems. I create my issues, and so I tend to be possessive of them. But through interacting with Steve, who still remains clueless to how much effort I put into making him comfortable for saying something that made me uncomfortable, I learned that my first mistake was this: Taking responsibility for a man’s reality will only mess up my own.
I was upset after dinner, so Abeline and I smoked weed in bed, you know, while eating Doritos, talking shit, coming up with conspiracy theories for why Steve did that, and then laughing at him. “Men not wanting to be your friend is a narrative you created for yourself. You don’t have to accept that,” said Abeline, my guru. Although Abeline’s intention with her comment was specifically about my issue making genuine friendships with men, that was the day I realized I had the power to change any situation I was in. And today, on my 23rd birthday, I can confirm that with a different outlook and all of my energy, I can change literally anything.
“Admitting to being wrong in the workplace isn’t a shot to my ego, it’s just a way to take the lessons my leaders have already learned themselves and apply them to my own process.”
I cannot believe my bosses didn’t fire me after my first month working at Galore. I made their lives a living hell, seriously. Why? Because I felt really passionate about my job. I stayed up until 3am every night – not exaggerating – doing my work because I love my work. However, because I felt like this website was my newborn baby at the time, every comment, critique, or conversation I had with my higher ups felt like what I imagine an argument with my future spouse would feel like. The problem? This website isn’t mine, and I’m way too young to have a baby.
I shared too many feelings, argued my points with nothing but stubbornness, and I suppose, acted like a complete know-it-all. Did I know the ultimate secret to being an online editor at the age of 22? Yeah f*cking right. Was I good at my job? Hell yeah! Do I work better than most 55 year olds? Of course! But could I learn something from four businessmen who started their very own company after working for years in the media industry? Obviously.
There was one very defining moment in my career as a female leader that really brought me down to earth. One of my interns asked me if she could organize a photoshoot for somebody she wanted to interview. They were to shoot at the office on a Saturday, and I simply did not want to go. The talent being shot ended up posting photos in the office alongside a group of ten people who came to watch the shoot, or I guess they just wanted to hangout. I don’t really know. I wasn’t there. When my bosses, who were traveling, called me at 9am that Saturday morning to ask me how the shoot was going, I told them to ask the intern. They were upset. “Wait, why?” I asked. “You gave an intern your key to the office, let her host a photoshoot with ten strangers, and truly thought that was an okay thing to do,” answered my boss.
At first, I just wanted to be right. My argument was, “I trust the intern completely, so everything is fine.” Lame, am I right? But after two hours of thinking of every possible way I could argue this predicament into something I could take zero responsibility for, I came up with one solution — apologize. Was my apology noted? Not right away. See, when you’re a know-it-all, nobody believes you when you’re actually sorry. Only, I still, one year later, feel nothing but guilt for this situation.
Did they forgive me? Yeah. Should they have? Probably not, that’s a true rookie mistake. But they did, surprisingly. And so, another lesson with men was learned — a lesson in humility, I might add — admitting to being wrong in the workplace isn’t a shot to my ego, it’s just a way to take the lessons my leaders have already learned themselves and apply them to my own process. You know, so I can do better, make my life easier, and never give an intern the keys to an office that isn’t mine… again.
“If I don’t tell men how I feel in the moment, I’ll carry a very sad, heavy burden with me that will cease every bit of my creativity.”
With my newfound knowledge, I planned a Fall trip to New York in an attempt to show my bosses that I wasn’t a complete moron. While I was there, I grew a big fat crush on an artist – think easel and paintbrush – who was (surprise!) one of Abeline’s male friends. His name was Austin, and I liked everything he said. He liked me too, I guess, even though our date didn’t really seem like that. Between laughing at none of my jokes and looking off into the distance every time I talked about my family, I assumed he hated me.
I didn’t want to be rejected by Austin, and so, when we both got back to Abeline’s parents’ house after dinner, I did the most ridiculous thing I could possibly think of — locked myself in the bathroom and took a two hour shower. Abeline and our friend Hannah came in to check on me. Hannah’s a Taurus, like me. I told them to make him leave. Abeline told me to go deal with my emotions like a grown woman. Hannah walked out of the bathroom and said to him, “Mallory’s sick.” Yeah so, then he left.
