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Ladies, you are not a b*tch if you are unapologetic

46 years as an occupant of Earth has taught me that hindsight can be diabolical.

It’s beautiful when it allows you to look back and internally give a high-five to yourself.

It’s truly a kicker when you have a regret of not saying something when you should have for fear of offending a person.

As always, every little encounter in life, every meeting has value. I am fortunate enough to be propelled both voluntarily and involuntarily into a variety of scenarios, both good and bad.

When we were growing up, we were taught to apologise – for things done intentionally or unintentionally; we are firmly instructed by older folk to “say sorry” when we did something wrong or even when you knew you were not at fault but had to apologise anyway, because it showed strong character.

Yes apologise for all of the above, be the “better person”; show maturity and good manners.

Yet I believe there is also a point when one becomes unnecessarily apologetic for everything almost to a point where you don’t know why you are even saying you are sorry when you did absolutely nothing.

Recently a friend said “Sorry for taking so long, I am a slow-eater”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” I responded

So what if she is a slow-eater, why was she apologising for it. We women, tend to be unnecessarily apologetic about things.

“Sorry but that’s just how I feel….”

Why do we apologise for how we feel … irrespective who the audience is?

Why do we apologise just before we give our opinions; or before we do something which makes us happy; or before expressing our displeasure?

Is it because we as females have been conditioned to be as cordial, undemanding as possible? Women apologise even when we are being sidelined, we make excuses for everyone else’s’ behavior as well. Women have been trained to be comfortable in discomfort. To put everyone else before us, because that’s what women do. The day we decide to step out of discomfort, we feel this is somehow “wrong”, and we quickly apologise.

When is it time for us to be unapologetic in our existence?

I cannot just look at my slow-eating friend, I as well realized I do the same but in a different setting. I get annoyed when someone is about to say something either racist, derogatory or discriminating. “Sorry to say, but you Indian people ….” or “sorry but all women are like …..”

Every time I’ve hear that word “sorry” come out of a person’s mouth, it makes me cringe in shame and embarrassment.

But never have I told them, “You can’t say that and then follow up with a racist or discriminant comment.” I remained silent in certain instances because I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable. I felt like it was better to act like nothing happened and feel insulted in private rather than voice my displeasure in public. Although “slow-eating” apology sparked this article, I had been thinking about my own “apologetic-ness”.

I am guilty of exactly the same thing. I finally plucked up the courage to say something when someone used a derogatory slur.

“I’m sorry if this is awkward, but I think your comment is a religious slur …”

It dawned on me that I was my friend in that moment; at that precise time …. I was apologising before making a stance – she used a slur, casually, she knew it was not a proper thing to have said, she noticed the uncomfy side of me emerge.

Yet when I aired my opinion – I began with “I’m Sorry!!!” – I had nothing to be sorry about. “I’m sorry” “For what?” “….nothing.”

There’s a time and a place to say sorry.

If you bump over the cake at your best friend’s wedding – plead for forgiveness because that will be remembered forever!!!

If you are straightening your sister’s hair and you give her third degree burns say sorry every day for the rest of your life

If you are ill and leave last night’s supper in your friends car – definitely an apology and a valet for sure.

However “I’m sorry, but could you stop with the crude sexist jokes” is like being firm yet passive. You should never apologise for something you are not responsible for.

I realized that I had something else to work on in life. Stop with unnecessary apologies; I keep saying that I am unapologetically me however I sometimes do not live up to it 100%. I think every woman has the right to exist unapologetically, to take up her space in the room, simply because she deserves to be in that room. I also think its fine to tell someone; they are wrong without attaching an apology to it.

I think women hate being labelled a “b@#$h” when they project their strong personality, so we alter the way we come across. We curb the way we speak, we use subtle words, we apologise before we speak our mind.

I think it would be lying to myself to dress up my honesty in a cloak of apologies.

Ultimately, I think that this is one of the most intrinsic things every woman should strive for, simply being unapologetically you.

About Saffiya Ismail

Born in Pietermaritzburg, she now resides in Johannesburg and says her most important role in life is being a mother. Saffiya is a freelance writer. A contributing author in “Riding the Samoosa Express” (Anthology launched 21st March 2015). With a second chapter submitted for the next book, Saffiya says her passion is writing.

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