When I was working in the THEE-AH-TAH, I once moved to a new city and was flailing around trying to find my feet, trying to find friends, not knowing what the funk I was doing. I knew nobody, but was pretty good about “putting myself out there” (to use the favored parlance of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise) and getting social. I was a very outgoing person at this time of my life, and I found friends everywhere I went. One of the friends I found was a guy named Jason, who worked at the restaurant/bar across the street from the theater where I worked and where a lot of theater types went to hang out. Jason looked like 20-year-old Billy Crudup, had a ponytail, was in a band, and was really, truly, honest to Ingalls sweet, sweet, sweet. Jason and I hung out sporadically for a while. He would get me free drinks where he worked. I hadn’t gotten a phone (back in ye olden times when I needed a landline) for my apartment yet, and he brought one from his house for me to borrow/have. He showed me where the nearest grocery store was to my new place. He gave me rides places (I didn’t have a car then). He once took me to his mother’s house where she fed us the first decent meal I had had in weeks. You guys, he was soooooo nice to me. He liked me, and he like-liked me, both, quite a lot. And you know what I did? I just stopped calling him back. Like straight up dropped his ass. It doesn’t matter why. He did not deserve it in the slightest. Not even a little bit. Let me say this another way: I stopped calling him back by not using the phone that he gave me so I would even have a phone to not call him back on. And I kept the phone! WHAT A HEIFER. To this day, I feel AWFUL about this. I never fancied myself a person who would treat someone that way. It was not how I usually behaved. It was not my thing. Except this time, it was my thing. Ugh.
About a year later, I saw him at a show. I called him the day after to tell him I was sorry. He was nice but obviously pretty mad at me still, and I didn’t blame him. I have gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not reaching out like that was selfish or if it actually maybe did something for him, and I like to think it actually was helpful (ish?). He got a chance to tell me how what I did hurt, and he did tell me, and I took it in. He got to tell me that he kind of didn’t want to ever hear from me again, and I took that too. Fair enough, for sure. He sounded like it was good for him to get to say those things to me, but I guess I will never know. Maybe he would have preferred that I stayed gone and kept my sorry to myself. Could be.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about being angry about something. She was telling me about some article she read about anger being like a raw potato in one’s stomach, and that one way to get rid of it is to express it (barf it up!) but another way to get rid of it is do internal work in order to soften the potato so it will pass. We both loved this metaphor because (1) we get to refer to our anger issues as our BELLY POTATO, which, awesome and hilarious, and (2) it is a metaphor that refers to anger as a bodily function which needs to be expelled via metaphorical hurling or metaphorical Number Two-ing, which, also awesome and hilarious.
These two things– my memory of Jason and the raw potato conversation– both came to my mind when I was reading the chapter in Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler where she talks how a good apology goes. One of the things that she says is that the best apologies, the ones that are most likely to land, are ones where you take responsibility for what you’re sorry for, and you don’t add in a bunch of “but I did it because…” stuff to justify that although you’re sorry, really underneath that you still want to hold onto being right about the circumstances that made you do the thing that you’re now supposedly sorry for. I feel like this concept is a thing we all know about sorry-ing, but it’s a thing that is harder to do than to know. This made me think about Jason because I have said sorry for many things, but that one stands out as the clearest, cleanest sorry I ever can remember giving. I didn’t tell him that I dropped him because my life was chaotic at that point, or because I was going through relationship drama and couldn’t handle more boy stuff, or because I just got super busy, or because because. Somehow, in that situation, I knew that the “because” didn’t matter. I did a hurtful thing, and I was sorry about it. That’s all, the end.
I won’t get into what the whole belly potato issue is for me right now, but suffice it to say that thinking about apologies in this way has softened my potato a bit (come on, you know you want to join me in saying things like “softened my potato” DO NOT DENY IT). It’s made me think about apologies I have received and given, and how I can be better next time I have to dole one out, and how I can better process one that is given to me, shitty or not.
Remember: less “because” stuff and more “I’m sorry” stuff, or else you may be planting a raw potato in someone’s gut.