When I was little, my parents would mimic my catchphrase, “Sorr-eeee!” with a heavy emphasis on the second syllable and a somewhat unapologetic tone. It was my default response whenever I left the faucet on or held my fork wrong. I now consider it the start of my affinity for sarcasm, but the habit stuck, and my tone changed.
Throughout my adolescence, “sorry” infiltrated my vocabulary with reckless abandon. It became the same type of filter to me as “um” and “you know” were to other people. I had once been a mouthy girl with lots of opinions, and I’d like to believe she’s still there. Years of people taking offense and chiding her for bad manners watered that girl down. My apologies have gotten excessive, popping up when I need clarification in class or like a certain type of music. Nothing makes me squirm like someone calling me out or asking why I’m apologizing, which I sometimes reflexively reply to with another, “Sorry.”
Is my vocabulary beyond repair at this point? I’ve been known to apologize even for saying no. It felt rude to reject a guy I felt no attraction toward or pass on volunteering in 80 degree weather for a church I didn’t belong to. And while I’m not proud of this fact, it’s not something I’m going to apologize for. I’m sure people would argue I have deep seeded self-esteem issues. I just don’t see any value in psychoanalyzing it all.
Yes, I got into the habit of abusing apologies, but I’m not about to let that define me. If I were to express some shame, I feel I’d just be moving farther in the wrong direction. Instead I’ve decided to recognize that I had no need to apologize for most of the things.
I think it goes beyond verbal apologies, though. I’m done justifying my life, personality, likes, and dislikes for people. Ridding my vocabulary of “sorry” is meaningless if I keep living like I’m sorry. BC students have plenty to be confident about, but I wonder if people always feel so self-assured. I guess everyone would lead you to believe so, but I know I definitely don’t.
There’s sort of an undercurrent that certain things are unacceptable here. It can be good in regard to movements for tolerance and preventing sexual assault. But it can also put pressure on people to be something they’re not.
Freshman boys, don’t be sorry for existing. Make the most of your freshman year, even if it means getting rejected in the mods. Hell, don’t be sorry for wearing cargo shorts. That goes for all the guys, I guess. I don’t find them attractive, but I respect guys who wear them in spite of the stigma.
I don’t think anyone should apologize for getting that big cookie at Hillside. It’s delicious and it will make you happy.
Don’t be sorry for not going to the Plex if it’s not something you enjoy. But if you’re one of the superhumans that finds exercise energizing, that’s cool too. You shouldn’t have to explain why you’re wearing workout gear to class. Amazingly, BC students have managed to attach negative connotations to both partying too much and not partying enough. Maybe that’s the result of people learning about Aristotle’s “golden mean.” If you’re happy and no one’s getting hurt, don’t apologize for being at either end of the spectrum.
Girls, you don’t need to justify your yoga pants for being comfortable. Don’t let anyone give you a hard time if you feel like wearing a monogrammed necklace. I’m so over people making fun of the “typical BC girl.” No one should feel forced to conform to that by any means, but it’s not fair to imply that a girl’s somehow unoriginal or simple minded because she dresses a certain way. And because I believe in equality, that goes for the boys in Vineyard Vines, too. If you like your pastel pants, by all means, own it.
Earlier this year that a guy my friend knew was less than forthcoming about being in College Republicans, and that’s sad to me. I know a lot of BC students are very progressive, but if you’re well-versed in your politics, you shouldn’t be ashamed to disagree. You don’t have to apologize for being on scholarship here. You also don’t have to apologize for being a third generation legacy whose parents are paying full tuition. We’re all here, living under the same roofs and learning the same material, and I don’t think anyone takes that for granted.
I catch myself apologizing the most for stuff like being a typical BC girl or liking a band that’s too mainstream or laughably obscure. I’m pretty sure I’m never going to win there, because if I like a song by One Direction, I have to explain it’s a guilty pleasure. But that’s an exception from my usual explanations about how I’m not a hipster and I don’t think I’m better than anyone, I just like indie music. I’ve always been able to laugh at myself, but sometimes it gets old that people exaggerate you to a caricature. I’ll humor people with a corny joke here and there, but I’m not going to justify my presence at BC to anyone.
I understood when people in Iowa asked why I wanted to go to BC, but the question rubs me the wrong way at BC. The person is never interested in the details of my college search, and always has some prejudice. I’m here for the same reason the people from Massachusetts are here: I love BC. If you attempt to justify it for me by insinuating I’m a product of regional diversity, why then, we’ve just identified a scenario in which an apology is quite appropriate!
An apology is a beautiful thing when it’s heartfelt and given out of remorse to someone you wronged. Trust me, I don’t buy the whole Love Story “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I’m reclaiming my identity, and not because of the people who tell me I apologize too much. I won’t apologize for having opinions or taking up space.
And I’m committed to creating a culture where no one feels they have to say sorry for being their authentic self. So while the watered-down girl inside me with the strong opinions may be making a bit of a comeback, I think she’s been humbled.
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