Don’t Apologize & Never Say Sorry

I cringe when people apologize to me. Exchanging guilt and forgiveness is one of the most awkward human experiences, in my opinion. When a scared dog is on its back pissing itself, I’m not feeling like the sadistic alpha with all the power. Instead I’m thinking, “Oh, no, jesus, there is urine everywhere.” There’s something insane about the idea that I should barter my shame for an ounce of redemption, when I honestly think most people don’t even want my shame. I mean, they want to hear about it, but they don’t want it specifically vomited in their direction like some sort of unanswerable question.

Think about it. Any time someone has told you in so many words, “I’m sorry, I’m terrible, I’m a worthless person,” you just wanted them to shut up. Are they trying to get you to comfort them? When did you sign up for this? You were so over that thing they did so long ago that you forgot it was even a thing.

At some point in my life, I just stopped saying sorry. Repercussions? Zero. I think people like me better for it. “That lady is kinda mean but I think I like her.” I am a whirling force of fun. Some calamity is inevitable. I make it clear I intend no malice, and the impressions of my misdeeds fall away like fat off a spit-roast. Besides, I pay for most of my sins automatically, foremost in nasty hangovers. And, you know, I get the strep of death.

I really think nobody cares that I almost never apologize. No one is keeping track. Nobody notices what you’re doing, until you do it eleventeen times and they finally realize you are a writer because you like, have a blog…

Guilt feels like a wasteful emotion. I know if I wrong someone bad enough, begging for their forgiveness isn’t going to magically make them happy with me again. If I can’t fix things, or time can’t fix things, or if their achy breaky heart just don’t understand….then they’re kind of a lost cause to me. Feeling guilty is all that’s left and is really my own problem, a problem that I choose to not have.

Just saying sorry is totally different than owning your mistakes. I still do this on the regular. “I totally thought your drink was my drink, and I drank all of it.” You should see the relief on people’s faces when the source of their woe is a real human person and not malicious, drink-stealing mystery gnomes. People only like good mysteries, as in, “Sami is being mysterious, maybe she’s fantasizing about me being naked with her. Maybe she is writing this as a secret message directly to me because she thinks I’m super great. Naked. Great when naked, specifically. Ok maybe in general, also.”  People hate bad mysteries, as in, “Is that vomit on the floor, or just rice pudding?” When you can fill people in on the mistake or bad decision that negatively affected them, they are usually relieved that the puzzle is solved. Oh, that’s Susan’s vomit on the floor? Susan better clean that up.

Or, of course, there’s the scenario when you know somebody is guilty and you’re sure they’ll never confess. Suddenly you’re relieved when Susan says, “I did it. I threw up on the floor.” And you had worked out an intricate yet stressful plan to expose her to everyone at the party for the secretive puke monster you assumed her to be…

So, yeah, if I screw up I will do the opposite of try to hide it. Bonus, if I shout my mistakes to the world they are more receptive to my bragging. “I know Sami said she is a badass who orders bacon on her vegetarian sandwiches, but I am more likely to believe it because she also admitted she sucks at Pinterest. Haha, Pinterest is so easy she must be an idiot be a well-rounded individual who is totally dumb at some things and totally awesome at other things.”

Other people have not gotten on my anti-apology train. For long-time friends who make a habit out of saying sorry for everything, I just let my eyes glaze over and pretend it didn’t happen. Or, if they know me well enough, I tell them, ENOUGH WITH YOUR PARANOID GROVELLING. Prospective friends get a brief on my feelings on the subject. Most do well and quit telling me they’re sorry they said this thing or the other when my reaction isn’t immediate sugary approval.

