By Melanie Bates
I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago. I needed a package of Almond Joy pieces and some celery. (Donít 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, “Iím 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 wasnít in my way. She wasnít even near to being in my way. AndÖ even if she had been in my way, I would need to wait. She was there first. Iím 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 Iím exaggerating.
I donít think so. It seems to me that women are constantly apologizing for just†BEing. My rote “No Worries” made me realize that Iím so completely over-saturated by these occurrences that it doesnít even phase me and Iím constantly responding with, “No worries” (a.k.a. = “Itís okay that you exist.”) To a dozen. women. a. day.
Since Iíve had this epiphany, Iíve been hearing “Iím sorry” for weeks. Itís been like a symphony Ė 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 donít commonly hear this phrase from men. Not that it NEVER happens, but in my experience it only happens about 1 percent 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-loviní 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 theyíre 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 youíre sorry, Melanie, thatís not how little girls act.” †I donít have a definitive answer, but Iíve caught myself apologizing all over town these past few weeks, despite myself. How many apologies have I uttered in my lifetime? I bet I canít count that high.
AndÖ donít get me wrong, Iím 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.
Iíd love to hear your thoughts on this, why do you think women are so quick to say “Iím sorry” when itís 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 youíre sorry. Unless you accidentally punch someone wearing Crossfit gear in the groin, then an “Iím Sorry” might be in order.