I have spent the better part of this snow day thinking. Mainly because Mia has reached the age where I am no longer welcome to sit by her side at all hours, waiting on her every move. So, because of this I try to busy myself, usually failing miserably. I tried to read a book, but was unsuccessful – too many thoughts. So, I sat down to write a few e-mails that I’d been putting off. I started them in my usual fashion, which is mainly to say I apologized profusely for bothering the recipient; I write this every time no matter how much I believe the receiver wishes to hear from me. I am always apologizing.
Hello, my name is Kimberly and I am chronically apologetic.
I will apologize when YOU step on my shoe. I will apologize for walking past you in an aisle at the supermarket (even if you don’t deviate from your path.) I will apologize when asking a question in class. I will apologize for interrupting someone from the most menial task and I will apologize for keeping said someone in conversation too long. I will apologize when I am asked to answer a question – whether or not I get the answer correct. I will apologize for looking at you (or not looking at you) and I will apologize when I don’t hear you. I will apologize for thinking too much or too little. I will even apologize when someone is doing their job, like for instance, calling me to offer up pertinent information – “Hi Kimberly, school is closed today. Sorry to wake you.” “Oh no, I’m sorry you had to call me. Thanks so much!” (That is pretty much verbatim conversation I had this morning with someone. No. Lie.)
If there is one thing I am certain of in this world it is this: I will apologize. Profusely.
As long as I can remember I have had a co-dependent relationship with self-blame and self-depreciation. It is as largely a part of me as anything else, and a character trait that I have had throughout all of my life. It has become (or maybe it always was) a mechanism of self-defense. A belittling behavior that has certainly held me tightly since I can remember. This quality has given me just as much comfort as it has trouble. My very own dichotomy.
If I had to guess where it started I would say it became to be a part of my demeanor as a child. As a little girl I grew to believe I was lesser than. As a girl in this society we are all bred to believe we are lesser than our male counterparts – and I am sure there will be those of you who disagree with my reasoning, and for that I
apologize (don’t apologize, Kim). I was told women talk too much, and if I was going to speak I should excuse myself. I’m sorry. I was told women aren’t as smart as men, so if I were going to answer a question I should apologize. I’m sorry. I was told I should look a certain way, and act a certain way, and if I didn’t or couldn’t I needed pardoning to fit in. I am sorry.
Well, truthfully, I was never told these things outright, or in so many words. No one ever pulled me aside and told me to apologize for being me, contrarily I was always told by my parents to be myself, to be un-apologetically me. Unfortunately for young women our parents don’t singularly rule the world and society at large taught me early that having a vagina automatically meant lesser than. That my sex automatically meant I should be sorry. And, so, I apologized.
And that is how my relationship with those three words (I am sorry) began over twenty-some odd years ago. And I am very sorry it every started. Truly, I am.
So here I stand (or, sit) a thirty year old woman who is still apologizing for breathing – saying sorry for existing. Still trying to shrink myself down to fit into the mold that this society expects all its female participants to adhere to. I actively do this by apologizing. Too many times a day to count. This habit has become such a part of me, so ingrained in who I am as a person, that even with my most active methods to change I struggle. It has largely become a problem – especially in school, and I’m sure later as a hygienist. What will my patients think of me every time I apologize to them for doing my job? I’m sure they will think I do not know what I am doing; that I am going to hurt them. The constant sorry’s within a professional setting (and, for that matter, an everyday setting) make me look incompetent. Apologizing profusely makes me look scared, unsure, and incapable. It makes me look bad, frankly. It turns me into exactly everything society wishes me to be as a woman – demure, unassuming, meek, uneducated. Apologizing profusely turns me into something I am not. Or, at the very least, something I shouldn’t be. Something I have no cause to be.
So today, on this snowy day in February, I have set up a few guidelines for myself. Guidelines to help me to stop saying I am sorry for things that do not need excusing; to help me to stop apologizing for existing. They go something like this:
- Never, ever apologize for asking a question. Questions give us answers. Answers are knowledge. Knowledge is important. You are important. You have nothing to apologize for.
- Never, ever apologize for going about your day. Learn to say excuse me if you feel you are in someone’s way. Don’t apology for being. You deserve to be where you are. You have nothing to apologize for.
- Never, ever ask for pardon for being your true self. If someone seems to dislike you, for any reason, take it with a grain of salt and shrug it off. You are wonderful. You will not be liked by all, but you ARE liked by many. Your authentic self doesn’t need pardoning.
- Never, ever seek absolution from anyone – be it a man or a woman — for knowing the answer. You are smart. You have worked hard for the knowledge you possess. It is okay if your knowledge on certain topics intimidates people. You forged that knowledge. You own that knowledge, be proud of it. You don’t need absolution for being intelligent.
- Always Remember: You are a woman in a society dominated by men. You are the maker of men. You are a free woman. Never in action or deed express any desire for forgiveness of that therein. You are just as worthy as any man. Don’t you EVER apologize for being a woman.
And, lastly, don’t apologize for this post.