Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dear Ladies, Stop Apologizing!

Has your son ever asked you the question, ‘Do I look fat in these soccer shorts?’ What about your husband…does he, after a long look in the mirror, confess to you that he hates his short legs? Or does your daughter offer apologies when her friends come over to play Shopkins, ‘Oh, sorry about the mess.’ No? Not very often? And why not? Because to do so is blinking ridiculous! Yet I see women (myself included) do stuff like this all the time! Sure, you can blame your mother--maybe she did the 1970's equivalent. You can blame the media—they put some pretty messed up feminine ideals out there. Certainly you can blame yourself for eating too much, not being on top of things, over-stretching yourself, or for falling short of Sally So-and-So down the street, OR you can JUST STOP. Stop apologizing for stuff that isn't hurting anyone. Stop justifying your choices. Stop explaining things that do not require explanation, and most of all stop comparing yourself to Sally.

I’m talking stuff like, ‘I can’t wear my swimsuit, I have such a hairy bikini line’—seriously? Like 2 billion other women on this planet.  Or ‘I keep meaning to re-vamp my wardrobe a little. Jenny always looks put-together’—Go for it, if that is the best fit for your time and money. Even the dialogue in your head like, ‘I really need to get out and travel the world. I am so ‘provincial’, but I can never seem to afford it, and I’m scared of…”—Do it or don’t do it, but don’t beat yourself up for it. Ladies, this kind of stuff can consume you, and it really is a demon of your own fabrication. So just STOP.

You know, I have this friend who's (I can't think of any more fitting word) beauty has always struck me. There's just something about her...Anyway, this friend, she certainly doesn't put hours into grooming herself. She is kind enough but not to a fault. She drinks. She swears. She’s a kick-ass musician. She is opinionated and occasionally more outspoken than I am comfortable with. We do not share common political views, parenting philosophies or even many common interests. Her house is a mess. She is not meticulous about diet or exercise. She doesn't hold a particularly impressive job, though I certainly enjoy her sense of decency and humour. If I itemize her qualities this way, it's not a particularly exceptional description of beauty, so I've asked myself, what is it about this woman I find so compelling? Well, the answer is quite simple...She NEVER apologizes. I've never heard her utter anything silly like, 'Excuse the toys all over the lawn,' or 'I just didn't get around to shaving this week' or 'I feel so bad for leaving the kids at daycare all week'. Nope. Why would she? The toys aren't hurting anything anymore than her leg hair is. And her kids are a daycare because they require care while she works. End of story. From what I can see, she just goes about her very ordinary life owning her humanity minus apologies, justifications, and explanations—a quality which I find as appealing as it is rare.

I would also put forward that all of this 'apologizing' we do, whether it be for the store-bought snacks we are feeding our kids or for the lackluster state of our social life, is far from harmless. Quite the opposite actually. I think it actively brings other women down...Take stretch marks, for example…if yours are not okay and need to be hidden, then I guess so do mine. And if Sally is complaining about her chunky thighs, what does she think of mine which are surely 2 sizes bigger? And if Jane apologizes for the cookie crumbs on her table, what must she think of my less-than-perfect housekeeping skills? Or if Katie is forever going on about how she HAS to work, that they NEED the money, even though she'd rather be home with her little one, what is the implication to her other working mommy friends? The list is endless. Someone once even apologized to me for serving soup straight out of a pot! Until that apology, I had no idea such an action could even be offensive--in fact, I still struggle to understand why... but perhaps this notion is no more ridiculous than, say, bemoaning the length of arms you were born with or making explanations for the 20 lbs you just can't seem to lose. All of this stuff—it just casts doubt and shadow over the beauty you were born with and takes others down with you.

So, maybe my fascination with the beauty of this friend of mine is self-serving as much as anything else. Because, maybe if others apologies and justifications have the power to bring us down, maybe the opposite is also true. Maybe her lack of apology and justification for these types of things actually has the power to bring me up. So, for example, if she feels comfortable having a house full of people over with haphazard food offerings and this morning’s cheerios crunching under my socks, maybe I won’t think twice about having a playdate with Sally without first ensuring all household condition are favourable to guests. Or maybe her confidence in pursuing her career sans apology for the childcare she requires will inspire me to do the same. Or her unique way of owning her natural physicality and everyday foibles is just the evidence I need to know that my beauty is not, and will never be, found in some list of desirable qualities. Rather, my beauty is already here…All that’s left for me to do is drop the apologies and own it.

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