I apologized to a baby. Not because I made him cry or I accidentally dropped him or something. I just tickled him and he didn’t react so I said “I’m sorry,” and left him alone. I apologized to a baby for wasting his time. I’m starting to realize that I really have a problem.
I’m a chronic apologizer. I can’t help it. Most of the time, it happens before I can even register what I’m saying. “I’m sorrys” slip out of my mouth easier than “Hellos.” Whether I’m in your way in the grocery store or I ramble too much in conversation or you’re telling me about a rough day at work, an “I’m sorry” is surely lurking ready to strike with all its anti-climactic and unhelpful glory.
I have this feeling that the constant string of apologies can get a little annoying. I’m constantly battling with my dad who’s response to every “I’m sorry” is “Well you didn’t do it.” I always struggle with that justification. I sometimes launch into long conspiratorial ramblings about how it was in fact me that paid that old lady in the Lincoln to abruptly pull out of the Walgreens parking lot and cut him off on his way home, just so I can earn the right to say “I’m sorry.”
The trouble is that I don’t know what else to say. I’ve never excelled verbally. You can frequently see me in corners muttering to myself preparing for big face to face interactions. Practicing handshakes and rehearsing my order so the clerk at Panera Bread won’t look at me weird as I stutter over “Chipotle Chicken Panini.”
So when it comes to the moments that matter, someone telling me about a bad day or something more serious, I just stick to my easy default, “I’m sorry.” But I said “I’m sorry” to a baby for absolutely no reason, so how can that possibly hold the same weight as telling you I’m sorry that your depression is worsening or that you got fired from your job?
A lot of the people I talk to have problems with the words “I’m sorry.” They say it’s hollow and meaningless. They say it’s the easy thing to say. That, growing up, you are taught to say it without truly feeling it.
But with me I don’t think it’s the easy thing to say. Sure it may come out frequently and it may be a place holder while I try to gather my thoughts to say something more meaningful, but at the end of the day I think I truly feel every “I’m sorry.” I am truly sorry when you have a bad day and I’m sorry that I got in your way at the supermarket and I’m sorry that I tickled my friend’s baby when he clearly didn’t want to be tickled. Sure I have not wronged you. I did not cut you off in traffic, I didn’t withhold your paycheck, but with every “I’m sorry” I sort of wish I had. I wish I was the one who wronged you so that I could repent and try to make things right. The person who really offended you doesn’t care about how you feel, but I do. So please, accept my “I’m sorry” and know that I mean it.
Maybe my reliance on those two little words shows more about my psychology than I care to admit. A dependency on some martyr complex. Or maybe I just put too much pressure on myself to try to fix everything, or that I see myself as always being the problem. Most of the time, I just don’t know how else to show people that I care about them and what they’re feeling. I like those two little words and I don’t think I’m going to stop saying them no matter how many times my friends and family tell me to stop apologizing.
I’m sorry if that doesn’t make sense.
“The bitch and moan-olgoues” is a weekly humor column that explores writer Chase Wilkinson’s adventures in being socially awkward and paranoid.Contact Chase Wilkinson.