The biggest weakness in my writing is my constant need to apologize for the things I say. There are many things to blame for this: my midwestern upbringing, my sorry-slinging genetics, my constantly crashing into things and people, my somewhat awkward personality. The fact that I’m a little weird, a little quirky, a little unstable, and a lot nontraditional. Having a disability means society, as a collective mass, takes me less seriously. Plus, I don’t have a husband, babies, or a career tragectery, the things which traditionally are expected of a woman who is almost 30. That, apparently, makes it harder to take me seriously. I like to be alone, and extroverted society thinks I should be with people. I like to be quiet, and because I’m not talking, society thinks I have nothing to say. And for that I so often apologize.
When I first started this blog, I was very conscious of my readership. I desperately didn’t want to offend anyone with what I had to say, particularly the people I love the best and who may have done some of the well-meaning but demeaning things I held up as examples of disability faux pas. I got tired of writing disclaimers, but I felt there was no way around them. Reading back over old blog entries (from the blog I started three years ago which lives in a different Internet location), I find some of the writing simpering and weak. The thing is, I am slowly beginning to recognize the strength in what I WANT to say, and more quickly beginning to detest the weakness disguised as apology in my words.
Apologies are crutches I use when I feel I’m being judged. When I apologize to a stranger who has asked me an awkward question that I won’t answer, like, “How much can you see?”, what I’m really sorry about is that I have to have this conversation AGAIN; that yet another person thinks they’re entitled to personal information about me when they don’t even know my name, information that could be used to their advantage if they were so inclined. I’m apologizing because I’m sorry for that person, that they seem oblivious, that I am in this situation, that I’m not cocooned in my apartment under a fuzzy blanket reading something intriguing. I’m not at all sorry for not answering the question. I’m most sorry that I’m being asked.
(This apologizing runs so deep that upon reading over that last paragraph, I just had an overwhelming urge to clarify it, to smooth the top and shape it just so, so that no one would think I was personally attacking them. To clarify what types of questions I actually don’t mind answering. To “educate” you on the difference between an appropriate stranger enquiry and an inappropriate one. But I don’t want to always educate, and I am tired of apologizing, and so I’m not going to tell you anything. And, I’ve got faith in you. You can figure it out.)
If I can’t stop my traitorous, “I’m sorry” mouth in my every day life, I’d like to stop it in my writing. As a reader, going back and slogging through the sorrys is tedious and makes my writing feel less. It might be “less” by literary standards, but it is mine and I want to say what I need to say without shame, compulsion for clarification, or concern for upholding some veneer of politeness. I’m who I am, and I’m not sorry.