Recently, a neighbor knocked at my door while I was on my hands and knees mopping my floors. (You should know that this is not a weekly occurrence.) After a rushed greeting, the next phrase out of my mouth was an apology for the way I looked. “Sorry, I’m mopping my floors so I haven’t gotten ready yet,” I said as I motioned to the workout gear I was sporting and my sweaty hairdo.
My neighbor wasn’t swinging by to pick me up for prom or even for a girl’s night out. She wasn’t coming over to snap a beauty shot for her photography business. She came to my door to ask me a quick question about a recipe, not critique my appearance. But instead of answering her question and moving on with my chores, I had to first utter an apology because I looked like I was mopping — wait for it — while I was mopping.
Before you rally to send me to body image counseling, please know that this has nothing to do with my actual appearance, and everything to do with my default “sorry” mode. If I’d answered the door in my Sunday best, I would’ve found something else to apologize for — likely my spotty wood floors. Why? Because it’s what we women do. Sorry (see!) but it’s true.
We apologize when we’re wearing sweats to drop kids off at school. We apologize for our house, even when it’s spotless. We apologize when we’re cooking and our house smells like we’re cooking. Saying sorry is such a big part of our nomenclature that we — or at least I — say “sorry” without even thinking about it. And I think it’s time to put a stop to this sorry way of life (pun intended).
Now, I’m not talking about surrendering the genuine, sorry-I-backed-into-your-car apologies or the sorry-I’m-late-again apologies. Or even the sorry-I-haven’t-had-time-to-call-you-back apologies. Those apologies and every authentic “sorry” definitely has its place. But I do think there are two kinds of “sorrys” we can do without:
1. The Unnecessary Sorry:
This rote apology isn’t actually an apology because there is nothing to apologize for. I’ve noticed that I tend to offer unnecessary apologies mostly for things that are simply a part of life. True, they aren’t part of life on Pinterest, but they are a huge part of the real world where visitors must sometimes sidestep laundry piles in the hallway and funky smells occasionally linger for days. These aren’t really things to apologize for, and they certainly aren’t unique to my household. But still, I apologize, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s to set people at ease, but typically the opposite is true. For instance, what do you say to someone who has just pointed out that they look scary without makeup on? There really isn’t an appropriate response. Now that you mention it, those circles under your eyes are pretty terrifying. Instead of apologizing for handprints on windows and splatters on the floor and the million other little things we find ourselves scrutinizing, let’s ignore the things that are simply part of life and save our sorrys for when they’re really needed.
2. The Un-Sorry:
The second kind of “sorry” I’m ready to kick to the curb is the un-sorry. I’m always amused when people start their sentences with “I’m sorry but …” then proceed to say something totally offensive and think they’re off the hook for being rude simply because they began their rant with an apology. Here’s a tip: If you have to start your comment with “sorry,” you probably shouldn’t say it. I’m sorry, but it’s true. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
So, chronic apologizers of the world, let’s band together in saying goodbye to a sorry-filled existence and save our breath for when a sincere apology is really needed. Next time I’m tempted to utter that five-letter word, I vow to stop and think about whether or not an apology is truly necessary, and I invite you to do to the same. And if you don’t agree with a word I’ve written, well that’s OK too. Just don’t expect an apology for it.