The Sorry Addiction

May 6th, 2018


I’m sorry about the grizzly weather. I’m sorry you’re standing slap-bang in my way. I’m sorry the delicious dinner I’ve just cooked looks like a Jackson Pollock on your plate. I’m sorry I accidentally bumped into your bulky backpack while scrambling onto the sardine-can tube. I’m sorry I used too much sticky tape on your birthday present. I’m sorry your chair leg just knocked against my ankle bone (still aches, by the way). I’m sorry the white shirt I lent you has a pebble-grey stain on the cuff. I’m sorry your butter just slipped off your knife and landed on my suede shoe.

I apologise all the time. I’m sorry. These two words have a tendency to trickle from my lips like milk from a carton, like ice cream from a wafer cone on a hot summer day. Sometimes I mean it. I truly am sorry I can’t make it to my friend’s birthday party. I’m sorry for making a mistake. But mostly it’s subconscious, a linguistic reflex, a tongue tick. I say it before I know I’m saying it. Before I have time to pause and consider A) whether I really am sorry and B) whether I have anything to be sorry for.

Apologising, we’re all taught, is a mark of good manners. As a child, I remember being told off for saying “What?” when I didn’t quite catch something. According to Teacher, what I should have said was “Pardon?”, “Excuse me?” or, wait for it, “I’m sorry?”. An apology with an inflection. Apology as question.

I’m sorry?

I don’t know, are you?

I’m not alone in my addiction. I know that because, more often than not, when I apologise someone else is doing the same. We’re both sorry for bumping into each other. We’re both sorry about the non-stop rain. We’re both sorry that one of us is struggling with the sticky tape. Now all we both need to do is smile. Let our apologies cancel each other out. Besides, we have nothing to be sorry for. Like nasty words (another lesson from Teacher), we ought to keep our sorrys to ourselves.

Chloë Ashby