Recently, I apologized to my daughter because her shoes were falling apart (she refuses to get new ones), because she couldn't find matching socks and because even if she could find them, they would be full of holes.
I was simultaneously apologizing to my son for waking him up for school, for the fact that he needed to get up at all and then again because he didn't get up when he should have so now, he was now late.
I also apologized to my dogs for making them walk up stairs instead of taking an elevator and for running out of carrots during the upside climb. I then apologized to my doorman for asking him to buzz my apartment, to my husband for making him get out of the shower and put on pants because I forgot my car keys and needed him to send a set down to me. All this before 8 a.m..
Normally, I wouldn't think twice about it. But after reading a piece at The Huffington Post (and even more so after watching the video itself) about Amy Schumer's take on women and the almost unconscious reflex to blurt "I'm sorry," at the drop of a hat, I started noting how often those words slip out of my mouth.
I caught myself leading off a group email with "I'm sorry." I changed it to "apologies," which wasn't any better. "Forgive me?" Nope. Here I was painting myself into a contrite corner when there was actually nothing for me to feel badly about.
"I'm sorry" has become almost as ubiquitous as "like" or "um." It automatically slips from my lips at the slightest of provocations or appropriateness. And while yes, it can connote thoughtfulness and compassion, helping to soothe drama, smooth flare-ups and avoid confrontation, there really is far more to the I'm sorry story.
To bring some self-awareness to my automatic I'm sorries, I launched a 24-hour "I'm Sorry" ban -- my goal being to utter those words only if I'd done something that warranted an actual apology. I posted my plan on Facebook, where I found plenty of kindred souls, all women, who also were firmly entrenched in I'm sorry overuse. Some were called out on it by others. Some thanked me for encouraging them to cut back. Some joined me on my 24--hour ban. Of the many comments, only two men responded. One hoped I wasn't letting go of my empathy. The other made a joke.
For me, and many other women, apologizing, whether it's warranted or not, has become a constant, chronic state of mind. Saying "I'm sorry" so often gives power away. It's prostrating, docile, negating. It's taking responsibility and ownership of things gone wrong that too often, have nothing to do with us. It subtly squeezes women back into the subservient role that's been thrust on us through much of history.
"I'm sorry" has an important and valid place in personal and cultural conversation. But Amy Schumer shined an eye-opening light on how that simple phrase has been usurped to mean something else entirely.
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