I’m not going to tell you anything new, here.
Over the last few years, I’ve tried really hard to accept and change a few things about myself. Nothing earthshattering, but still, important things. They are characteristics most women share and I’ve seen it very often with our kind.
Don’t say you’re sorry unless you really mean it.
It’s programmed in us to feel sorry all the time, but we shouldn’t be. Men don’t walk around thinking, oh I hope I didn’t hurt her feelings. Now, I don’t have children yet, but I imagine when I do, I’d raise a son and a daughter (if I’m so lucky) to be equally generous, kind, considerate, thoughtful and affectionate citizens of the world. Sure, some men are like this, but most aren’t. I think that’s fair to say. I would never want to generalize a point.
Now, let’s get back to women.
Here are some “times” when women feel they need to say sorry:
1. when someone’s upset at you
2. when you feel that you’ve upset someone
3. when you disagree with someone over the phone, in person, over email, or text
4. when you have a change to add to something, either in writing or in person
a. when you made a mistake and you want to add someone or something to a document or guest list, or whatever it may be.
b. when you see that someone has made a mistake and you feel you need to correct them, again this could be in writing or in person.
5. when you’ve interrupted someone
6. when you grab for an item at the grocery store, or drug store that someone else is grabbing for
7. when you’re starting to tell someone a story. (i.e “sorry, this is going to be a long one…”)
7. insert any other time you have overused the word sorry
A few years ago, my friend pointed this out to me about myself. It was my first time meeting her, at a weeklong writing workshop in Provincetown. She said, what are you sorry for. Don’t say sorry unless you mean it. It seemed so easy, and so simple. She’s a mom, and so I understood her intention, but I also really appreciated it, as her friend.
I wrote it down that night in my diary and thought about it. I say sorry a lot. I probably say it so much more than I actually mean to say it and it probably makes me sound weak. Looking back now, if it didn’t make me sound weak, it certainly became something someone expected me to say in certain conversations. Then again, it could be that people don’t even notice it. Even so, you should notice it.
Now, as a teacher, I make it a point to tell my students, not to say sorry if they get an answer wrong, or if they didn’t type their homework. People make mistakes. It’s okay. Save sorry so that when you are sorry, it will mean something.
I understand that sometimes people feel uncomfortable when given a compliment, but get over it. It’s a good thing and it’s a nice treat.
As a teacher, I remember my first time being observed, my department chair said to me:
“Wow, Leah, I love the way you ended the class with a compliment.”
I said, “what do you mean?”
and he said, “I wrote it down. You said, ‘wonderful class everyone; nice work today.’”
I laugh at it now, seven years later, but I think I often end class that way. My day is so busy and stressful, that I like to end class on a positive note and I like having students feel good about themselves. I also think it’s why I give all of my students stickers (boys and girls) when they do well on something. (Yes, even my 10th graders get stickers.) I want them to feel good about themselves and I want them to accept my written compliments on assignments, etc.
Now, women have a hard time accepting compliments, which is funny, because we’re often the ones to dish them out. I always compliment people’s clothes, makeup, hair, shoes, etc. But, what I’m seeing a lot of lately, is women having a hard time being complimented on their writing or their work.
In my writing workshop, I’m often flabbergasted when women, specifically, can’t accept a compliment. Students will praise someone’s form, or line beaks, or word choice and say how successful something is and very often it is a woman who says, “oh, you think so?” or, “oh, I really wasn’t sure about it.”
(Sure, I’m to blame for this too, at times, but I’ve been urging myself to be more aware)
And so, I urge you, in speaking to people, in writing to people, in texting with people, accept compliments when they are given to you.
And, save sorry for when you really need it. Consider it, something precious. People should want your sorry and not expect it.
Here’s a link to You Tube for the Madonna video for Human Nature (one of my faves). Go, here.
Leah Umansky’s first collection of poems, Domestic Uncertainties is out now from BlazeVOX Books. Her second book is Mad Men Inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream out in 2014 by Kattywompus Press. She is also the host & curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. She has been a contributing writer for BOMB Magazine’s BOMBLOG and Tin House, a poetry reviewer for The Rumpus, and a live twit for The Best American Poetry Blog. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as: POETRY, Barrow Street, Catch-up, and The Brooklyn Rail. Read more athttp://iammyownheroine.com and @Lady_Bronte