The Blog

I'm Sort of Sorry (or: The Sociology of Apologies)

Nevertheless, aside from sneezing and "after-sneezing" sex, few things feel better than receiving an unexpected apology. It validates the hurt that you felt at the time. Plus, it means the person was thinking about you, which is always kind of nice.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

There are basically two kinds of apologies. Well, three if you count "sorry" sex, which is never as good as "make-up" sex, slightly better than "honeymoon" sex, and much better than "trying to keep your mind off the sudden death of a loved one" sex. But for our purposes, let's assume we're talking about words and not actions, which, coincidentally, is the official motto of Congress. "Congressional" sex? The worst.

But be clear about what constitutes an apology.

Fake apologies have, unfortunately, seeped into the social cesspool of self-obsessed impatience. "Yeah, I get that you're mad at me for something I did, but your hurt feelings are starting to annoy me, so I'll just barf up some meaningless apologetic words so we can move on." Well guess what? I don't want to move on, jerk.

If you truly believe that you're in the right, stand by your actions. And if you know you're wrong but you don't care, then you're a dick. But at least you're a dick with integrity, which coincidentally, is the title of Ron Jeremy's penis's autobiography.

Famous fake apologies include Chris Brown for domestic violence, British Petroleum for the oil spill, and literally every single political sex scandal ever. "I'm sorry I got caught" is, by definition, an apology to yourself. Yes, and I'm sorry to myself that I just ate this entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, but that doesn't mean I should call a press conference.

Fake apologies are easy to spot.

Real apologies begin with I. "You're an hour late." "Sorry." You just wasted an hour of my time, but you're not willing to spend the extra fraction-of-a-second to clarify that you are the one who is sorry? Who is sorry? You? This chair? Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Are you sorry, or did you just feel like saying a random word? "You're an hour late." "Dragon." Same flippant sincerity and same flipping effect.

One-word apologies are about as heartfelt as a typical Kim Kardashian wedding vow.

Real apologies contain the word "sorry". "I apologize" is not an apology. "I apologize" is a way to describe the apology that you're not currently giving me. It's sort of like saying "I exercise" while sitting on the couch. Okay -- you apologize. I wait for apology. I still not hear apology. When apology come?

Real apologies end with the word "sorry". The only thing that comes after a real "sorry" is a period, or maybe an exclamation point if you're far away. Be wary of apologies that include the word "but", "however", or "even though". A real apology is not followed by an explanation. "I'm really sorry, but let me explain why I'm not sorry." The first time a woman said to me, "I love you," it was a wonderful feeling. The first time a woman said to me, "I love you, but..." the night didn't end well.

Real apologies are spoken or written directly to a specific person or people. This often contradicts the classic bullsh*t public apology. "I'm sorry to the people I've hurt." Then apologize to the freakin' people you've hurt! (I'm far away.) Why am I involved in your drama? Real apologies don't involve a middleman. Or "I want to apologize to anyone I've hurt." Anyone? What if ISIS was hurt by your mean fat-shaming twitter joke. Well, I for one will never apologize to ISIS, though I do feel a little bad about taking so long to return their One Direction CD. God, how were you English lads able to pack so many amazing songs on one disc?

Real apologies are simple; I'm sorry. Too much wordiness tends to cloud one's sincerity. "Very" or "really", in between "I'm" and "sorry" work. I'm skeptical of "so", though, as in "I'm so sorry." So sounds a little sarcastic. So often comes with a condescending eye roll. I think you are so talented, Mr. Seacrest.

Along with a real apology, one will sometimes ask, "Do you accept my apology?" or "I hope you can forgive me." And that's fine. But you apologize because you truly regret the hurt that you caused. Whether or not the victim accepts your apology is irrelevant. Sometimes people say, "I hope you can forgive me," without first issuing an actual apology. It's like asking for "make-up" sex before you've made up. Incidentally, "before making up" sex is always hotter than tepid "make-up" sex. "Make-up" sex is like the movie Birdman. I'm not saying I don't like it, but it's overrated. The dialogue is pretty good, though -- I mean during the sex, not in Birdman.

There are two kinds of real, sincere apologies -- prompted and unprompted.

The best apologies to receive are unprompted. That's when, out of the blue, unexpectedly, someone issues an apology for something he or she did in the past. The apologizer could be thinking about something horrible they did the day before, or maybe an inconspicuous comment they made years earlier. Sometimes the receiver doesn't even remember the thing you're apologizing for, at least they say they don't remember, but, of course, they do. I can't remember my first wife's name, but I can still remember anytime I was ever made to feel left out, made to feel inferior, embarrassed, degraded, humilia... oh, wait, it was Jennifer! Yeah, we had some good times. I wonder whatever happened to her?

We don't like to think about the hurtful stuff we've done in the past. We're human beings, one of the top twenty species. Eh, maybe top fifty. But most of us are pretty decent. And to recall our regretful actions/words, it reminds us that we're hypocrites -- that we're justifiably angry when someone wrongs us, but that we're not doing anything to rectify the pain that we've caused. So we throw that emotional damage in a cardboard box, tape it up, and store it in the attic with the "I thought I would use it more" appliances we bought at Bed, Bath, & Beyond eleven years ago.

Nevertheless, aside from sneezing and "after-sneezing" sex, few things feel better than receiving an unexpected apology. It validates the hurt that you felt at the time. Plus, it means the person was thinking about you, which is always kind of nice. If you are really sorry for something you did to someone, I'd always recommend reaching out to the person. Maybe send an email. There are worse ways to spend a few minute than trying to be a better person, unless you're Tom Brady and you're thinking of apologizing to us Jets fans. Don't waste your time. We don't forgive you.

A prompted apology is a two-part process. First you tell the person about the crappy thing they did. Then you get your apology. This kind of feels like you're "asking" for an apology. And, of course, you shouldn't have to ask for an apology. It's like when the movie theater counter lady asks if you want butter on your popcorn. Uh, duh! Hell, I don't even care about the popcorn. I'd eat a sock if it was covered in movie butter.

Nevertheless, a prompted apology doesn't necessarily make it any less sincere. That's why I send out an annual Christmas card to all my loved ones, specifically telling them all the things they need to apologize to me for.

Sometimes, politicians debate whether or not to offer formal government apologies for crimes of the past, like slavery or Native American genocide or Dick Cheney. It's misguided pride to think that we shouldn't admit and acknowledge our mistakes. Is an apology always enough? No. But it's a start. I'm not sure about the term "formal", though. I prefer personal, "informal" apologies; they come more from the heart.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan -- the hero of modern Republicans -- issued an apology to the Japanese-Americans who were unfairly forced into internment camps during World War 2. About twenty years later, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney published his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. The Republican Party has changed. I'm looking forward to Donald Trump's next autobiography: You Want An Apology? Fuck You!

I don't think greatness and a willingness to apologize are mutually exclusive.

One time I wrote an essay about the difference between liberals and conservatives. Here's an amendment to that piece: Conservatives don't apologize. Liberals apologize too much. Liberals are sorry about everything, it seems. Nobody should say "I'm sorry" that much unless you're Charlie Sheen at a parole hearing. There's a difference between sincere contrition and obsessive self-loathing.

Nevertheless, a real apology is still a powerful force. And I stand behind every apology I give. Unless you're being unappreciative about it. Then I take my apology back.

Before You Go

Popular in the Community