I was driving my sons to preschool one morning, when I sneezed.
There was silence from the back seat of my mini-van.
Ever on the lookout for a teachable moment, I asked, “What do you say when someone sneezes?”
My three year-old thought about it for a moment, and then he replied, “It’s too loud!”
Clearly, I had my work cut out for me.
In time, my boys learned when to say, “Bless you,” how to say, “thank you,” and when to apologize. But that last one — saying “I’m sorry,” — well, it appears the girls in their school are far superior at that.
I discovered this when the first girls arrived at my house for a high school cross country team pre-meet pasta party last weekend.
“Sorry for being the first ones here,” a girl apologized on behalf of two of her female teammates as they walked down my driveway.
Here, they hadn’t even set foot in my house yet, and already they were sorry. Meanwhile, the boys who soon arrived helped themselves to pasta and set up a game of foursquare in the driveway, not a sorry among them.
Yet as more girls arrived at the party, the more sorry they became.
They were sorry for spilling a splash of iced tea on my kitchen table.
They were sorry for taking an extra split second to pass along their empty plates to me when I was clearing dirty dishes.
They were sorry for not taking a cookie when offered.
They were sorry for taking a cookie when offered.
They were just plain sorry. The girls said “Sorry!” more times in three hours at that party than the boys’ soccer team that I coached uttered over five years. And believe me, given the boys’ contribution to the sorry, smelly state of my mini-van at the end of its life, they owed me an apology — or 18.
Females do indeed apologize more often than men. One study found that women say they’re sorry more often than men do, because their threshold for what is considered offensive behavior is lower. (See above: mini-van.)
Perhaps that’s why when I apologized for bumping into a man when the train we were riding on jerked to a stop on Monday, he barely looked up from his iPhone to register it or me. Yet the men who cut me off when I’m making a beeline for the subway or the ones who accidentally elbow me on the train rarely deign to utter, “Sorry.”
Because they’re not sorry. Trains jerk to a stop, and people rushing toward the subway sometimes nearly collide, and elbows rarely stay in one place. Unless it causes you to step on a foot, spill a coffee, or knock out a tooth, do we really need to be sorry? Or to say it? Especially when the person to whom you’re apologizing doesn’t appear to care?
Ladies of all ages, I implore you to raise your Sorry Threshold.
Don’t apologize for being the first ones at the party. Someone has to be. Why not you?
Unless the splash of iced tea you spilled landed on someone’s white couch, just clean it up and go have your drink.
Go ahead and pass the plates along even if it takes you an extra second to get to it, and keep on laughing and talking and having fun.
Because the boys did, and they’re not sorry about it. We parents taught them to say it, too, and “bless you” and “thank you.” We must have taught you to apologize way the heck to much.
For that, I am truly sorry.