Most women over 50 remember the heart-tugging movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. One of the best-known lines from the film claimed, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Back in 1970 when Love Story came out we might have bought that line. But from the vantage point of a few years under our belts, we know that particular phrase represented a whopper of mythic proportions! In truth we generally owe the most of our apologies to those we hold near and dear.
But setting close relationships aside for the moment, I do believe that age renders apologies less obligatory. Being on the feisty side of fifty definitely has its privileges, however the “no apology rule” I’m planning to adopt has more to do with HERstory. Let me explain…
We gals grew up with a set of certain ideals regarding proper female behavior—one of the biggest meant being “nice.” Acting with kindness, tending to the needs of others, and apologizing for even the slightest of our indiscretions were all part and parcel of the popularity package… and who among us didn’t want that?
But a few years after Love Story graced the silver screen, the women’s movement was off and running. We learned to speak up for ourselves, make demands for equality, and present our opinions with force. No more mealy-mouthed maidens we—we wanted to assert ourselves! Yet, despite all of the assertiveness classes we attended, the niceness factor remained. We still valued kindness—in fact, for most of us, it was ingrained in our psyches. Unfortunately, the nice factor may have meant far less to future generations.
We all know younger women who reaped the benefits of our struggles for an equal voice. Many went into business, some acquired MBAs. They were given opportunities and competed on a far more equal footing than we could have ever imagined. Moreover a number of these gals had little need for assertiveness training—they are downright aggressive. I’m not sure how they viewed the women’s movement or which lessons they took from our battles for an equal chance at the brass ring, but it seems that displaying kindness must have equated to showing weakness and apologizing was out of the question.
Now, as you know, I’m a huge proponent of the women’s movement and am grateful for all of the strides we’ve made—and I’m not bashing the generation of women who came after us. However I’ve felt personally offended (and I don’t get offended easily) by some of the high-handed ways of our younger sisters. One such incident happened just recently which fired up my reasons for this post. To my mind, this woman did owe me an apology—but not a hint of regret crossed her lips.
So I’ve decided I’m too old and way to feisty to take this stuff from anyone any more. I’m keeping the kindness factor but am losing the apology. I’m hereby vowing to take a cue from these female titans of industry and stop saying “I’m sorry” as liberally as I have in the past. But there is one thing I’d like to teach them: “nice” may be a four-letter word but it’s one they sorely need to adopt and add to their vocabulary. Aggression might work in the boardroom but it surely won’t lead to inner peace, long-term happiness… or popularity!