Dear Women, Enough with the “I’m Sorry”


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.

Holy crap!

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.




june t.
reft h3 years ago

don't we have enough things to worry about? Oh, sorry....

Sian R.
Sian R3 years ago

It's not just "I'm sorry" - we women seem to belittle our whole existence.
For example - how many times when someone has given you a compliment have you brushed it off -
'That's a a nice dress' ....answered by 'Oh, this old thing;I've had it for years!' -
instead of saying a simple 'thank you', with a smile?

This year's new resolution on my part has been to THANK people for compliments, and to insist others thank me instead of being apologetic. It has made a difference; the lovely woman I see every week at zumba classes now walks with her shoulders back straight and a spring in her step. And there are others...

Rose Roma
Rose R3 years ago

It does seem like when people (predominantly women) in Am. culture knee-jerk say, "I'm sorry," that, besides being habitual, it is a subliminal plea for "Don't hurt me," or "I am submissive; don't be angry," "I am fragile," "Please love me," "Please be gentle." This is no worse than a trend right now in younger people to finish many declarative sentences with a questioning tone on the end; or to add to every sentence with a "You know what I mean?" In these cases, I believe they are checking for reassurance. Conversation is dynamic. Quite often the out loud verbal is midstream of a silent thought conversation being held. The confidence NOT to speak in these habit phrases has to come from
within the speaker. Rather than criticize or castigate for your own comfort or aesthetic, try and practice compassion and acceptance. At most create from your end an atmosphere or moment for authentic communication to occur. Being gentle, kind and compassionate is a lovely way to exist. Only to prove to you that I am human, too, I will share that I often remind myself I am NOT someone's Teacher, Policeman or Hairdresser or fall back on Zen "stepping off own path" or Biblical "Judge not..." lessons. LOL.

Ramhit Oumar
Oumar R3 years ago

apologizing is fine. don't let anyone make you hurt.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

This is true and I know I do it sometimes. I don't want to upset anyone or make their day harder. Plus, I can't stand rude people so I often go out of my way to be overly "polite".
I do prefer the "sorry" people to the "slam the door in your face, I don't really give a damn about your day, get out of my way" people. And there are a lot of them out there.

Val M.
Val M3 years ago

Yes I have noticed and yes I do it too.

Marian A.
Marian Austin4 years ago

I appreciate the humor with which this article is written. I hadn't noticed the phenomenon. It reminds me of "Have a Nice Day" the phrase which seems to have popped up around the same time as the ubiquitous Smiley Face. These catch phrases (and I include "sorry" in this category) seem to me to be a way of substituting for actual person to person contact. A smile, a greeting to the checker (using the name on her badge), a polite exchange with the person waiting in line with you. These are the ways to spread cheer and joy.

Tara W.
Tara W4 years ago

Gawd, I thought that was just a Canadian thing... its worse than I thought... I'm so sorry to hear it...

Chloe R.
Chloe R4 years ago


Angela J.
Angela B4 years ago

It's so strange that you wrote this story because I was just talking about this phenomenon with my sister last week. I hear this word more than any other some days when I'm out; it's like it's everyone's go-to word. I never thought of your idea of people apologizing for their own existence---that's terribly sad :( I think it's a throwback from when we are young.....sorry seemed like the fixer word---when you hit someone, say you're sorry....if you break something, say you're sorry. The word seemed to have special powers back then. I notice it doesn't have the same effect now that I'm older. I remember watching a little boy chasing his mom through the mall recently after he'd gotten in trouble for hitting his sister. Mom was doing her best to ignore him and he was running after her pleading the word sorry, over and over again, louder and louder. His little sister, with the bruise growing on her face, didn't look like she was buying it at all.