BUT, once in awhile, from the leftest field of whackadoodle, I get an “expired apology.” That’s what prompted this rant, btw. An expired apology is one that is so old in respect to its crime that it’s completely missed its window and should stay in a deep basement to rot with the rest of your baggage. Seriously, it would make the recipient way happier if you just felt bad about yourself the rest of your life rather than bother them by digging up that musty dirt clod…

This particular musty dirt clod was an ex-boyfriend. He preempted his apology by saying, ‘I know this is too little too late.’ IF HE KNEW THAT WAS TRUE, THEN WHY BOTHER? He wrote to me what, if I based my knowledge on the serial-dater that I once knew, I could only assume came from an apology form letter that he sent to all 20 of his exes. Hint: if your apology contains the words, “I fucked up and there’s no excuse or explanation that can make up for it…” you are not revealing a mature knowledge of your mistakes and their consequences. You’re just pissing yourself.

I planned to contemplate why he might be contacting me 5+ years after our brief and ridiculous relationship to solicit forgiveness. I really don’t assume that he gave me a form letter – I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are being sincere, and I bet he wrote up a stale-apology just for me. I was going to try to offer him some solace, tell him I was crazy back then anyway and it’s not a big deal.

But I didn’t do that. Maybe apologies confuse and irritate me or maybe I’m just a big meanie but I definitely did not react the way he hoped when he sent me his plea for a pardon. I’ll share my first paragraph:

Come on, we dated for 2 or 3 months. If you really think the damage to my pride via you lasted more than a couple weeks, you’re insane. Sure, when people are exchanging dating horror stories, I do tell them about the immature and idiotic way in which you ended our relationship.* I hope you’ve learned not to date anyone when you are literally too broke to afford to dump a woman over coffee like an adult.

Or I could just be bitter because I thought I was in control and so out of his league like I was his Charlie Nicholson, but he dumped me.

I have had apologies come from the deep past and work. The key, it seems, is when the ex-boyfriend first attempts a conversation with me. A conversation without motive. This ex was my high-school beau, whom I dated for a long freaking time. We ended up in a class together in college, and I decided to reward his uneasy wave and smile by taking the seat next to him. I wanted to be an adult, too.

We chatted at each lecture, both very aware that he had been awful to me (that is, more awful than teenagers are to each other by default) but wanting to be civil. After all, we’d spent a good chunk of our lives together and it seemed silly to not try to be friends, or to not, at least, try to learn from each other. Eventually, the apology came. He hinted at some horrifying moment in our past, and stopped. He said, “I understand now that I was a complete asshole to you. I’m really sorry.” Now that, that was a professional apology. He was owning his mistake, when it was relevant, and not making it more or less than it needed to be with platitudes or drivel. He wasn’t saying it because he wanted my forgiveness, he wasn’t saying it for closure, he didn’t have aims to say it in the first place. The moment came for it, he took it, and I do feel a lot better hearing it.

An apology is meaningless when you ask it for yourself, when it is presented without context, when it is premeditated and rehearsed, when it is meant to heal your own shame. But if you’re ever given the chance to tell someone, honestly and without personal gain, that you’ve made a mistake, take it. Strangely enough, I think that’s the moment you’re most likely to receive forgiveness.

*He dumped me over the phone because he didn’t have enough gas money to meet me. This, after spending the night at my place the evening before. Poor planning, really.

Sick of Partying

I wish mac ‘n’ cheese had all the essential nutrients and vitamins, because it’s the only thing I’ve been able to eat since Monday. I’ve been coughing much, much longer than that, and had made a doctor’s appointment for Tuesday to see what rattled in my lungs. Monday my health rapidly plummeted from a disgusting yet livable cough to hellfire and a throat full of barbed wire. I measured my fever at 101.2 degrees Fahrenheit. This was after I’d taken a cold shower, convinced that my brain was boiling in my skull.

Fortuitously, my mom tele-worked on Tuesday, so she took a long lunch and drove me to the doctor’s. I’m pretty sure I would have killed myself and at least 2 other drivers if I’d tried to use a car that day.

The receptionist asked if I wanted to add my picture to the file; they had a camera right there and the doctors use the pictures to…. I made my face into a disgusted shape and she understood immediately that I don’t normally look like a 14 year old boy with hygiene problems and bad hair. “Not today.”

