Friday, February 7, 2014

All Apologies: Who's Sorry Now?

Perhaps the most self-evident truth that I've gleaned from 44 years and nine months of living and nearly as many of writing is this: People's opinions are as unpredictable as earthquakes (though, thankfully, rarely as cataclysmic), so there's very little use in making preemptive attempts to sway them.

My writing reinforces this fact of life. What might read like Shakespeare to one person might come across as pulpy nonsense to another. I like to think of my own work as falling somewhere between a Shakespearean sonnet and garbage, but what do I know? There's no accounting for why people react as they do to any group of words I happen to cobble together, and that would include the things they pick up on, which never cease to amaze me. My friend Nancy just finished reading my book and among her enlightening feedback and commentary was one observation that I probably never would have considered otherwise:

"Another thing I noticed was how many guys apologized to you, even the little guy in Manila with the Cialis. Do you realize how unusual that is? I've heard many tales from many people, and cannot remember anyone, no one, man or woman, gay or straight, having more apologies."

I'm not sure what to make of all the apologies. Have I really been so wronged over the course of the last seven and a half years (roughly the time frame covered by the book)? Or is it that despite what Elton John declared in his 1976 Top 10 hit, sorry doesn't always seem to be the hardest word? Is it something people say because they mean it, or is it what they think people like me want to hear? If it's the latter, then clearly the contrite crew doesn't know me at all.

If I were to go from what I've seen on TV and witnessed in real life, I'd say that women are more likely to need to hear "I'm sorry" before moving on than men are. They require it for closure (speaking of female-centricities). This is one area where my maleness rules. I may be an organizer and re-arranger of words by trade, but I'm generally more moved by deeds than by sentences.

"Words are useless, especially sentences." -- Madonna, "Bedtime Story" (Words by Bjork)

I'm not saying I don't appreciate a heartfelt apology, but I'm rarely expecting, or waiting, for one. Perhaps that's because I generally don't feel as if I deserve one, especially from all the boys I've loved before. Despite my bad luck with men over the years, if I've been hurt over a break-up, it's generally been because of the split itself, not for anything the guy did to me.

Even the one I used to date 10 years ago in New York City whom I once caught making out with someone else could friend me on Facebook tomorrow, and I'd accept. No apology necessary. I figure the one-two-three punch (literally!) of throwing a gin and tonic in his face, decking him, and kicking him in the shin was punishment enough.

The day after our bar brawl, he sent me an email filled with mixed messages -- "I think you are a great guy, fun to hang out with, and I was attracted to you... but, I must say GROW UP!" -- but no apology. (Curiously, he signed it with both his first and last names, just in case I'd been dating another "Bryan with a Y.") Maybe he thought I'd forfeited my right to one by throwing that punch. When I ran into him a few weeks later, he had a lot of nice things to say to me, but none of them was an apology, which was fine by me. That wouldn't have changed anything anyway. I was done.

If I felt sorry for my own actions, it wasn't until I told my mom about it a few days later, and she reminded me that if he decided to press charges the police might be knocking on my door any minute. To Bryan-with-a-Y's credit, and to my relief, he left the cops out of it.

I've slept with a few enemies and woken up with a monster or two (Haven't we all?), but I've never dated a bad guy. I've emerged from my romantic entanglements relatively unscathed emotionally and never the recipient of a sucker punch. It had been a good chunk of time since I'd even thought about another ex, the one who sent me an apology on Facebook a couple of months ago, more than four years after the fact. Yes, he'd been a child, totally deserving of my breaking up with him, but I so didn't think I had that sorry coming.

Ironically, considering all of the apologies I collected over the seven years documented in my book, the one that actually might have made a difference, the one I had to make a conscious decision to move on without (thanks to the advice a friend offered me one night when I was once again drowning my sorrows in whiskey), is the one that didn't come, the one you won't read about in chapter 2 or anywhere else. I've learned to live without it, but I'd trade all of those other apologies for the one I think I deserve.

I know I'll never get it, and for that, I'm truly sorry.

10 Classic Apologies

"I Apologize" Anita Baker



"So Sorry, I Said" Liza Minnelli



"I'm Sorry" Charley Pride



"I'm Sorry" John Denver



"Suedehead" Morrissey



"S. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" R.E.M.



"I'm Sorry" Roxette



"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" Paul and Linda McCartney



"Please Forgive Me" David Gray



Sorry, Wrong Number


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