We’ve all heard the phrase actions speak louder than words. In today’s society, people are getting louder and louder. I don’t mean to say that is a bad thing because it’s not. It’s amazing that people are vocal for the causes they support and for the change they wish to see in the world; people should stand up for civil liberties and human rights. What I mean to say is that because people are so loud, there are some who think that they can simply tell you who they are. Just because they are loud, it doesn’t mean their words hold weight. Instead, look at their actions.
I was briefly friends with a woman who called herself a feminist, a socialist, and an open minded person. She wore the slogan t-shirts, posted her political opinions on social media, and was vocal in ascribing these labels to herself. So I believed her, though her behavior said otherwise.
As a feminist, she struggled to maintain female friendships. Her belief was that other women were simply intimidated by her. As a socialist, she underpaid and undervalued her employees and then fired the ones who questioned her leadership skills or asked for a more livable wage. As an open-minded person she lacked self-awareness and accountability. She promoted herself as a self-made artist and said things like “true artwork comes from pain.”
In her eyes, I was the best friend in a rom-com, but I could never be a leading lady. After all, I wasn’t brooding. I didn’t waste my time recounting all the ways people have let me down or hurt me. I was happy, which translated to shallow. Strange, that a feminist would take such issue with an empowered young woman.
And yet, I was still busting my ass working for this person. I was overworked and overwhelmed though I received neither guidance nor direction. She would delegate more of her work to me and I would gladly take it on, wanting to be more like her since I viewed her as a successful writer. I would do the best to get her work done without any understanding of what was wanted.
This went on for a little while until she began to tell me my work wasn’t good enough. At the time, I believed her. After all, she was the self-made artist who owned her own North Hollywood condo. She had succeeded as a writer! I, on the other hand, was younger, inexperienced and lacking any interesting labels.
Then, one day, one of my coworkers called me to check in. She simply said, “we haven’t talked in a bit, I wanted to see how you were doing.” My initial reaction was, oh no my boss is complaining about me. I was hesitant to unload, but I confessed that I was struggling, that I didn’t think I was good enough, and that I was completely overwhelmed. She shocked me; the day prior she was talking to another coworker and the two of them were surprised by how well I was doing, while the two of them felt completely overwhelmed.
We realized then and there that the issue wasn’t us but our management. Or really, the lack of it. Expectations were not being set, there was no clear understanding of workflow, and while our boss criticized us, she had no understanding of what our jobs entailed and how much we were hustling. In fact, she was taking advantage of us.
I wish I could say the situation got better. I wish I could say that when we brought our concerns to her we were listened to and respected, but we weren’t. My two coworkers were each labeled as a problem and fired. When I tried to mention my concerns I was told the problems simply didn’t exist and that I was misunderstanding the situation.
Needless to say, I not only no longer work for that woman, we aren’t friends anymore. I wonder what her opinion is of the situation. I doubt she sees any fault in her behavior and I doubt she questions her treatment of people she once called friends. Most likely, she has still positioned herself up in an ivory tower, where she looks down on the rest of us thinking, why does everyone let me down? Well, those of us standing together on the ground now look up and think, what a lonely perch.
On the bright side I learned a lot about myself. I strongly believe that when we encounter shitty people it’s a chance to learn a lesson. And I learned a few from this woman. I learned that I never want to fall victim to my ego, that I should stand up for myself and not let a boss take advantage of me, and that I should see someone for their actions not words. I realized that you should beware the faux feminist and also it’s probably not the best idea to work for a friend.
I quit that job. I walked out feeling taken advantage of and gaslit. But I also walked away with two new friends. Maybe it’s because trauma bonds people. Maybe too, it’s because we witnessed each other respond to adversity and we respected one another for it. Either way, these two women are great individuals. But they don’t say that. They live it.
Oh and that self-made writer? Turns out her parents bought the condo for her. Not really that self-made after all.