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Photo courtesy of dreamstime.com

The other day I followed a woman out of Costco, each of us pushing our heavily laden carts.  She moved away from the door and paused; I walked past her with my cart.  After I was past she said to me, “Oh, I’m sorry!”  It took me a full beat to figure out what she was talking about; evidently she felt by stopping she had somehow put herself in my way.  She hadn’t.  And she certainly didn’t owe me an apology.

This incident was preceded by no fewer than three other women apologizing for passing nearby in the aisles of the store.  What is it with American women? When did we become so apologetic for taking up a little space? For existing? It’s driving me nuts!  Women, answer this question honestly:  If you’re walking down the street and a person bumps into you, do you immediately say, “I’m sorry?”

I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happen so much in Italy!  Granted, if an Italian of either gender bumps into you, or you into him, there will follow a two-minute scusi-fest.  But space is always shared in Italy, be it on the narrow roads or in the narrow shopping aisles.  Simply being in close proximity to another is not a misdemeanor. I’ve never had the feeling that my Italian women friends feel they must apologize if they’re taking up a patch of ground that someone else might wish to occupy.  Perhaps it’s simply that Americans have a much larger sense of ‘personal space’ than do Italians.  There’s more space in the U.S. for everything, so perhaps we Americans create larger ‘me-mine’ zones than do residents of more crowded countries.

I first noticed this apology trend about 10 years ago.  Three women friends and I took a vacation together in California.  We made a pact at the very start of the holiday that whoever said, “I’m sorry” would put a quarter in the kitty.  It worked pretty well, and I think we all finished the holiday feeling we were a much less ‘sorry’ bunch.  And how rich the kitty was! Maybe that experience overly sensitized me.

It’s just that I hate to hear women apologizing when they have no reason to. And yes, it seems to be only women – certainly not men, and rarely young people.  And it seems to be happening more and more here in America.

Ladies – Stop It!  You have every right to be exactly where you are.    Please, if you catch yourself apologizing for passing close to someone else or when someone else bumps into you,  put a quarter in a kitty and save up for a treat for yourself (I hope a very small treat).

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