Monday, 31 October 2011


...but I’m one of those people who apologises at the drop of a hat. In fact I’d probably apologise if you dropped your hat, such is my nature to apologise for things that are nothing to do with me.

It might be polite to apologise if you have done something wrong, but I have taken it to extremes and now seem to preface almost every sentence with “sorry”: “Sorry you stepped on my foot” “Sorry but could you tell me where I could find the frozen peas please?” “Sorry I’m in your way” “Sorry my kids are so noisy” or drop it in at the end “Excuse me, sorry”. In fact I’m thinking of getting “sorry” tattooed on my forehead then I could be pretty much mute.

Being overly apologetic is supposedly a very British affliction. But I don’t notice many other people saying sorry as much as I do. I think it’s my most used word after “no” (but that comes with the territory of being a mother to two boys).

I have always apologised a lot but didn’t become an extreme apologiser until I became a mum and felt like I was constantly having to apologise for my kids “I’m so sorry my child just pushed your child down the slide”, “I’m so sorry my son just pushed your child into the ball pit”. I have become so used to having to apologise for my kid’s behaviour that when the tables are turned and they are on the receiving end I don’t know what to say: “Sorry, do you mind not hitting my child over the head with that foam frog? He doesn’t like it, sorry.” It is completely ineffective and frankly weak. But if I was the kind of mother who shouted “OY, if you don’t stop hitting my kid with that foam frog I’m gonna give you a smack with that massive Lego block over there, see how you like it” I might get some results.

My mum has been staying with us and she went to the shops yesterday, came home and said “Sorry, I bought myself something” Um, and why does that qualify an apology to me? She said “Well I didn’t get one for you.” I just laughed (didn’t want a pot plant anyway), because that is exactly the kind of pointless apology I churn out day after day.

Being assertive is one thing. Being rude is quite another. But I don’t think it’s easy to find the right balance. Madonna recently got some stick for being a bit ungracious when she received a hydrangea from a fan. After thanking him with a smile she immediately put the hydrangea on the floor and said to her friend “I absolutely loathe hydrangeas”. OK, that comment could have waited until after the press conference, when her microphone was turned off, but it wasn’t like she said it to his face. She did say thank you after all. See I am the complete opposite. I would have made a massive show about how kind it was and how much I loved it, so much that they would think “ooh she obviously loves hydrangeas” and I would then get them every year for the rest of my life (for the record I do actually like hydrangeas, it’s carnations I can’t stand, but you would never know that if you got them for me).

It does bring up an etiquette issue though. If you don’t like something are you better off to admit it and apologise “Thank you so much but I’m sorry I don’t care for hydrangeas” or just, as I was always taught, say thank you, be gracious and smile. We’re working on teaching the kids to be gracious around food. Son number one is pretty picky. But I find it absolutely infuriating and incredibly rude when people say “I don’t like that” to someone who has cooked something for you. If someone is good enough to cook for you, you eat it and shut up or go hungry. Good manners 101. Son number 1 is getting to the age where I am not always there to correct bad behaviour and am paranoid that he is going to be invited to tea with a friend, be served up liver and say “Yuck I don’t like that.” I would be absolutely mortified (I can’t stand liver but I use it as an example because I would try to eat at least one bite, then probably apologise too much for vomiting all over the carpet, although that is probably one of those situations where over apologising is entirely appropriate). So, in preparation for that day we are trying to teach him to at least try everything on his plate, and leave whatever it is he doesn’t like on the side and say nothing. Anything else, including unappreciative face making or uttering a single word of disgust is completely unacceptable.

Saying sorry in every single sentence I utter has become another entry on my very long list of bad habits that I need to break.

Sorry this post has been a bit long. Are you an over apologiser?

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