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I hear it from parents and teachers every day.

“Say you’re sorry.”

It comes flying out of the nearest adult’s mouth every time some kid stomps on someone’s toes, pushes a boy in line for the drinking fountain, knocks over a classmate’s prized Lego structure, or spills milk in her brother’s plate of pancakes.

By the time most kids are in second or third grade, it has been drilled into them and apologizing has become a reflex reaction to every accidental or purposeful injury to another’s physical or mental feelings.

Bump – “Sorry!”

Stomp – “Sorry!”

Smack – “Sorry!”

Insult – “Sorry!”

Sometimes I see parents and teachers attempting to go past the one-word apology.  They try to instill a more complex response – one I recently saw in written form was something like:  “I am sorry that I [blank].  I know it made you feel [blank].  Next time I will [blank] instead.”  Good try.  But I’m still not buying it.

It has been my experience that when you have hurt someone, physically or emotionally, there is only one thing that will make it right between you and that person.  And that one thing is this:

DON’T DO IT AGAIN.

I believe this so strongly that I say it in capital letters to my son whenever he does something hurtful, to himself or someone else, whether accidentally or on purpose.

“Alex…  DON’T DO THAT AGAIN.”

Because all the other parts of even the most sincere and complex apology don’t really fix the problem.  When someone says they are sorry, even with a lot of modern psychobabble attached, let’s face it – you do not feel okay about it until time enough has passed that you know that they are honestly trying to change their behavior.  The words mean nothing except that they have learned to apologize.  And I don’t care about that when I’ve been hurt – I care only that it not happen again.

I remember when my son was four and I was mad at him for something and he actually said “But Mom!  I said I’m sorry!”, as though that should have fixed everything and my mood should have instantly been sunshine and roses again.  I had to explain to him that I would be mad until I wasn’t mad anymore, and I didn’t know how long that would be, and that his best option was to stop talking about it, let me have some space, and (say it with me, folks) DON’T DO IT AGAIN.

I believe this so strongly that I probably upset people when they expect an apology from me and instead get “I won’t do that again.”  People have been trained to expect the apology.  They want you to actually say the words “I’m sorry”.  Sometimes they want you to go into detail about how bad you feel.  They want you to make appeasement gestures like a bonobo chimp.  They may want you to bring them flowers or a card.  But when all of that is said and done, they are still not going to be comfortable until time has gone by – time without you repeating your offense.  Maybe a short time for a small offense (bumping someone in line), probably a very long time for a huge offense (an extramarital affair).

Not only do I not want my son thinking that “sorry” is a magic word that gets him off the hook…  I also don’t want him to think that it’s a magic word that lets other people off the hook.  If someone does something to him, I don’t want him turning around and trusting that person the next minute because he heard the word “sorry”.  I’d rather he was a little skeptical and careful about that person for a while.

When I see people bringing flowers (or a six pack of beer) to someone as an apology, I have to wonder:  Does the person being apologized to actually think all is instantly well?  Has that person been brainwashed by the “apology cult” into thinking the flowers make everything okay?  If so, that’s a sad thing indeed.  If not – if the person being given the flowers is still going to wait whatever time is necessary for the hurt to heal – then what are the flowers for?  I suspect they are a power play – “Look!  I made him give me flowers!  I am important and I have power!”  Or maybe the person just really likes flowers and figures “This whole thing is going to take time to blow over, but I might as well get some flowers in the meantime.”  It’s become a joke – when a man buys flowers for a woman and it’s not her birthday, Valentine’s Day, or their anniversary, how often does he get asked “What did you do?”  It’s a disingenuous power play, disguised as a healing act.

I don’t want my son to grow into a man thinking that insults and injuries to his person by a friend or romantic partner can be instantly healed with a couple of words and a token gift.  I also don’t want him to think that forgiveness is owed to him in exchange for a bouquet, a ring, or a pretty speech.

I guess the best immediate response to use and to teach my son would be “I’m sorry, I won’t do that again”, since it conforms to the social expectation of the other person while reminding him of what is truly important…  changing his actions.

On the other hand, if you truly do plan on doing it again, save everyone time and don’t bother apologizing – instead ask the person if they are willing to tolerate your behavior, and if the answer is “no”, write that relationship off and move on, because it’s not going to work out.

Recently my husband was espousing my competence (thank you, Hon), and a young woman asked him “Does that make you feel like less of a man or anything?” Which I take to be another way of asking “Will men like me if I am too competent?”

Wow, are young women still asking that question?!?

Allow me to answer it for you:

Some men won’t like you, some men will.  Duh.

