Sitting somewhat awkwardly in the makeup chair as the millennial makeup artist assessed my skin, I sensed hesitation. So I broke the ice.
“Sorry, dude,” I joked. “You’ve got your work cut out for ya.”
Translation, or implication: My skin is what it is, and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.
He took a step back, furrowed his brow and cocked his head, then brushed away my comment with a shake of his foundation sponge.
“What are you talking about?” he pshawed with can-do gumption. “You look great.”
“Yeah, well, I know I’m not exactly Karlie Kloss…” I added, channeling something between Rhoda Morgenstern and Rodney Dangerfield as I patted him on the arm. “So, good luck to ya, kid.”
This moment happened two months ago, and I still think about it a lot. Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw here, but when did I reach the point in my life where I feel the need to apologize for what comes with age? I’m not even that old! (I know that’s not the point, but I’m not!) Why do I do this?
I apologize a lot for being me, or what comes with being me—and it goes way beyond my skin. I’ll do it at the beginning of a beginner Pilates session, and I’ll do it at the start of a hike with my daughter and her friends, forewarnings of the dead weight or inflexibility or general slow-pokiness that is sure to ensue. I specialize in apologizing when I’m working on some digital project where I’m not familiar with the nomenclature my millennial co-workers throw around.
“Hi Britney!” I’ll type in an email. “Pls don’t kill me, but can you remind me what an in-box preview is again? Love, Grandma.”
Ha ha ha. “Grandma.” That’ll make them laugh and be kinder to me, or, more to the point, forgive me my technological shortcomings. I lay my ineptitude out on the table with a friendly self-deprecating joke, but why must I feel the need to deprecate when no one had complained about it in the first place?? With this little move, I have tidily cut myself down a few notches in others’ eyes. Here, let me lower your opinion of me since I’m already down here wallowing in it…
We Apologists are a big club, and, seemingly, largely female. Amy Schumer did a great sketch about it on Inside Amy Schumer, and who didn’t squirm but feel oddly familiar with Kristin Wiig’s rapid-fire “Sorry” segments on SNL’s Weekend Update?
Here’s another one: Anyone else apologize when someone bumps into you in passing? I have, more than I should admit, and every time, I subsequently shake my head and quietly mutter, “Why did I apologize for something that person did?”
I’d like to say that my knee-jerk “Sorry!” is just me displaying manners, but, in truth, it’s based in fear. Apologizing lowers the risk of confrontation—even if it’s the other person’s fault. Make that, especially if it’s the other person’s fault, but if they’re not bigger than me or tougher than me, they could be just plain New York crazy. (I told you I think about this a lot).
By this point, you could very well be starting to call me pathetic. If so, stop reading before you get even more annoyed (Rest assured, I will apologize!). But if you can relate, let’s bypass the fact that apologizing (often? usually?) signifies a general feeling of inadequacy and insecurity. But, more importantly, let’s address the damage that years of it can accrue. Being apologetic is relinquishing power. It’s not showing you have manners as much as it displaying that you lack a spine.
Having taken notice that I apologize way too much, I’ve been working on lowering my numbers. When I hear other women say it, even after my bag has accidentally hit them, I roll my eyes, grateful that I have seen the light. But I also want to turn on my heel, run back to them, grasp them firmly by their shoulders and say, “You feel shittier about yourself right now, don’t you? Here’s my card. Our Sorry Not Sorry group meets every Tuesday night. You can stop.”
But back to my sorry-ass complexion. Upon further reflection, there has never been an era where I have not apologized for my skin, so I’ve had a lot of practice. The first half of my adult life, it was for the gushes of oil that spilled from my pores and blanketed my acneic topography. And now, it’s for the crow’s feet, crevasses and general angry-looking jowliness. As if everyone else’s skin doesn’t have the same characteristics!! Do I really think that makeup artists only work on people with Kloss-like complexions?
I wonder what people with perfect skin do say when they’re getting their makeup done. Has Karlie ever smiled gently at her makeup artist and simply purred, “You’re welcome”? Of course not.
That said, I think I will next time. If nothing else, it will break the ice, but probably send a rush of confidence within me that I’ve made my millennial makeup artist (hopefully) laugh. Maybe by my saying “You’re welcome,” his knee-jerk reaction will be to reply with, “Thanks.”
And then we’ll move on to my split ends…