Elton John was Wrong: Sorry Has to be the Easiest Word


can't stop saying sorry

“Oops – I’m sorry. ” I say as I pushed the door to exit and found a male officemate on the other side trying to enter.

“It’s alright,” he said. That simple sentence of absolve me jolted me to question myself.

What was I apologizing for?

Canadian Memes

I’m Canadian and when I visit my American friends, I get some gentle ribbing on the politeness of Canadian society. There are so many memes out there and when with them in their country, I hold them in secret pride.

It’s the ultimate humble-brag. The rare time Canadians can hold a superiority complex against their powerful neighbours.

I was looking for these funny Canadian apology memes for this article when I realized I was only seeing men apologize. Or better yet inanimate objects such as buses apologizing.

These were funny. But what of Canadian women saying sorry? Was that not funny?

Is this an example of extreme political correctness where if showing a woman apologizing would be construed as condescending?

Or was this a stereotype that women aren’t funny (same gender bias against female comedians)?

Or was it something else altogether, that women are apologizing all the time that there is no irony in the picture?

Polite Society

The question is why do women apologize so much?  I just watched another female coworker round a corner in the office, just as another male coworker was coming from the other direction.  Female apologizes, male nods his understanding.

This is obviously a persistent problem across all socio-economic classes of women.  So much so that Rachel Hollis titled her latest book as a directive to stop apologizing.

While obviously, there are times we are truly sorry.  Missing a friend’s birthday or offending a coworker.  Those are the times when we feel remorse.

But most of the time, women are saying “sorry” as a filler word.  A catch-all. Is saying sorry the female equivalent of saying “um” or “y’know”. We use it as a verbal break to give our brains time to catch up with our mouths.

Game of Chicken

Sometimes I like to play a game when I’m downtown.  I work in the financial district that gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. Every so often, I purposefully walk to my intended destination and I keep my path.  I don’t swerve as people pass me.  I don’t move aside when a stranger and I near collide on the same but opposing path.

I get shoulder checked.

A Lot.

Even in the financial district, where it stereotypically attracts Type A personalities. Still, some in my path will often swerve or move aside when I play this game.  Those on their phones abruptly stop or startle when we are about to bump.

So who is shoulder-checking this 5ft 2 female weighing 125lbs?

The Matrix

I asked my colleagues about this,  some tell me that these people aren’t assholes. They were not intentionally shoulder-checking me. It’s not out of malice.  They just didn’t notice.

And that’s the point.

It’s like that scene in The Matrix when Morpheus takes Neo back into the Matrix for the first time.  They are walking down a typical New York street.  Neo is checked by almost everyone while Morpheus glides right by.

That’s how I felt.

The scene is to denote how out of place Neo is in that world. How he doesn’t really “belong”.  Morpheus, on the other hand, walks confidently, never veering. He knows who he is and he belongs there as much as on his own ship.

Be Kind, Rewind?

I replay that moment in my head; revising it.  In my re-enactment, I don’t say sorry.  I contemplate the choice of barging ahead or to gesture for him to go first.  Both fine options for men in our society.

But even those are fraught because of our gendered expectations.  Would barging ahead make me look “bossy” or “aggressive”? Or would allowing him to go first would represent a concession to the patriarchy? Do men deserve the right of way? Do women?

I have no more answers in the replay than I did in that moment.

What it Boils Down To

Then it dawned on me.

I was apologizing for taking up SPACE.

Let me ask you, deep down, do you ever feel this way?  Like, I don’t “deserve” this.  Whatever “this” is for you.  It could be your career, your salary, your good health or your nice house?

Do you ever feel you have to justify your needs?  Like, I need to rest but I feel like I have to justify why I can’t meet a friend for after-work drinks,  “I didn’t sleep well last night, this work project is really draining, I’m still so behind on laundry.”

I know I have.

I still do. Not as much as before, but I still find myself apologizing for things that aren’t my fault.  Like somehow me knowing about it or witnessing it means I’m somehow culpable.  That I have to make it right.

If any of these things resonate, then I have one more thought for you.  If I am afraid to take up space and respect my rights to have basic needs, then perhaps my struggles with saving for retirement or spending time to organizing and take care of investments isn’t so puzzling after all.

Only when we acknowledge that we belong in this world as much as any other and our needs are as salient as our friends’, parents’, partners’ and we tend to them with the same dedication that we finally stop struggling with our personal finances.

Subscribe below to get weekly updates!

Subscribe below to have content sent straight to your inbox for free!

2 thoughts on “Elton John was Wrong: Sorry Has to be the Easiest Word”

    1. But of course! And that accounts for so much. He doesn’t feel the need to justify his making lots of money because he’s male. I’m not saying he didn’t experience any negativity, but it wasn’t around money!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.