Bad Decisions I Explored So You Don’t Have To

Bad Decisions I Explored So You Don’t Have To


Attempting to drink 21 shots on my 21st birthday

Everyone tries this. You have Sam Adams who gets to 25, and Allie Alltalk who makes it to 7.5. I got to 14. For my 5’2, 140-pound self, that was a lot. Enough for me to conquer a frat house by writing little love notes to all my bro friends on the covers of their pricy textbooks (in sharpie) reading things like, “AleXXX, where are uuuu? Mary birtday!” and “the cardinals are birds and baseballs. BALLS!” I embarked on a tumultuous cab ride that involved me vomming in the backseat only after we’d reached my boyfriend’s parking lot. After driving the puke-filled cab to an ATM to pay our cabbie an $80 cleaning fee, boyfriend and I retired to his duplex where he instructed me to take a shower before bed amidst fervent protestations.

Hooking up with someone I work with:

A mistake I’ve made, foolishly, more than once. In college, I worked at a frozen custard shop and wound up kissing my sexy Italian shift leader in the walk-in freezer. It got weird when he tried to sell me mushrooms and invited me over at 3 a.m. to watch the “visualizer” on his Macbook screen while we listened to The Mars Volta. I repeat offended years later, except this time in a real-job setting. After we decided to stop making out on Wisconsin dance floors, I had to endure the awkward absence of his morning hellos and the overwhelming scent of his cologne constantly wafting through the office vents.

Trying durian:

Durian is an Asian fruit, mango-like in texture, that comes wrapped in a foreboding, spiked husk. My dad, the ultimate anti-picky eater, purchased two of these foreign delicacies one summer afternoon when I was about 15. First, mom tried it. Within seconds she was bent over the kitchen table, coughing, wiping off her tongue. Sister Anna and brother Dewy had similar reactions. And yet, when dad handed me that big, juicy, slice of evil, I reached out, bit into it, and let the taste of fermented vinegar and socks and that smell that gets on your fingers when you touch subway railings soak into my taste buds. Not umami.

Opening a retail credit card:

For years, I was religious about denying the 15% off if you open a card discount offered by the clenched smiles of preppy girls at Victoria’s Secret and H&M. But then I became one of those girls when I signed up for seasonal shifts at Express Mall of America, and that 15% off started looking looking like a nice way to save on the $450 heap of clothes I bought upon signing an employment agreement. But that was only the beginning. Soon I would walk into work 15 minutes early to shop and change out of my already perfectly work-appropriate rags. Or change halfway through my shift to best all the metro sales associates on the men’s side in suspenders and bow ties. It had to stop, so one winter I starved myself from buying new clothes, paid down my $600 balance, and closed the account.

Moving in with a man I knew I would not marry:

I knew, deep, deep in my stomach and in the most honest corners of my brain that it wasn’t going to be forever. Every time he brought up marriage, I got the sense I had been on a rusty playground merry-go-round for too long. But instead of addressing those feelings and collecting the courage to end things, I performed continual CPR on the relationship, going so far as to co-habitate, and all the while telling myself “he’s a great person, I’m sure you’re just nervous about finally getting serious.” He is a great person. But he isn’t my person, and he moved out within a month.

Buying liquor for my 18-year-old brother:

My sister did it for me, so I figured it was my familial obligation to help little Dewy out during his senior summer. But this kid didn’t just ask for a fifth of karkov or black velvet–no, he was far harder core. He requested two handles of whiskey, which, after a brief interview, I purchased for him from byerlys. Turns out it’s tough to conceal two handles of whiskey in your parents house when your mom changes your sheets. Within 48 hours I received a tearful call from mom wherein she explained that she thinks Dewy has “grandpa’s genes,” and that the alcoholic apple seed inside him had finally been watered. I explained it was probably for a dumb party, hung up the phone, and said five hail Marys to atone for my sins.

-Natalie Berkley