As many times as you’ve heard and read and learned that “I’m sorry” is always okay and always welcome, it feels somehow inadequate. Well, here’s the thing, nothing you can say is truly adequate. That is why it can be so difficult to say anything at all. But we try, oh do we try. And often, we screw up.
Thankfully, some people hit it right. They say, “I’m sorry.” Some go a step further and ask, “Are you all right?” It’s a sweet and non-intrusive signal that they’re happy to offer an ear and a shoulder. They know their friend will confide when and if they feel like it. That’s it. But that’s perfect.
Perfection, alas, is always a rarity. Shit not to say, however, comes in myriad and tortured forms. In the year-plus since Mr. Duo and I split up (I’m fine, thanks; appreciate the concern), I have become an expert on SNTS. In the name of human betterment, I offer you a handy little primer, conveniently annotated. If you detect a hint of wrath, please know that none is directed at you, dear readers. Interpret it as the clinical data that it is: cause (insipidity) and effect (rage).
Buck Up, It’s Not So Bad:
“I’m sure you’ll be much better off.”
Really? Are you? Alone and loveless?
“I always thought you could do better.”
So my judgement sucks? And I’ve wasted years of my life?
“You must be relieved.”
Ever so much more comfortable for you! So much simpler, when there’s no pain! You know I married him, right? Maybe you thought I didn’t actually want him?
“Do you want to trash him?”
No, I don’t. When and if I ever do want to trash him, you’ll know. I liked him, remember? Could be that I still do.
The Deliverers of Bad News:
“I just saw him, and he looks really good!”
“We heard from him, and he sounds happy.”
Great, just what I want to hear. He’s fine with losing me. And while we’re on the subject, when did you turn so passive-aggressive? You figure I’m in a weakened state so it’s a good time to get in some licks?
Bad News, subhead:
“I am dating a cardiac surgeon who drives a BMW SUV.”
Really, I’m glad for you. Comparatively speaking, my little pang of jealousy is nothing. If ecstatic you and high-status he decide to throw a party, I shall be there with bells on. But since you and I are not confidants who count on one another, maybe stick to small doses on the happy happy? Just for awhile?
The Baldly Curious:
“Oh! What happened?”
“We have to talk!”
“I’ve lost your number; email me and I’ll call you.”
So exciting, isn’t it? Well, you’re excited, anyway. If I wanted to offer details, I would. If you’ve lost my number and we haven’t spoken in a couple of years, read that as an indication that we are not close. Why on earth would I tell you intimate details of my life now, after many months of not talking to you at all?
The Insistently Curious:
Me: “I’m sorry, but it’s really the last thing I want to talk about.”
Them: “But how are you REALLY?”
Me: “I’m okay, thanks. For the third time.”
Them: “It helps to talk.”
Caught you in the act. You’re handing out mental health advice because you’re dying to know the gritty details. Go away, now. If you know me at all, you know I am a talker. Just not to you.
The Gratuitous and Presumptuous:
“There’s a reason for everything.”
No, there is not. I bite my tongue because I do not wish to offend your well-meaning self. However, you are advising me to take comfort in the supernatural, in which I do not and never have believed. That offends me. In the absence of certain knowledge that your friend or neighbor or whomever believes as you do, keep the God stuff to yourself.
And, because nonverbal communication counts
The Long, Deep, Meaningful Hug.
Hugs are great, but the LDM hug from an acquaintance presumes a level of intimacy that does not exist. Unhand me! Now!
Go forth, confident in the knowledge that you are equipped to say the perfect thing:
“I am sorry” and maybe, if you want to,
“Are you all right?”
But not to me. I’ve had enough.
Image: Wikimedia Commons