“No thanks, I’m good.” “This might be a stupid question, but…” “I think you already told me this, so forgive me, but…” “I have this idea, it might be silly, but…” “I don’t think I can make it, but I’ll try…” “I’m sorry”, “I’m sorry”, “I’m sorry”, and “I’m sorry.”
Any of these sound familiar?
My friends and I are a group of funny, smart, confident girls and yet…I’ve noticed that either bluntly or subtly, most of our conversation contains some form of apology. I’m sure there have been studies about this pattern of women apologizing more than men and it fascinates me, especially when I catch myself do it. Why am I apologizing for not remembering the friend of a friend’s brother’s name? Why do I shyly suggest something as thought I’m going to be burned with a cigarette if my idea is rejected? Why can’t I just say a firm but polite “no” instead of, “Naw I’m good”? Why do we do this?
I’m not saying all women do this. I’m relieved not all women do this. I wonder if it’s just a matter of being in a position of power. I suppose it makes sense if at work or on a job interview you have an apologetic tone (whereas the person interviewing you does not) because you don’t want to step on toes and admit it, you just want to be liked. (Again, I know, not all women share this thought, and that’s great too.) Is it our generation? Are we so used to texting and email that we’ve viewed the phone and “real-life” conversation as something uncomfortable? Once our computers are taken away from us, does our confidence go with it? The more I think about it, the more instances I find. Like the time some obnoxious guy hit on my friend for about half an hour until she finally had enough and ended it. The time I asked a question in acting class and prefaced it with, “This is going to maybe sound like an insult but I swear I don’t mean it that way, I just have a question…” or when my drink is made incorrectly at Starbucks and I practically fall over myself apologizing explaining that this wasn’t what I ordered and can you please remake it, I’m so sorry. Like it’s my fucking fault you made me a hot latte even though I asked for iced. And it’s not a big deal, that’s not my point. The big deal is that I feel like it’s my fault.
Be honest with yourself: is this something that you do? Really think about it. If someone asks you to attend something that you really don’t want to attend, do you hesitate, put on a happy face and say something like, “I don’t know, I’ll have to check my schedule, but it really sounds like fun, I hope I can make it, I’m sorry I just don’t know yet!”? I’m not saying you should reply, “Your party sounds like ass, fuck off” but there’s a polite yet firm way to say no. I hate when people say, “I wish I could be there.” There’s no wishing. If you want to be there, be there. You don’t need a genie in a bottle, you just need your car keys.
When I worked in retail I thought maybe part of the apologetic nature came from the fact that I was just a sales person and not the manager, but then I noticed that even the manager had a tone with customers of, “Let me help you please and I’m so sorry if you don’t want me to, I’m just trying to be helpful.” She would approach customers gingerly but sweetly and ask them, “Would you like me to pop open that jewelry case for you?” with about six question marks hanging in the air, as though they were going to brandish a machete at her for even asking.
Let’s make a conscious effort not to apologize for things that we have no need to apologize for. Don’t say “I should have”, “My bad”, “Is that okay with you?”, or any other form of apology unless it is absolutely necessary.
There are too many people who didn’t deserve my apologies and I just gave it to them anyway.