The Sorry Generation
Her room clad with Frida Kahlo, Barack Obama and sticky notes, “I’m so fucking cool and beautiful!” A SZA album plays and her lyrics fill her meager 100 sq. foot single dorm room. A paisley duvet matches her hand painted Kahlo canvas and purple Mia Wallace print pinned to the cork board. Feminine inspiration and a passion to tell stories, yet she finds herself at the forefront of a gendered issue: she’s sorry. Or at least she says she is.
The door slams in my face, my eyes roll and my mouth lets out a nasty ass “oooo sorry!” But they slammed the door in my face.
A tweet appears on my timeline as an internal brawl brews. I am not sorry. Why do I keep saying sorry?
I’m driving in the car on my way to a photoshoot with some talented friends. They are musical theater students. Musical theater students at Syracuse University, a program rated #12 in the nation. A blonde beauty discusses the new show she directed and produced and then turns to me. “I’m sorry, that sounded cocky. Sorry.” But why is she sorry?
According to The Child Mind institute, girls are raised to be empathetic about their success, to be successful but not cutthroat, and to be confident without being cocky. Essentially, girls are raised in such a way to not interfere with the success of their fellow boys. If we apologize enough, we won’t be seen as the competition but rather as colleagues.
It’s late at night, I’m a little tipsy and I invite a boy over to hangout. We watch movies and talk, then he asks to come to my bedroom. I say sure, he jumps down on my bed and I sit down next to him. We talk a little more, start to kiss and he asks if I want to have sex. “No I really don’t want to have sex right now. I’m sorry.” He proceeds to question why I invited him over at all if I didn’t want to have sex and in my mind I think “for some quality company and a person to talk about existentialism with” but instead I say “no you’re right. I’m sorry for the confusing signals.” The boy leaves without sex and I am left without comfort in my choice.
I start off every sentence with “excuse me, sorry for interrupting” and finish every sentence with “thank you so much” even if the conversation was shallow. I leave parties feeling bad for not leaving with a man and I blame myself when someone is unhappy.
We raise our boys to be assertive to get what they want and raise our girls to be apologetic until we get what we want. But all this does is show girls that they are responsible for keeping the boys happy. Rather than apologizing, we need to teach our girls that their emotions are valid, that their feelings are worth feeling and that being sorry takes too much effort.
In a time of #MeToo and with more women in office than ever before, we should expect women to feel free to tell their stories. Yet we constantly shut them down before they can ever do so. The sorry generation is a way to keep women in their place and to keep the men happy.
My friend is having sex with a man she met over the summer. She’s not sure she wants to sleep with him but decides she’s lonely and sex could be fun. She is adamant that he uses a condom since she recently got off birth control. They start having sex and he turns to her, “I can’t cum if I’m wearing a condom.” She replies “oh I’m sorry!” and allows him to take the condom off. He cums, she doesn’t, and now she tells me she’s worried that she could be pregnant. She’s probably not, but if he wore a condom she wouldn’t even have to worry.
In a study from LiveScience they found that “women might have a lower threshold for what requires an apology because they are more concerned with the emotional experiences of others and in promoting harmony in their relationships.” This being said, should we be teaching our girls to put men’s feelings before theirs? If your answer is no, then you need to take a step back and realize the severity of being overly apologetic.
My friend was severely gaslit earlier this year by a majority of the people close to her. She found herself at the forefront of conflict, and continued to apologize profusely, even for the things that weren’t entirely her fault. Why? To make sure her relationships were solid. But even with all the apologies, it wasn’t enough. She lost her infectious positivity, her sense of self and virtually all emotional stability. Today I sit in her room, as previously described, and ask her “What would you say to Frida if she apologized for her art?”
She turned her head to me as the needle on the SZA album skipped, “I would know that she didn’t mean it. She’s unapologetic about everything she created and she had the ability to not care what other people thought about her, which a lot of women don’t have that nowadays. She reminds me that it’s okay to fuck up and you don’t always have to be so incredibly apologetic for it. It’s important to acknowledge mistakes, but it’s hard to not let these mistakes consume you. We say sorry so much that it loses its meaning.”
Next time someone rear ends your car, slams a door in your face or makes you feel bad for not committing to 30-seconds of mediocre dick, don’t say sorry. Make them apologize.
Sorry not sorry.