I'm Sorry for Breathing Too Much Air, and Other Unnecessary Apologies

I once apologized to a chair. True story.

Dec 6, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I’m feeling sorry for a few things, like the fact that I haven’t been writing here on xoJane much lately, because I’ve been busy launching my new Etsy store -- which you should absolutely check out because it’s awesome (not sorry for that shameless self-promotion).

Other things I feel warrant an apology: not keeping up my end of the housecleaning bargain with my extremely patient neat-freak boyfriend. Not spending enough time playing with my kid. That thing I said I'd do for a friend but then I got busy and forgot about it. These are all situations where "I'm sorry" seems appropriate.

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Hey kid, sorry your mom hasn't played with you in like a month. Please don't hit me in the eye with that tennis ball.

But then there are things I find myself apologizing for that are totally ridiculous: taking too many packages to the counter at the post office (duh, it’s their job to apply postage to packages); taking the last cookie when they are my goddamn cookies and I can have the last one if I want so why do I feel guilty; waiting too long between haircuts, as if my stylist is going to turn down my money if I wait eight weeks instead of four.

And let’s not forget the apologizing-to-inanimate-objects incident. My ex-roommate, for months, delighted visitors to our apartment by telling the tale of the time I bumped into a chair and then said, “I’m sorry.” To the chair.

In fact, sometimes I feel as if I carry an apology around with me everywhere. As if I should apologize for using too much oxygen or something. It’s not exactly a low-self-esteem thing -- it’s more like a desire to infringe as little as possible on the lives of others.

Is this an extension of my Midwestern upbringing? All members of my family seem to be bred to never, ever make a decision that might make someone else unhappy. Result: no one ever makes a decision. 

All conversations go something like this:

“Do you want to go out to eat or stay in?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Whatever you want to do.”

In fact, just imagine every answer to every question being, “I don’t know, what do you want,” throw in some unnecessary apologies and you’ve got a pretty good idea how it goes every time I go back to Iowa for a visit.*

What’s worse is, I think I’m passing it on to my kid. The other day, after Oliver got in trouble for something and paid his penalty of three marbles, he continued to apologize  -- like, for hours after the incident. No matter how many times I told him we were good, every 20 minutes or so he’d grow quiet and then tell me yet again how sorry he was for talking back to me.

I guess I’ll take a remorseful kid over one who doesn’t care at all. And while I want him to be considerate of others, I also don’t want him to be so afraid to grab what he needs that he goes through life apologizing for breathing too much air. As long as he doesn’t start apologizing to the furniture, I think we’re good. 

Are you a chronic apologizer? Do you ever apologize to furniture? I hope so, because I sure feel stupid being the only one.

*I love my family and I miss their inability to decide on anything for fear of offending someone.

Somer is apologizing in 140 characters or less on Twitter @somersherwood.