Friday, June 25, 2010

Insincerely Sorry

 Insincerely Sorry
By Mimi Hecht

A pile of dirt sits aside a broom, spilled cheerios are glued all over the floor and drying laundry is succumbing to wrinkles on the dining room table when the doorbell rings.

You have just scanned the war-zone that is your home and made the smart decision that you'll take a much-needed rest before you turn into a cleaning cyclone. The morning was hectic and it's as if every one of your tasks exploded in mess. But for now, the disaster will have to wait. Oh, but so will the nap. Remember? The doorbell is ringing. You sigh an end-of-life "you got to be kidding me" kind of sigh - jaw dropped and shoulder slouched. You're not expecting any packages, but you're praying it’s just the UPS guy. He's the only person you wouldn't mind seeing your house like this.

"Who is it?" you ask, immediately regretting you didn't just ignore the door and make a tip-toed beeline to your room.

"It's Dina, open up!"

In the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, your neighbor has come to say hi. In the age of text messaging, you secretly wonder why on earth your beloved friend didn't send notice of her impending visit. But you open the door without revealing a hint of hesitation. And, actually, you show glee.

"Dina, hi! What a nice surprise!" (In your head your thinking "Surprise? Yes. Nice? No!")

She steps inside (the cheerios go crunch) and, in the moment of just-arrived silence, you start to feel embarrassed for subjecting Dina to the catastrophe that is your home. Before you can relax with Dina's presence, you must make the caveat sung across messy homes worldwide. You must clear the air (metaphorically, of course) before Dina makes conclusions about your ability to run a household, control your kids and your prowess as a do-everything-and-do-it-well certified woman. Before her eyes can properly assess the disaster-stuck region that is your humble - yes, extremely humble - abode, you have something to say. Unpreventable, out it comes.

"Sorry for the mess."

It is with these four words that women all over the world accept friends, foes and, yes, sometimes even the UPS guy, into their homes. It’s an explanation that must premise anyone's arrival into our world of clutter, grime, piles and spills. Like a red carpet of sorts, the apology is our respectful welcome. It seems that the most cleanly woman, and even the house worked on by maids all week, will have a mess to apologize for.
No matter the home, lifestyle, or personality; if you're a woman, chances are you've extended your “sorry”s for exposing an innocent arrival to what you believe to be an inexcusable mess.But deep down, are we really sorry? Does any woman, with all her roles and chores, genuinely get down on herself for not maintaining a consistently sparkling home? Whether we work in our out of the house, we are all working women. Our home is our office, our studio, our not-always-so-safe haven of family, food and frenzy. While it may be reasonable to expect of ourselves to clean at the end of the day, it’s preposterous to assume that our living quarters will always be presentable (especially for a surprise guest). When it comes to ourselves, we take the mess lightly, knowing that we can have everything back in order in no time. It's only when someone else is privy to the whirlwind that we suddenly act embarrassed. Another person's presence somehow makes us insecure. We feel judged, as if perhaps we're the only woman in the universe that has a home that looks like this.

Every woman, then, is a little two-faced. You see, we've all been on the receiving end of the apologizing host. We’ve all showed up to someone else's house only to hear the same insincere and obligatory “sorry” for the mess. One hundred percent of the time, how do we respond? “Oh, please! Stop apologizing.” We do this because, for one, the house doesn’t actually look that bad. Secondly, we immediately identify and can’t tolerate someone else feeling sorry – or feeling that they need to act like they’re sorry – for something that is completely normal. Full lives leave a mark. My house gets messy. Your house gets messy. Why even mention it? You might as well say, "I'm sorry for my life."

When will we stop faking apologies for the messes in our hectic homes? Probably never. It's sort of like the way we dismiss people when they tell us we look good (even when we might secretly agree). It's like we feel the burden of this silent expectation that has become etiquette. But at the very least, we should recognize the nonsense in apologizing for the disarray. The women who genuinely thinks she must excuse a mess when someone arrives at the door - if she thinks they actually deserve an apology - she is pardoning her life and should be embarrassed only for that. Always remember before you apologize: you are a superwoman regardless of the chaotic presentation of our home. And actually, you and I both know...our messy homes are only further proof of all our prowess. Come nightfall, things usually return to their original state. If someone happens to see things in the middle of the day's drama that is your beautifully busy life - yes, you'll probably say you're sorry. And when you do, just make sure to honor yourself and women everywhere by making sure your apology is completely, utterly and one hundred percent insincere.

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