I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago. I needed a package of Almond Joy pieces and some celery. (Don’t judge.)
I had taken one of those little mini carts, just in case I got a hankering in the chocolate aisle, and upon returning it, goods in hand, I was met by a lovely woman unloading her groceries from her own itty bitty cart so she could carry them to her car. As I approached her, she looked down and muttered, “I’m sorry.”
I uttered my cheerfully automated, “No worries,” and pushed my cart to the side of hers and pulled my bag of bliss from the cart.
And then I stopped.
Why was she sorry? She wasn’t in my way. She wasn’t even near to being in my way. And… even if she had been in my way, I would need to wait. She was there first. I’m not one of those creepy apes on 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was in that moment when I realized that she was apologizing for her very existence.
Maybe you think I’m exaggerating.
I don’t think so. It seems to me that women are constantly apologizing for just BEing. My rote “No Worries” made me realize that I’m so completely oversaturated by these occurrences that it doesn’t even phase me and I’m constantly responding with, “No worries” (a.k.a. = “It’s okay that you exist.”) To a dozen. women. a. day.
Since I’ve had this epiphany, I’ve been hearing “I’m sorry” for weeks. It’s been like a symphony – from the woman at Target browsing for a new book as I stood next to her, from the gal at 7-11 searching for a sugar fix as I searched for more Almond Joy pieces, from another woman just trying to get out of the bakery that I was about to walk in to.
And I just don’t commonly hear this phrase from men. Not that it NEVER happens, but in my experience it only happens about 1% of the time. In fact, just yesterday as I walked into the grocery store, a burly dude in Crossfit paraphernalia with three carts full of what I can only imagine were protein powder and bananas took his ever-lovin’ sweet time blocking six of us from being able to grab a cart and not a peep came out of him. Ten minutes later a line of twelve rushed for the carts as he strode past with forty plus bags on each arm. Typically, I only hear men tell me they’re sorry when they actually have something to be sorry about.
So what is this? Aside from an apology for our very existence? Are we all hanging on to the adages of our childhood, “Be nice,” “Apologize,” “Say you’re sorry, Melanie, that’s not how little girls act.” I don’t have a definitive answer, but I’ve caught myself apologizing all over town these past few weeks, despite myself. How many apologies have I uttered in my lifetime? I bet I can’t count that high.
And… don’t get me wrong, I’m all for good manners. Saying “thank you” and “please” and not being that creepy ape I mentioned earlier, but apologizing for book browsing or sugar fixes should just never happen. Ever.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, why do you think women are so quick to say “I’m sorry” when it’s clearly not necessary? Any theories? Any experience of this yourselves?
Aside from helping me to figure this one out, I challenge each and every one of you to stop saying you’re sorry. Unless you accidentally punch someone wearing Crossfit gear in the groin, then an “I’m Sorry” might be in order.
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