They say women intrinsically say “sorry” a lot.
Sorry, my clothes are too revealing; it seduces you. Sorry that I have opinions; it intimidates you. Sorry, my emotions are too intense; it overwhelms you. Sorry, I should've known better when you lied to me. Sorry, my reactions came as overreaction. Sorry, I spoke up my feelings so clearly. Sorry, I make an autonomous decision. Sorry about this, sorry about that. We didn't realize it, but too many sorrys are uttered daily.
I can never relate to that famous internet statement that "women are always right." I don’t find it true in my life–and in many other women's lives. On the contrary, we’ve been told from very little to bow down, say 'yes', be nice and not hurt others, not scare men away, not be too intense, and to know our place. We’ve also been inflicted with a victim-blaming mindset since the ancient time.
This takes me back to one of my experiences, when I felt apologetic so intensely, I almost didn't forgive myself. I hope in one way or another, this may inspire or connect to your experience:
Last year, I dated someone. It's a casual-fun thing, in which both of us didn't expect any commitment or a serious relationship, even if, frankly, I am a hopeless romantic myself. It didn't last because of one thing or another and I moved out of the city. We never texted each other anymore, but I have always been fond of the friendship and the memories.
And then one day, after some time have passed, the truth revealed itself. I find two facts: Firstly, he was never single as he claimed to be. And, secondly, he was in a long-term relationship with someone else, even during our 'casual-fun' dating period. These two facts broke me into pieces, and I cried. I cried in disbelief that this world worked in such a way, that man could do things so fucked up and felt nothing of it.
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This fact stuck in my mind for a few days, before I slept I thought about it. After I woke up, I instantly thought about it. I felt like throwing up or sometimes I wished the world would just suck me whole. I felt sorry.
It took me days to re-arrange my mind and go against my narratives. Between "it's not your fault, you didn't know, he lied to you," and "it's all your fault; you should've known better; you ruined a relationship; you should've noticed the pattern, you will never have a good moment, let alone a good relationship; your happiness is a fraud; there's nothing real about your life; you're a fucking sl*t”, the latter sentiments win all the time.
I managed another few days to make up my mind on whether I should tell his long-time girlfriend. I was afraid that I would ruin her relationship. I was also afraid that she would not believe me and, instead, directed her rage at me. But I made up my mind, she deserved to know and whatever she decided next, it would be her decision.
To this day I never know how she felt. She showed signs of disbelief and it made me feel awful at the time. I recalled my repeated apologies to her. He also never replied to my text, let alone apologized to me. He just went about as if nothing happened, as if it didn't change my world. It felt like my feelings were not valid and I had not been lied and cheated on as well.
It was a struggle to tell myself that it was not completely my fault, even harder to forgive myself for the mistake I didn't even know I made. Only after I read Etaf Rum’s book A Woman Is No Man did I gradually regain my strength and my sense of self.
We say sorry a lot for things that never are our fault, while we never hear sincere apologies from anyone who hurt and rip us to pieces.
I wrote this piece for those brave and amazing women who have been cheated on, lied to, assaulted, violated, marginalized, scrutinized by design or unintentionally. For anyone who struggles to find her sense of self-worth that was taken away. For anyone who feels like her feelings are not valid since no one ever acknowledges it. In case no one ever told you this: I am sorry; I am sincerely sorry. I am deeply sorry. Your feelings are valid. Your fears are valid. It was not your fault. You deserve the good things in life. You deserve so much more from the people you bravely share your heart with.
This world and some people will always make you feel otherwise. They will invalidate your feelings and struggles, will scream you're not worth it out loud, will ask you to say sorry for nothing, will blame it all as your fault, and will make you feel like it is your fault to be a woman. But it is not. It never was and never will.
Where I come from, we've learned to conceal our condition. We've been taught to silence ourselves, that our silence will save us. It is only now, many years later. That I know this to be false. Only now, as I write this story, do I feel my voice coming.
~ A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum.