We all have our pet peeves. Slow drivers in the fast lane, loud chewers, fascist pussy grabbers in the White House – you know, little irritants.
Recently, at a leadership training I was attending (look at me! I’m getting leader-trained and will hopefully learn to only leader outside some day and not on the carpet), we were asked to go around the room and state a pet peeve. It was supposed to be something annoying in the context of a business setting and running meetings.
As we went around the room, participants listed some unsurprising and reasonable pet peeves: lateness, time wasting, disorganization, lack of follow-though, etc. There were about 30 people in attendance and I was nearly last to go, so I had plenty of time to entertain an ideal answer. One that would serve the ultimate purpose: elevating my status and popularity in the group to fill that gaping maw of insecurity in my heart. (Incidentally, it’s the same hole that I constantly feed with inappropriate jokes and covert spoonfuls of Nutella.)
As my turn approached, my attention was split between listening to everyone else’s (yawn) pet peeves and rehearsing my brilliant and witty top contenders. It was then that I was reminded what my Great-Grandma Hedva used to say: “It’s the daydreamer that gets their cookies stolen.” I still didn’t really know what that meant, but my attention snapped fully back into the room. I tuned in to a woman speaking, who said, “I hate it when people don’t respond to my emails. I’m sorry, I just hate it!” I thought to myself, why is she sorry? That’s legit. What’s with the sorry? A little bee in my head began to buzz about the word ‘sorry’. I play a fair bit of doubles tennis, and I can assure you with the certainty of a mansplainer that without fail, any game of doubles tennis being played by women will include at least a dozen ‘sorries’ per match. Hit the ball out? Sorry! Make a bad serve return? Ugh, I’m so sorry! Puke on your partner? Wow, I’m so sorry!
Last time I checked, tennis is an actual sport played by actual people. All sorts of things happen during a sport – wins, losses, great plays, bad plays, referees with agendas, stunning athleticism, boobs busting out of sports bras, you name it. Sports are messy and unpredictable. That’s part of what makes them fun. Mistakes happen, and particularly in a team sport, no one wants to be the boob that busts the match. I get it. But women apologize on the tennis court all the damn time like it’s a parole hearing and not a game. Why are we so sorry all the time? Why all the shame? Why the pervasive need to ensure our partners that lobbing the ball into the next court was indeed an accident and not some evil plot to purposefully fuck over our own partner? We know it was an accident, Monica, it’s okay.
But let’s get to the really crazy part – the part when women make a GREAT shot, a winner…! And then they apologize to the other team. Because the shot was TOO GOOD. I shit you not, this happens all the time, and I’m astounded every time. WHY ARE YOU APOLOGIZING FOR BEING GOOD? The whole point of playing a sport, ANY sport, is to win. Yes, sportsmanship, camaraderie, fun, exercise, drinking whiskey in the parking lot with the gals after, but mostly WINNING. So why in the name of all that is unholy do women feel compelled to apologize after being too good? Because let me tell you, they do. And let me also tell you that men do not. I have played tennis with men and there is zero of this submissive and confounding horseshit going on. They are not ashamed of their great shots. Hell, they are not even ashamed of their shitty ones. They celebrate their victories and grunt off their losses. Sure, they might pout, swear, or even chuck a racket at the offending ground, but they sure as hell do not apologize.
WHOA, wormhole back to my leadership training! So, I’m observing multiple sorries being lobbed out during this most benign of exercises and find myself growing more irritated – no, that’s not quite the right word…annoyed? No…OH! PEEVED. Yes, that’s the one. Not just peeved, in fact, but entirely petpeeved. There it is. It may not be terribly witty, or brilliant, or score me status points and fill that insatiable maw I spoke of earlier, but it damn well is true. Ladies, please: stop and wonder for a moment, why it is that the urge to apologize for non-offenses is so ingrained in us. Perhaps it’s because we have been indoctrinated since birth to be sorry for occupying any more space than we deserve. We even try to be unhealthily thin to fulfill this mission, don’t we. We’ve been trained to be soft spoken, feminine, yet all the while accomplished in every possible way – great moms, great workers, great home managers, great wives, great sex partners, great friends, etc. And we have to do all of this while maintaining our high school prom weight and ageless skin. The possibilities for screwing things up and needing to apologize are endless.
But there is good news. We can change this. Call out needless apologizing when you see it. My favorite technique is when a woman says sorry for a non-offense, I simply ask, “What are you sorry for?” Invariably she says, “I don’t know.” Maybe we can take a page out of our male friends’ books and use sorry only for actual offenses like loud chewing and impeachment hearings. Maybe we can try on how it feels to not be so sorry.
WHOA, wormhole back to my leadership training. Was I daydreaming? Great Grandma Hedva would be so peeved. Is it my turn? Sorry.