Saying you're sorry means never quite meaning it

Judy Markey

March 27, 1991|By Judy Markey | Judy Markey,United Feature Syndicate

A RECENT STUDY reveals that in 40 percent of households, the woman usually apologizes first. Thus, if you work through a series of advanced mathematical extrapolations, you can only conclude that in 60 percent of the households, the man usually apologizes first.

Therefore, in order to close the apology gap, today we offer women a brief lesson in the delicate art of saying you are (wince) sorry. Let us begin with the basic premise: Whenever you apologize, you want to simply APPEAR to be extending the olive branch. You want to get credit for extending the olive branch, and then you want to yank that little baby back so fast the other guy won't know what hit him. To that end, we begin our lesson.

The Classic Unacceptable Apology. It's short, it's sweet, and it's always successfully unacceptable. It's the tried and true, "OK, so I was wrong." (Three second wait) "Are you satisfied?" There are, however, selected variations for assorted situations.

The Line Drawn in the Sand Apology. Basically this is the one that goes, "Yeah. I was wrong. SO???" It is recommended that the Line in the Sand Apology be delivered, with some cracking of gum and a kind of menacing stance, near something like your kitchen knife rack or a Veg-o-matic.

The Totally Confounded Apology. This is the one where you make sure the other person knows you are completely beyond hope, so even though you sound like you are apologizing, it doesn't much matter, because you genuinely don't get it, and you are destined to be in hot water for a similar offense in only a matter of time. This apology might be something like, "OK, so I admit I missed your birthday. But I don't see what's so terrible about a belated present. It was a very nice set of shoe trees."

The Destined for Failure Apology. This one works nicely for those who actually are sorry but prefer to enjoy the pleasure of remaining furious for just a bit longer. Therefore, an apology is issued, followed immediately by a comment guaranteeing an instant re-escalation into hostilities. This would sound something like, "I'm sorry. I know you weren't really hanging all over her at the party. But tell me honestly, you don't really think Daphne is good-looking, do you?"

The Mutant Apology. This is the kind that by the time you're done saying it the other person has no idea what actually transpired but suspects he has just been re-insulted. A basic mutant apology would be something along the lines of, "I would say I'm sorry," (and here it's always nice to throw in a "honey,") "honey, but every time I do apologize, you act as if it's not quite enough, that I'm not quite contrite enough, and that it's always a little too late. But you also know you have to accept it, and that really frosts you, and then you always reach for a drink to calm yourself down, and the past three times you WOUND UP IN A DRUNKEN STUPOR. So, rather than have you lurching around here all night, it's probably better -- even though I sort of am sorry -- that I don't say it. Honey."

The Grammar School Apology. This is the one most of us perfected in the second grade. Basically it boils down to saying, "Sorrrrr-eeeee," and accompanying this with an extremely annoying smug facial expression.

This completes our efforts to close the apology gap between men and women. We admit that perhaps this was a futile effort. We admit that perhaps it will always be that in 60 percent of the households men will always apologize first. Perhaps there is nothing we can do about this.

After all, men are usually wrong.

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