I’ve been told my entire life that I’m neither expressive nor transparent. I feel a lot, I don’t think anybody knows that. Saying how I feel is my biggest fear in life. It makes me nauseous, always has. Am I crazy? We know this already. Did I like him? Literally so much that I rejected him, which in turn rejected myself. I flew back to Los Angeles feeling confused and numb. Austin came about a month later. Abeline said she was going to lunch with him at Joans on Third, a chic restaurant lots of famous people go to. I invited myself. I just wanted to see him.
At lunch he apologized for how he came across during our NYC dinner date, but he did reveal he felt misunderstood by me. I embarrassingly responded with nothing but five minutes of straight giggles. I then took two bites of my favorite $20 salad in LA, and kept on giggling. Abeline was mortified. She just couldn’t take it. And so, as any good Aries friend would do, she responded for me. I can’t remember her exact words, but it went something like, “You insulted Mallory and that’s why it didn’t work out.” The only issue was that she didn’t really know how I felt.
Abeline and I talked about Austin, of course, but I never expressed any of my honest emotions about him to her. I speak to people about my emotions in hopes that I’ll convince myself to stop feeling a certain way. I say every possible feeling I can think of, good and bad, because sadly, it’s the only way I can figure out how I’m feeling myself. I just never know, and so, I have to throw ridiculous statements out into the universe in hopes that something I say will either feel wrong or right.
And so, without knowing, Abeline lied to Austin for me. After twenty more minutes of giggling from yours truly, we all hugged goodbye, and the next three months of my life were lived in an emotional hell. I stalked his Twitter everyday (twice a day), thought about him probably five times a day, tried to convince myself that his artwork was somehow about me (it wasn’t), and never expressed any of my emotions to him. I flew back to New York at the end of those three months for work, a few days before New Year’s Eve, and my entire plane ride consisted of me writing out what I would say to Austin the moment I saw him. I couldn’t wait to finally tell him how I felt. Also, I had major plans for the best New Year’s Eve kiss to ever happen.
I’ve spent the majority of my time here on Earth playing it safe. I simply do not like to look stupid. And where was Austin as soon as I landed? Just at his new girlfriend who is actually his ex girlfriend’s house. And here we have my third mistake: If I don’t tell men how I feel in the moment, I’ll carry a very sad, heavy burden with me that will cease every bit of my creativity.
“Turns out, my feminine approach can make a masculine idea a hell of a lot better.”
When I accepted I was wrong about Austin, look at me remembering mistake #2, I finally gained a surge of creativity. Abeline came up with an art project idea, something we could do for fun that was different from what we do all day, and I believed in her. She wanted to work on it with her friends in New York, the male artist ones, and so it was decided we’d all make a short film together at the start of Spring. “I don’t have a lot of ideas,” I kept saying to Abeline. She told me to shut up. It’s kind of true though. I say a ton of ideas out loud, only… I rarely hear myself saying them. I’ll catch one once in a while, if it hits me in the middle of my brain, but most of the time, I really enjoy piecing together and building upon ideas that other people have. It’s what I’m good at.
During the film process, I had a lot of conversations with the men involved about their ideas. There was one problem though, and it was mine — none of them were hearing my suggestions and even more frustrating, none of them noticed how my thoughts could improve upon their own work. One night, the entire art-group got together to build a few sets. Abeline and I took the lead, giving a group of guys directions similar to “this way is up.” Her friend Trevor asked me if he could build his own set, a display of things he had found all over New York City. I said yes.
“If you want to put it in the middle of the floor, just know Abeline and I want to create an LED light cross which will go through the middle of the room, so you’ll have to build your display around that,” I told Trevor. “No problem,” he said. Abeline and I left for a dinner break, but by the time we came back, Trevor had built his entire display before we could lay down our cross. I was tired of not being listened to. I made him redo it. He got really upset.
After watching the film footage, I can confirm his display is one of the coolest sets. Why? Because of the god damn LED cross shining through. And so, we’ve arrived at my fourth and final mistake, which was allowing men to disregard my amazing ideas. Turns out, my feminine approach can make a masculine idea a hell of a lot better. Who would’ve thought?
Listen to the essay here:
Illustration by Carolyn Buch