When I was, shall we say, “looking for a man” (uggh, that sounds so bad), sure I met a lot of men who wanted to play the knight in shining armor opposite some chick’s damsel in distress.  They were not the least bit interested in me when I told them that I can take care of myself, don’t need saving, and even carry most of the heavy objects in my life by myself.  They were not interested in me – but nor was I in them.

Do I care if someone who I am not attracted to is not attracted to me?  No.  Actually, it’s better if he is not.

Young, competent women, listen to this:

Yes, you want to “find a man” (I know, I’m being heterosexist here, replace it with “woman” if you want – but I’m not sure that quite the same stereotypical worries figure in there…).  There’s really nothing wrong with that.  Most people do want a life partner, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  But you don’t have to be attractive to all men…  nor to most men…  not even to a lot of men to find yourself a man.  There are men out there who will like you for the competent woman you are.  For every man who finds you interesting and attractive, there may be twenty, or fifty, or a hundred men who find you difficult/unattractive/weird/scary/whatever – who cares about them?  They are not the men you want.

The hard part may be finding a man who appreciates your competence and has his own to match it.  If you don’t want to be the one handling everything, if you want someone equal, you may find that you have to weed through some guys who think “cool, she can take care of everything – she’s tough.  I’ll just cruise along looking pretty.”

If you find someone else who is able to do things, handle things, accomplish things, and doesn’t mind you doing the same…  hopefully your abilities compliment each other nicely, and between the two of you, you will be able to tackle most anything.

Of course, occasionally you will  have to hire a professional.

I have a weird relationship with marriage.

I’m not very fond of it, as an institution.  While I personally like the idea of staying with one person and growing old together, I am certain of two things – lifelong monogamy is just not everyone’s cup of tea, and for those who do want it the chances of actually finding a compatible lifelong partner are fairly slim.  Therefore, I don’t understand the common assumption that everyone should get married. It’s strange to me that it is so universally expected.  So much so that if you’re over 35 years old and you say you are getting married, instead of people saying “oh, congratulations, that’s great” they are more likely to say “it’s about time!”  Seriously?!?  Like you should have done it earlier?  Whether you were ready to or not, whether you had met the right person or not?

That’s ridiculous.  It causes people to get their priorities all mixed up.  Instead of meeting people and living life and doing things and being pleasantly surprised if they meet someone who they want to marry, so many people seem to want to get married and THEN go looking to find someone to marry.  That’s backwards, if you ask me.

Then there is the fact that the government is invested in people getting married.  Tax incentives – really?  Why?  Two people together sharing space and belongings live more cheaply than the two people would living by themselves – so why do they need a tax break for it?  I guess it’s like tax incentives for solar panels – supposed to be better for the country as a whole if people get them, so tax breaks are an incentive.  But there are two problems with that when it comes to marriage, as far as I can see:  one is that the government can set rules on who can get married (while they don’t tell you who can get solar panels), and the other is that so many problems are caused by the dissolution of marriages that should never have happened in the first place.

Instead of all this assumption that everyone should get married (unless they are gay, in which case people for some bizarre reason think they should NOT), and incentives for doing so…  shouldn’t we be thinking that the idea of pledging to spend THE REST OF YOUR FRIKKIN’ LIFE with someone is a REALLY BIG DEAL and maybe not for everyone?  Also maybe none of the government’s business?

So anyway, long and short of it is I have never put a lot of stock in marriage, personally.  I always figured I could live with someone my whole life without getting married and it would be fine with me.

But here I am, married.  You’re wondering why, I suppose.  Well, my live-in boyfriend, father of my son, man who I love, co-owner of my house got laid off and needed health insurance – so we walked over to the courthouse.  Two weeks later when he got a job with health coverage, I asked him if he wanted a divorce, and he said it wasn’t necessary.

We’re so romantic.

As someone who doesn’t care a lot about marriage, I also could generally not give a flying fig about engagement/wedding RINGS.  I’m not a jewelry type person in general.  Diamonds are shiny rocks – basically expensive sequins to my mind.  I do not understand the fascination exhibited by so many female humans for these trinkets, the magnitude of the world trade in shiny rocks, and the monetary value placed on them.

So combine my feelings about marriage with my feelings about diamond rings, and you can see that it is really hard for me to drum up the expected squealing response when a woman holds our her hand to show off her new engagement ring.  About all I can manage is something along the lines of “Well, that certainly is shiny.  I hope you will be very happy.”

Engagement rings are bizarre to me because [1] they can be given years before the people want to actually get married, [2] in heterosexual couples, only the woman wears one, which strikes me as odd in so many ways, [3] they are “given” by the man to the woman and yet, if I understand correctly, the woman often picks it out or exchanges it for one she really wants (how rude!), [4] they are a promise to make a promise, which makes no sense (“I swear that I will swear to love you forever… later” – WTF?), and finally [5] they are flashier than the actual wedding ring, what’s up with that?

