I’ve always apologized too much; that is I have reflexively said “I’m sorry” several thousand times when it was inappropriate. My mother said those words frequently and it is only in retrospect that I understand how bitterly and sarcastically she often said them. Thanks to a dear friend, who is similarly afflicted with the ‘sorry-reflex disease’, I’ve become more conscious of my habitual use of the phrase. This has helped me to curb its compulsive appearance in my dialog with the world.
The word ‘dis-ease’, which I used above, reminds me that these unnecessary apologies burst from my lips primarily when I am ill at ease or uneasy. Case in point: recently, while struggling awkwardly to remove a difficult sock, I said ‘I’m sorry’ to my spousal witness. When asked, logically, ‘What for?’ the only response I could muster was… ‘For being alive?’
A quick check of online definitions yields two items: first, a definition: regretful acknowledgment of offense or failure.
My goodness, that sounds an awful lot like shame, doesn’t it? I also learn about National Sorry Day, an annual event held in Australia since 1998, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the continent’s indigenous population. Now that’s an appropriate use of the word.
What brought this up? An article in the newspaper, heralding the upcoming appearance of Barbie in this year’s Sports Illustrated 50th anniversary Swimsuit issue. It is unclear whether she will be on the cover or not, however having Barbie flaunt her body in this iconic [sic] setting is part of Mattel’s “unapologetic” campaign to promote sales. I’m not going to bother responding to the whole Barbie appearance issue; been there, done that, when my daughter was young.
What really struck me was the up-front and proud use of ‘unapologetic’. A Mattel executive is quoted as saying “… unapologetic is a word that we use internally, [but this is the first time we are] engaging in a conversation publicly.” I believe she means that they take pride in thumbing their collective nose at those critics who see the Barbie cult as potentially damaging for the self-image of young girls. And more broadly, I believe the Mattel Corporation is expressing a widely held and unapologetic corporate view that profit is the driver of all decisions.
Another article, ironically placed at the top of the same page (deep in the Business section) carries forward the same theme. It details a shift in the way the sweetener section of the Processed Food Industrial Complex is promoting its products. Headlined: ‘The Sweetener War’, the piece describes how the combatants, team Sugar and team Corn Syrup have changed their game plans. Less money is now going toward paying lobbyists to press their agendas with government policy makers. In a clever (or shady?) shift, these PFIC behemoths have funded non-profit groups, billed as consumer organizations, to carry out research and ‘soft lobbying’ campaigns to influence public opinion. Lobbyists have to be publicly registered, but non-profits are not required to reveal their donors. Is this another Citizens United ploy? Money talks. Hidden money buys tremendous clout. Manipulating or deceiving the consumer is just how the game is played. Unapologetic.
Other recent articles have exposed the shrinking package size, but steady or rising price of packaged foods. Unapologetic deception. A piece about pizza consumption describes the USDA ‘dairy checkoff program’ which ‘levies a small fee on milk’, which is then used ‘to promote products like milk and cheese’. A corporation named Dairy Management Inc., which is funded by these fees, spent ‘$35 million in a partnership with Domino’s to promote pizza sales’. Other funds from the checkoff program helped McDonalds launch new burgers with two slices of cheese. And on and on. This program and similar programs supporting the meat industry have been renewed in the most recent farm bill. That’s the bill that cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)
Unapologetic. ‘Let them eat pizza.’
Here’s the thing… I only read this one newspaper and I know these articles represent only a small percentage of the muck that is out there to be raked up. It makes me very tired, because there is such relentless hoopla about the ‘obesity epidemic’, which unapologetically (perhaps unintentionally) reinforces fat stigma and here ‘we’ are subsidizing the PFIC that is contributing to unhealthy eating habits. Where’s the money, real money, to promote eating fruits and vegetables? Where’s the money to sponsor unbiased research and publication of results that actually serve the consumer, rather than the corporation?
Returning to the personal element… I am tired of feeling apologetic for taking up space, for how I look, for ‘being alive’. I regret all the years of reflexive apologizing. Why do these heavy hitters, these honchos get to flaunt their unapologetic stance? It’s all about the raging range of social inequities that confront and offend me everyday. Well, it’s my turn. If I have earned nothing else in my 60+ years, I’ve earned the right to healthy entitlement. It’s my turn to be unapologetic.