A few days ago, a friend of mine told me that she is trying to stop using the word ‘sorry’ in her life. Her explanation was that since the word had its genesis in ‘sorrow’ she wanted to cut that out of her life as much as possible. To be very honest, I was quite dumbstruck by that theory. There I was with message after message on my phone beginning or ending with the word – “I’m sorry….”
Before you begin to suspect that I am one sorry old dame of misfortune, let me elaborate. As most mothers would vouch, these days most of motherhood is played out on Whatsapp! Much needed and much reviled as it may be. There is honestly nothing more that I hate than being added (unasked) to yet another whatsapp group. Anyway, the point being, most of these groups seemingly have a ‘purpose’ : school class chat 1, school class chat 2, school class chat 3 from previous school that you don’t have the heart to give up on, school chat defunct but with random messages popping up once in a month, important crisis class chat that you cannot delete, birthday party 1, birthday party 2, birthday party 3,4,5 that you forgot to delete and now are an admin of, chats with friends from various life stages that again burn off and on..and then the latest addition thanks to expat life : playdates and coffee morning chats!
It is mostly on this last category of chats that I find myself being profusely sorry. Not just for being fool enough in the first place to have imagined myself being the owner of ample time to go for the aforementioned playdates and coffee mornings. As any other expat will tell you, these two are the lifeline of new mothers trying to create a life beyond the stinking cute nursery walls in an alien country. Because even if I were to find the time, there are other wonderful variables that strike at murphy-o-clock :
- The most common one being : child A, B or C is unwell. If you have ever had a child under the age of 5 (and I happen to have 2 in that age range) you know that the department of viral sciences can find samples of all the possible strains in your home. Not because you are the antithesis of hygiene, but simply because kids = unwashed hands, boogers, godknowswhatnotundernailsandtoys etc. etc. Ergo, Sickness and an overflowing shelf of medications of all compositions and brands. In fact these days I can educate a pharmacist or two about which exact xx-epinephrine to administer for which cough strain. Hah? Glad that they don’t take my word for it. Still..
- Maid/Helper/Nanny has taken a maybe well deserved but completely unannounced day off : Just when I think to myself that “Hallelujiah” the viral clouds have parted and I actually have a clean pair of jeans and matching underwear (Ok, I exaggerate!) – the helper doesn’t turn up. Who’s going to get child A from the bus then? Not to mention that child B needs to have his lunch at some point of time, and damn now child C will not know the meaning of a cutely-gurgling-in-pram while Mama-gurgles-cappuccino-at-Starbucks playdate till he is in college. Ugh!
- The unexpected visitor : “Hey! You live in Dubai – guess what I was just passing by!” Now, this is the spanner in plans that you can safely blame on Emirates airlines. Yeah, we decided to live in one of the busiest transit airport cities, how dare you make plans for a weekend night with your two newly minted girlfriends?
And therefore begin the whatsapp messages, “Sorry but I cannot make it today”, “Sorry but I have an emergency hence I will have to skip”, “I would have loved to attend but unfortunately…sorry”… and so on. in many cases I hem and haw before typing out ‘unfortunately’ too. Because honestly, is every other thing that comes in the way misfortune?
For example, ‘Sorry I cannot attend because unfortunately on that day my in-laws are arriving”
Sometimes of course one genuinely feels sorry. Of late, and this is honestly no joke, one has many acquaintances’ elder family members passing away. In this case, a sorry does not suffice. Ironically though, this is the sorry that does invoke sorrow. And therefore, it just seems to be a sorry excuse to type out condolences. One must feel sorry enough to pick up the phone and call the bereaved. However, lessons in good manners apart – the truth is that Sorry is truly becoming an overused word. At least in my dictionary. And these are some of the alternative replies that I have come up with :
- Hi – the circumstances have changed since the time I committed..
- I have another crucial engagement that has come up without warning so..(hence/therefore even thus if you are feeling extra victorian – anything but sorry!)…
- This is beyond my control..
All of these may seem very roundabout ways about the same thing, but they avoid the use of that darned word. This may seem like a trivial thing to work up such a sweat about. However, the way that I look at it, some words lose their meaning when you use them too much. Overuse kills their very meaning. Save your sorries for the times you really mean them. Save them for the times when there is actual hurt, inconvenience and disruption caused at the other end. I am sure that receivers of messages are smart enough to appreciate when a sorry is genuinely meant and when it is just a excuse.
Food for thought? Or not. Sorry, not sorry 😉