Sorry I’m sorry.

Have you heard that today’s youth are under a lot of pressure to be perfect?!

You know it. I know it. The New York Times knows it. Cosmo knows it, though you’d never guess they cared. My generation – especially my generation of women – is bending over backwards to be perfect. We are running ourselves into the ground in pursuit of an ideal that doesn’t exist.

Except that I don’t buy it. Most of the women I know are over being perfect. Instead, they’re “quirky.” They’re “owning it!” They’re “#realtalk.” They’re “such a Liz Lemon.” Aggressive imperfection has become the new perfection, and we are sorry we’re not sorry.

“Sorry I’m not sorry” has released us from responsibility for our actions. We can be as obnoxious as we want, just as long as we’re self-aware. We can sling snark like we’re doing each other some kind of favor—after all, someone had to say it, and besides, it was witty. We can tell racist jokes, because we’re so unracist that racism itself has become a punch line. Only a racist would think that racist jokes are racist! Self-censorship has become its own taboo, and “sorry I’m not sorry” has become a catch-all excuse for cultural Tourette’s.

Ironically, in this age of delete buttons and Internet personas, we have more control than ever over what we project. We call people out on being fake and unapproachable, but in laying it all out there (while disclaiming that we are sorry we’re not sorry for whatever we’re laying out there), we end up talking out of both sides of our mouths. I have this information, but I am choosing to ignore it. I know this is rude, but I am choosing to say it anyway. Oh, you think I’m a bitch/bigot/idiot? Guess you just don’t get me. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Are we becoming more genuine, or are we just becoming lazy and immature? I’m not talking about doing that tee-hee-I’m-so-weird Zooey Deschanel thing, though that can be grating as well. I’m talking about flouting established norms of ethical human conduct. “Sorry I’m not sorry” has inflated the value of shock value. Kind is important. Fair is important. Informed is important. In my opinion, acknowledging a discrepancy between what’s right and what you’re doing is not enough. If you’re sorry you’re not sorry, you are just not sorry.

For much of college, I prided myself on telling it like it is, aka being a huge asshole. So smug. So judgmental. Call it an overcompensation for years of doormatty behavior—whatever it was, it was not cute. When I got knocked off my high horse, I became less of an asshole, but I also started to care more about where all that attitude was coming from—about the line between being sassy and, well, being a huge asshole. It exists for me, and it exists for other people, and they may not be the same line. Am I allowed to care? Does empathy have to go hand-in-hand with self-doubt?

I’m sorry. What more, I’m sorry I’m sorry. I wish I could just own that I’m a jerk some days or a mess most days and not analyze it all to pieces. My need to extract value from my shortcomings is exhausting for everyone around me. It’s self-involved. I’m sorry I’m self-involved. I certainly hope that other people can relate to and/or benefit from my self-involvement, but I get really tired of thinking so much. I can put it out there and still judge myself for not having it more together.

I guess what I’m saying is, sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry. Life is complicated. So is sentence structure.

Are you sorry?

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4 responses to “Sorry I’m sorry.

  1. Yup. This is basically perfect.

  2. Pingback: Sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry I’m not WHAT? (Alternate title: I’m.) | BITE

  3. As someone who has “owning it” and “sorry I’m not sorry” all over her blog, I was a little bummed to see this post! I, too, am against “aggressive imperfection” as you call it (or “inauthentic authenticity” as I call it) but I never intend the phrases to be used that way, or to excuse terrible human behavior. For me, “sorry I’m not sorry” is something I say about the things that make me who I am or that I feel passionate about (like being someone who talks about race, or for not having a traditional engagement story)…not to excuse shitty behavior. I guess it’s a fine line though….some people use it to do exactly what you’re describing, while others use it to be OK with the things that make them who they are that aren’t necessarily socially acceptable or conventional.

    • emmaaubryroberts

      Yep, I hear ya. I know that’s your thing (and I love your blog, so no personal attack intended—my friends and I have been using the phrase for years!). My issue is not with the deliberate (or even tongue-in-cheek) use of “sorry I’m not sorry” so much as the idea that saying it absolves us of social responsibility. I also feel like there’s this really uncomfortable space between “owning it” and being a complete doormat where you have to admit that there IS a line and you DO care what people think, and that in itself has become kind of socially unacceptable. Like, sorry I second-guess myself, or sorry I’m always not totally sure what my opinion is. I feel like I’m supposed to “own it,” but I can’t always honestly do that. Does that make sense?

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