My friend made a simple observation a few days ago after taking a class at Core Power. She said to me, why do women say sorry so much in the locker room there? Hmm, good question; she’s absolutely right. I’ve noticed it myself many times before. And it bothers me. It always has. Isn’t saying you’re sorry about being empathetic, about accepting blame or feeling regretful? Yet, more than simply accepting blame, isn’t it supposed to be about acting regretful? And having to act regretful means you should have done something regretful.

By myguitarzz on Flickr (http://flickr.com/photos/myguitarzz/161457552/) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I said I was sorry!

Here it is just two days after this conversation about everyone being so apologetic in the locker room and I found myself throwing out a gentle “oop, sorry” to not one but two different women. First, I’d come in hot and bumped right into a woman heading out the door. Where I’m typically a “’scuse,” “excuse me” or “’scuse, please” type, I’m now the culprit. It was my bad after all, wasn’t it? I was moving like a frickin’ freight train, in a hurry to get changed into yoga clothes and find a spot before the start of class, when I collided into her. And, then, not one step farther into the locker room, I accidentally bumped a woman on the ass with my mat. Again, me to her: “sorry ‘bout that.”

I’ll defend my actions to the end on these two situations, though. I think both these instances are moments to show some regret. Not regretful as in repentant or remorseful necessarily, but certainly, since I made physical contact, I felt like a sorry on my part was needed. Then again, maybe I justify because now I’m guilty of the excessive apologizing?

My friend and fellow writer at 303 Magazine who also is a dedicated yogi says men do not say sorry in the locker room to indicate the desire to move past a person. So I guess it’s just us ladies? Is this a gender issue? As women, are we socialized to be apologetic? Goodness I hope not. I’m feeling like I’m on a soapbox right now and I don’t want my thoughts here to be misconstrued as feminist musings. Being a human—a woman or a man (a yogi, a mother, a father, a friend, a brilliant editor or writer, fill in a million descriptors here, whatever fits your personal journey on any given day)—isn’t it about pursuing your truth? Pause, observe. Pause, reflect. Choose, question, act, consider intent, question again, act (repeat, repeat, repeat, in any order). Simply put: are you really sorry for standing where someone else would like to now stand? It doesn’t seem, to me, that you need to be.

In my building at work, there was a woman who used to throw herself up against the wall as we traveled by each other in the hallway. Literally. She would position her body as close to the wall as she could, often slouching low and meekly whispering, “sorry” as she sort of shuffled by. Even when she clearly was there first she would apologize. Shouldn’t I have been sorry for taking the space she claimed? Ugh ah, no, I just couldn’t bring myself to say sorry for that. Sometimes, as we headed toward each other down a long hallway, with lots of time to gauge the other’s approach, I could see her bracing herself to concede. Maybe because she is rather petite she felt the need to duck under others? Certainly not because she is a woman?

I have taught myself to say “excuse me” when I pass/squeeze/walk/ride my bike by someone. And it does bother me when that someone answers, “sorry.” Don’t be sorry, there’s just no reason for it. Be sorry if you clotheslined me off my bike or if you gave my heel a flat tire and so I tripped over my own feet as I stepped past. I think about this and I know I am a person who willingly shares space; I’m a person practicing openness, practicing mindfulness in order to be the best that I can. I would never harm a petite work colleague because she, too, would like to move through the same hallway as I…

4 Responses

  1. Regina

    I read an article about something similar quite a while ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Look at the way men and women sit on airplanes. Men often stretch out to their full extent, while women often relinquish arm rests, let space, etc., to their neighbours. I catch myself doing it all the time, and I’m almost 6 ft. tall, so leg space is at a premium on flights. Yet I constantly have my knees scrunched up to my chest while the guy next to me leisurely stretches his legs into my floor space, and I find myself apologizing for hitting his legs with mine when I attempt to even stretch out an inch!

    I make a conscious effort now to take up all the space that I rightfully pay for! It’s the same in other aspects of life, and we shouldn’t be made to feel apologetic for occupying our own personal space! I’m no “feminist,” but that attitude is something I personally fight against daily.

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  2. Aubrey

    Alert, kind of like how white people love their bikes and 80s music, but the flip side of things white people like?…do share more please. I am intrigued to hear more…

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  3. Aubrey

    Regina, Yeah, I think there’s always a balance between being courteous to yourself and being courteous to others. I guess it depends on who you are as an individual as to who you decide to put first. Sometimes you choose yourself first, other times, it’s your neighbor. That seems, to me, like the mark of a good person. Nearly 6 feet tall here too; I get where you’re coming from.

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