Then there’s the wedding ring, the symbol of your undying love.  Which in movies is forever being thrown back at people, taken off in bars, lost down drains to great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and used as a sign of being “unavailable”.  I have always cringed at the idea of wearing one myself – always preferred the idea of a tattoo on my ass instead.  A more personal expression of my intention of being in love forever.

So, what happened yesterday?  After being legally married for a couple of years?

I was given an engagement ring.  By my mother.

She had given me her wedding ring a couple of years ago, when I told her of my aforementioned courthouse nuptials.  I never wore it, partly because of my general “eh” feelings about wedding rings, partly because it’s a little on the large side and I didn’t want to lose it and never got around to taking it in to be resized.

Now she gave me the engagement ring that my late father gave her in 1956.

It is very pretty.  Very shiny.  Makes a nice flash in the sun.  Makes my hand look weird, like someone else’s – some woman who holds her hand out to show off her rings.

I’m wearing it, and the wedding band, on my middle finger.  Partly because they are still a little too big for my ring finger.

Partly because I am a ornery woman who wants people to be confused when they see the rings – to think “they look like engagement and wedding rings, but they are on the wrong finger – what does it MEAN?”

I showed the engagement ring to my boy Alex, and I told him that some day when he’s a man if he wants to marry someone, he can give her this ring and ask her to marry him.  I told him that he doesn’t ever have to get married at all, though, of course.

My son, who has apparently inherited his parents’ overly romantic nature, said “Well, after you’re dead, I can keep it around, in case I change my mind and want to get married.”

As someone who sits in front of a computer for a large part of her day, and has cute kids, I enjoy Facebook.  I can brag about my kids with a few clicks of a button, whenever I want to.

I also see a lot of posts and comments that annoy the livin’ bejeezuz out of me.  Facebook posts mostly fall into several broad categories: cute animals, inspirational quotes, dirty jokes, political blurbs, bragging/complaining about kids and/or spouse, complaining about job, description of dinner plans, and the ever-popular “women are so fucking wonderful” memes.

Did you get the idea that I don’t like that last category much?  Very observant of you.

“But- But- But you’re a woman!” you gasp.

[Well, according to a bunch of sayings that get passed around Facebook, I’m not a real one.  According to pretty much every post that starts with “A real woman…” or “A real man…”, my husband and I fail the test.]

Here is the number one “woman power [sic]” post that gets my goat, in its many variations:

“I am a woman.  I have mood swings, I cry, I get PMS, I need chocolate, I am sensitive, I can be a real bitch, I’ll scream at you and you won’t know why, some days I can’t get out of bed, [etc, etc.]….  If you can’t handle me at my WORST, you don’t deserve me at my BEST.”

Wow.  Really?  That’s what you want to put out there about yourself?  You do realize that it’s not a flattering portrayal, don’t you?  And saying that it’s because you’re a woman implies things about all women.  No thanks.  You can stop speaking for me now.  Please.

When I see these “if you can’t handle me” posts, the first question that comes to my mind is “pray tell, what exactly do you mean by ‘handle’?”

I will admit (note the difference, that I admit it rather than being proud of it) that I have my bad moments.  Sometimes I’m just grumpy for no obvious reason.  Sometimes I get frustrated and cry.  Sometimes I get my feelings unnecessarily hurt.  Sometimes I lash out in unjustified anger.

My husband can handle me at those times.  But I don’t think the women who share those posts would approve of the way he “handles” me.  He tells me to knock it off.  He tells me to grow a pair (in slightly nicer terms, but that’s what he means).  He tells me that I’m being unreasonable.  He goes out to his shop and leaves me to pout by myself.  Or he lashes right back at me – he’s what’s called a “tit for tatter”.

Basically, he treats me the way he would treat any male friend of his who was being a dick.

I don’t think that’s what women mean when they say “if you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”.

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

I believe what is meant by “handle” in the posts is that the woman expects a man to accept her bad behaviors, not confront her about them, not defend himself, just let her be that way and act like it’s reasonable.

So she expects to be allowed to act completely at the mercy of her emotions, but her man is supposed to not react emotionally toward her in return – he is supposed to be calm and rational, comfort her and appease her, and be glad when the emotional outburst is over.

Not lose his temper, not call her on her shit, but give her chocolates and let her curl up with her teddy bear or something?

In other words, he’s supposed to act like a modern PC father does when his child is being bratty.

Yeah, that’s equality for you.