The doctor poked the flashlight-hammer thing into my facial orifices and asked me symptoms-questions, putting an emphasis on fatigue. I knew she wanted it to be mono. They always want us to have mono, because everyone who is young and promiscuous deserves mono. But she said my throat bumps or whatever medical term she used for them were so “red and beefy” that it could be strep. She darted two cotton swabs in my throat at the same time so she’d only have to gag me once. How kind.

“What if my girlfriend doesn’t get hers treated,” I planned to ask, “will she just pass it back to me when I’m done with my antibiotics?” This would be a white lie – my girlfriend seems to have skipped this round of contagion. I wouldn’t have been asking for her, not exactly. Although I can count on just one hand the number of women I made out with during last Saturday’s party, any number felt like too many to confess in that white interrogation room. How do you tell your doctor that you may be responsible for spreading a nasty disease with a Jameson fueled make-out binge? (Forgive me, for there was a dimly lit bounce house on premises.) But when the doctor popped back in and announced, “it’s strep,” she also told me she’d be giving me a shot and I forgot all my questions.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a bee sting. But you’ll feel better faster, and the swelling in your throat will hopefully have gone down enough by tomorrow to make it easier to swallow these horse pills I’m prescribing.” Welp. I numbly rubbed my shoulder. I felt my arm getting heavier, willing itself to die so it wouldn’t feel the pain. I practiced not clenching my muscles.

The nurse came back, told me the shot will actually be going in my butt. She didn’t say Gluteus Maximus, she said butt. A shot. In my butt.

“It would hurt too much if it went in your arm,” she explained, as if that would actually make me feel better. I think she noticed my eyes flaring and my head wobbling on my neck like a ship listing in the waves. “You can be lying down for this.” I started to think it wouldn’t be so terrible until she added, “I just need to get someone else to help me position the needle. The anatomy of the body changes when you’re lying down.” She told me to pull my pants down to my crack. I laid face-down on the table, waiting for them to return, sure that she sought a helper to pin me down so she could harpoon me with the syringe on the counter next to me. I felt like the albatross from the Rescuers Down Under, my shame exposed to the cheery nurse mice, who almost seemed to look forward to my suffering.

(Watch the first two minutes for a scene re-enactment.)

When the other nurse came in, there was no time to reason with them. They wiped me down with an icy square of disinfectant – higher up than I expected – and I think the shock of yet another surprise location and the idea of the needle potentially hitting my hip bone made me start to panic. “That’s not my butt?” I said into the pillow, and quickly they shot me, and I whimpered and freaked out. “Don’t touch it!” I gasped, because my nurse was grinding it in with her fingers. I started to cry a little. She pulled my pants up and rubbed through those, and started talking science to me, which calmed me down a bit. 1 minute of this, and she’s done, and she didn’t even stay to cuddle.

I think they gave me this purple dinosaur band-aid for being a big baby. Also note how it is very much not on my butt.

I think they gave me this purple dinosaur band-aid for being a big baby. Also note how it is very much not on my butt.

I stayed on the table for a little longer. (I had to wait in the room for 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t have an allergic reaction.) Once I overcame my feelings of degradation and self-pity, I moved to the chair and actually felt a little better after that adrenaline rush. My ass is still numb though.

Partying with “Old” People

“14 going on 40,” my dad called me, because I liked to think I could fare well in conversations with the adults. I did; until I got older and more conscious of my words and the gaps in my knowledge and experience.  And, of course, I was a really delusional person from age 7 to age 21 – see last week’s post. Before the Christianity there was 7 years of alien princess nonsense that I’ll have to get into sometime… I’d say I’ve only been interacting directly with reality for the past two years. So, it is with great hesitation that I call someone a peer, especially if they have some years on me.

By that, I mean, I tend to assume people have their head together better than mine, and that I am totally out here to learn from them how to be a semi-functioning “normal” human being. I’m easily impressed by the folks who can figure out the difference between Ben Affleck and Tom Cruise and other famous white guys (seriously they all look the same to me how do you even keep track of what’s going on in this movie).  I defer to people’s superior knowledge of pop culture and geekery and national news.

