I am always sorry. “Oh did I just bump your chair? God, I’m so sorry.” “Did I not hold that door? Sososorry.” “I’m sorry, but I think…”
It’s endless how sorry I am. The number of times I excuse myself for, well, being, is astronomical. Laughable. But it’s real and it’s true. I learned to be sorry in almost the same way I learned to walk — which is to say, a little less graceful than I’d like, and something for which I’m, yeah, a little sorry.
I apologize profusely in anticipation of doing something that might annoy, be perceived as impolite, might be a hassle; I apologize when I think the barista at Starbucks made me the wrong drink. And often, I just drink it to avoid making him feel like he’s done something wrong. Because that’s the thing about sorry: I’m so sorry that I don’t want you to be. I’ve got enough for two.
Of course, one root of sorry runs right from the trunk of womanhood. You and I already know that we’re born to a culture that wants us small — small of mind, small of spirit, small of build. And yes, there are rebellions, revolutions, decades, where we make massive strides, but still, we’re aware. Girls and women aren’t ever far from the cage in which they were born.
Sorry is a way of excusing ourselves. “Sorry,” when used as frequently as I and the women around me do, negates. It eliminates. Denies rights to being, thinking, acting. It’s the way in which we keep ourselves from getting too big for our britches, isn’t it? From thinking we have ownership over space or beliefs or our bodies. And the fact that it’s used so profusely, so quickly and unthinkingly — as a reflex — makes it that much more troubling. Sorry becomes part of who we are. Non-threatening non-entities.
And yet, another root of sorry is fatness.
I have always been a bigger person. Even when I’m not big in a weight sense, I still consider myself a bigger individual. I’m tall. I have big hands. Big feet. My shoulders are broad. My rib cage is awesome. My head, my face — they’re in-your-face big. But I’ve also been morbidly obese. And the reality of taking up that kind of space is: you make yourself small in other ways.
For me, small power came in the form of politeness, sweetness. Which is not to say I didn’t feel genuine pleasure in being pleasing and polite, didn’t feel real urges to be sweet, but the over-the-top-ness, the going out of my way to be accommodating no matter what — those came from one place: the desire to fit in. I tried, I did, so hard. To be ever kinder. Softer. I didn’t want to be a bother, or worse, in the way, or to let anyone do things for me. Physically, I hunched over. And now those rolled shoulders are here to stay. I camouflaged what I could, covered what I couldn’t. I concealed what might have been real (feelings) and big (attitudes). I focused on others’ pleasure, particularly in the case of men. And in doing so, I got to feel what small feels like: less than.
What could the perks possibly be, then? I guess I came across as the most pleasing pleaser ever. Maybe it made for a smoother ride. But then my late twenties came, and I said, “Wait, what the–? Am I so caught up in being a super-sorry people pleaser that I’m forgetting to figure out what I want?” When I’m pleasing, am I being pleased?
When you apologize for everything, every time, ever, you begin to internalize. Rather than the sorrys becoming just meaningless words we use over and over, the way my generation uses “like” in, like, everything, we start to believe the wrongdoings. Consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously. We bow our heads with the sorrys until we become as short as they are.
I, personally, am apologizing, day in and day out, for not being enough. For not making the right meal when my friends come over for dinner. How dull are tacos, anyway? For not being the “right” size — even if I don’t say it aloud. For ruminating on a relationship that’s over. I think about people I have crushes on and, to this day, no matter how successful I may become, my first thought is, Jesus, they would never like me. What kind of bullshit is that?
There’s always that way that I doubt myself. When I cut myself down before I’ve begun. The times I think about writing and say, “But honestly, who WON’T hate this?”
Taking up space and acting small is such a real part of life for all of us who are fat, at one point or another. It’s those who are able to realize that owning the real estate of our bodies is more than just fine, but the investment of a lifetime, that are the ones to admire.
I’m working on it. And not just because I am or am not small, but because I don’t need the smallness anymore. I don’t want it. It’s fine to take that space, be big in ways literal and not, and to like it. I won’t die when not everyone likes me. They can’t. They won’t.
I’m taking space now. And I’m sorry but that feels really good.