The Full Story
October 11, 2016
A little over a year ago, I met my relatives in the hotel restaurant for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I said hello to my aunt and uncle, and walked off to peruse the perfectly cubed potatoes, the gorgeously golden brown french toast wedges, the cascades of strawberries and blueberries over mountains of melons and pineapple, and appetizing, but not spectacular, scrambled eggs being gently warmed by a bunsen burner...when I noticed, across the dining room, a woman in a black shirt and smart vest expertly executing made-to-order omelettes, cracking not one, not two, but three eggs that filled the small iron cast pan perfectly, over the individually assigned ingredients. Cheese shavings of all varieties, peppers, green and red, shards of onions, like glass, simmered alongside mushrooms and spinach leaves, with occasional crumbles of feta cheese.
I walked toward her slowly, pausing. I too wanted a made-to-order omelette, but with only one egg, not three. Yet, I felt this was an absurd request; sure you could ask for more, but who was I to ask for less? I imagined approaching her, as gently as possible, “Excuse me, sorry but, could I have…” and throwing her whole carefully choreographed system into disarray and chaos.
I turned and walked back to the standard issue scrambled eggs before turning around and heading back toward the omelette station. I did this at least 3 times, weighing the possibilities, debating back and forth, battling between what I wanted and what I deserved, which I, myself, ultimately decided, was less than even the less I wanted. The determining factor was that I didn’t want the scrambled eggs, which were clearly neglected in light of this amazing omelette station, to get thrown away. I alone was responsible for the hotel's decision to carelessly make so many scrambled eggs that would be thrown away. I must fix it.
I returned to the table and my aunt asked me what I was doing; she had witnessed me walking back and forth. I explained it to her, making a joke about “The Sorrowful Irish Woman” complex. Not sorrowful as in full of sorrow, but full of sorry. “It’s the Irish Trinity,” I explained, “Excuse me! Thank you! Sorry!” Always accompanied by nervous giggling. And oh, how we laughed and laughed, poking fun of ourselves, descendants of struggling Irish immigrants, victims of some of the most brutal and heartless colonization in the history of the world. Hilarious how this double consciousness became a character trait, born in fear and subjugation, passed down through the generations. Culturally conditioned to take care of everyone else before ourselves and to apologize for asking for basic necessities. Ha ha ha!
The Irish, like much of our homeland, cannot claim “Sorry” as our own. “Sorry” plagues all women. It is our collective unconscious agreement that we are second class citizens, that we don’t have the right to occupy the space it takes for us to walk down the street or stand up straight. That if we’re wrong or not immediately right, we need to explain and beg for another chance. It’s polite to say “Excuse me” when pushing past someone, but we apologize, always, every moment, just for taking up space.
In college I met amazing people who opened my eyes to a whole world of ideas and theories and history regarding race, class, and gender. I felt empowered and vindicated when my best friend played “Feels Blind” by Bikini Kill for me for the first time. Unable to cope with or contemplate my own liberation, I adopted the attitude that my particular oppression wasn’t that big of a deal anyway and shouldn’t my time, energy and resources be focused on people who are even more oppressed?
In July of 2016, I celebrated my 43rd birthday with all my shit and baggage and emotional issues from my 20’s intact. I guess you could say I have vintage trauma, my intimacy issues are from the 70’s even. If I hold on to them for a few more years, maybe they will double in value. At 43, I’m still seeing the delicious omelet of life one one side of the room, grown up life choices that would bring me so much happiness and I’m walking away, toward the dried out, room temperature scrambled eggs I've been shamed into gratitude for.
I was inspired, not so much by last summer’s breakfast buffet, but by the harrowing news that greets me each morning that women of all ages and backgrounds are still victims of rape and abuse at an alarming, incomprehensible, inexcusable rate. Compounding this very real and terrifying fact, that we are in danger all the time, all over the world, is that even movements for racial quality, which whom all women should be fighting alongside with full force, sees the cause of women’s equality as a footnote, not necessary for the liberation of all people. For example, Aaron Persky's dismissal of Brock Turner brutal rape did not register a discussion of strategy to eliminate rape and rape culture where there is plenty of room for men to speak out about this to other men, but a plethora of articles lamenting the unfair sentences for rapists along lines of class and race. Are you fucking kidding me? The narrative pushed by men in other liberation circles shouldn’t have been primarily and limited to “he only got this much time for raping that woman when this guy got like 10 years,” it should have been, “Oh my god, look at all these women getting raped all the time!”
And then Donald Trump. Running for president. Today is October 11th, 2016. I am sure by November 8th, we will hear even more deplorable and misogynist “locker room banter”. Again, while I almost expect this backwards thinking by his supporters who can only understand their own liberation through the oppression of everyone else, it’s the “progressive” circles that worry me. Those who insist that a Trump presidency is the same as a Clinton presidency really perceive gender inequality as, I suppose, not that big of a deal. That our rights to our bodies will be much better off under Clinton than a Trump presidency isn’t a major, if not determining, factor for them in this upcoming election.
These things are related. Our constant apologizing for nothing, the colonization of our bodies, the direct and incessant messages bombarding us to be smaller, to take up less space in our own skin, our worth in the market place still at $0.65 to a dollar, we are 13/20 of a man. We are still the rib.
I am tired of apologizing, I’m done with being sorry. Let’s not be sorry anymore together.
This is an invitation to be UnApologetic, to eliminate “sorry” from your venacular.
Share your story of what you refuse to apologize for any more, of what you unapologize for, and help put “sorry” where it belongs: in deliberate conversation where you are seriously trying to make amends for hurting someone else. When you liberate yourself, you open the door for others, you can be the voice that empowers another woman or girl or lady to stop apologizing and together we can start a movement.
What is UnApologetic?
UnApologetic is an open and public photography project accompanying testimony for women’s liberation. Women write their own testimony to be shared publicly, online and elsewhere, explaining what they are no longer sorry for, and collaborate with the photographer, Tracey Noelle Luz, to create a portrait that reflects who they are as a woman who refuses to apologize for who they are or what they have been through. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org