This makes me gullible, to a fault. Of course I’m going to take the word of someone I trust, even marginally, over my own perception of reality. 3 years ago I was so out of touch I was yanking the e-brake to stop my perfectly functioning car, thinking it wasn’t working because in my dreams I skidded on roads like a wet dog on soapy linoleum. You can tell me it’s a Tuesday on a Wednesday and I will believe you.

But I’m having to come to terms with the fact that older =/= wiser. People I call friends think homeopathy is a real thing. And they’re paying attention to when the moon shadow is in the Aquarius Capricorn Libra or something. I’m having to fine-tune my bullshit detector so I can both enjoy the variety and personal insight from the circus of people in my life and still, you know, not let the pseudo get all up in my science.

But, like, I’m young and I don’t know everything and some people really like to point that out.

Category 1 of Old People: Know-it-Alls

For the purposes of this section, anyone over 30 is an “Older Person” — not because I think 30 is old, but because 30 seems to be the magical number that makes people think they can dispense words of wisdom to me. I get it, I really do. I, for example, am a whole lot smarter than a 13 year old.

I would definitely sit down 13-year-old me and have a talk.

By the way, little Sami, you are not really an alien. But that’s fine, it’s not the craziest thing you’re going to believe in your life. Unless you stay out of the Church. STAY OUT OF THE CHURCH. Also, you should kiss as many boys as possible because that is going to suddenly get way less fun in a few years.

Normally I seldom think about how young or old my party-pals are, but occasionally they won’t let me avoid the topic. Yes, I know I’m only 23; I had to prove it to get into this club… I do often act in age-appropriate ways – binge-drinking, flirting, wearing garish clothing, running around in the woods,  notching up and down the Kinsey scale, mooching off my parents… I’m not delusional that I’m responsible or something.

I’m spoiled, though. I’m used to the gayborhood; guys find out my age and squeal that I’m a baby and tell me I’m sexy. They know youth is fleeting and they’re still chasing it. In my hot-head I start to think Older People should treat my presence at their “potluck” as a favor. You should be so lucky I grace you with my energy and my anti-gravity lady-lumps. So, when someone gives me the “when I was your age” speech, I get a little cranky.

“When I was 23, darling, I was an idiot. You have so much to learn…” Some bearded 38-year-old goes on about the folly of youth. And he really said darling. In his defense, he says he uses all sorts of pet names with women all the time. Don’t really see how that is a defense and not a very real sign that he has unconscious chauvinistic tendencies…

“I try not to treat people like they’re typical.” Oh. Geez. Did I really just say that? I try to sit on my rage, but he calls me ‘sweetheart’ and I go inside, aggressive. A woman is about to talk about Masaru Emoto’s touchy-feely water crystals and the power of resonance. “Bullshit!” I interrupt her. She looks hurt. “Sorry, maybe you’re talking about something else. I didn’t mean to jump on you.”

“But you did.” Touché. She continues. Definitely Masaro Emoto. Okay, sorry I’m not sorry. I let her finish, then explain why frozen water crystals with emotional signatures are about as real as Big Foot. Oh dear, looks like she built half her spirituality around that paper she read… I try to be nice, say something about the power of human imagination, but I’m pretty sure when I leave that a lot of the stress in that room leaves with me.

Ah crap. I’m that stubborn young woman who doesn’t like to be told what to do with her life and doesn’t have respect for people’s personal beliefs.

Category 2: Everyone Else

Again, I normally don’t think about this. My friends are my friends, and I forget that I’m the young one until one of them points out that I look ‘especially teenage tonight.’ Yes this happens a lot.

But there are plenty of advantages to having “older” friends:

  1. The wisest of them let me live my life while opening up theirs to me. I am addicted to people’s stories, and these people have more years of them.
  2. They have zany clothes from years of thrift-store collecting and aren’t afraid to wear them. Fuzzy paisley hats and zebra stripes and big furry coats and tutus and corsets, the really nice ones.
  3. Better taste in booze. They give me Horny Devil and Bullet and Laphroaig like they’re some kind of alcoholic evangelists. Obviously, I do not complain.
  4. They are living proof that you can still have fun past your 20s. So. Much. Fun. Can’t keep up with all this fun.