Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Get Rid of the Guilt and Get on With Your Life

Guilt is inefficient. Apologize if you're sorry, mean it, and don't do it again.

I got a call from a women's magazine the other day. They wanted to know how women could be more efficient.

"How do you save time?" they asked me. I've been interviewed by lots of magazines and I have learned to pose this gentle question before offering my own opinions: "What are your other sources saying?" The interviewer replied "Well, there was a physicist who thought it was a good idea to make lunches in advance for her children to take to school."

I imagined a subatomic refrigerator filled with seven years' worth of Fluffernutter sandwiches.

"Fascinating. What else did they say?" I purred.

"The CFO of a large company suggested that no one should allow a piece of paper to pass over her desk twice."

This sounded like some kind of weird ritual, one my Sicilian grandmother might have used to ward off evil spirits. "No, no. Get that piece of paper away. It was already over the desk. Look what you did! Now you'll bring bad luck on this house." The CFO probably meant that it's better to deal with issues as soon as they arise. But that once-over-the- desk policy is just as likely to happen in my house as the Frozen Fluffernutter Regime.

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But then I thought--wildly--that perhaps I should be honest in my answer. So I thought about how I actually spend most of my time during the day. I realized that, like a lot of other middle-aged women, I spend most of my day in apologizing, justifying, explaining, and asking for forgiveness.

This, remember, is from a card-carrying feminist, a woman whose adult life has been spent taking risks and rising to challenges.

I mean, nobody's ever accused me of being "kittenish" or "sensitive to others"; I'm more Calamity Jane than Jane Austen (although I bet that if Jane Austen had been armed, there would have been bloodshed at the J.A. corral).

What do I apologize for? Everything. I apologize for how my hair looks especially if I am late with a dye job ("color consultation"). Exposing my roots seems to constitute an affront to civilized society.

I apologize for not taking better care of (choose any combination): my husband, my brother, my nieces and nephew, my students, my neighbors, my cats, or my lint filter. As if I am the Lint Queen.

I feel guilty for not wearing certain clothes even though I really liked them when I first bought them. This feels to me like betrayal. I mean, I once really loved that blouse, but now other fancier blouses have replaced it in my affections. I nevertheless feel possessive enough not to want to give it away. In other words, I feel about my shirts the way sultans used to feel about their harems. Yet it's not as if a jacket from Chico's really expects me to be monogamous.

And, naturally, I feel terribly guilty writing about guilt yet again.

Women could save eons of time by cutting out the caveats that we offer at the beginning of every sentence. "I'm sorry, it's only me. I just wanted to check on...." "I really hate to bother you. I know how busy you are...." I'd say the average woman could save, oh, 3 or 4 months per year simply by skipping those introductory phrases.

Women, listen to me: if we start sleeping through the night instead of waking up with a clutch of the heart worrying about what we forgot to do, or what we might forget to do, or what someone else might suspect we might forget to do, then we'd be making way better use of our time during our waking hours.

(Men's magazines, in contrast, seem to be all about how men could stop being so marvelously efficient and learn to spend even more time tying fishing lures, rebuilding old cars, and finding out the true value of their baseball card collection. Few articles are needed to encourage men to keep their lives simple.)

Basically, women could save a lot of time in our lives if we stop double-thinking everything we say and everything we do. At least I believe that that's the case. But I'm really not sure. And I shouldn't have bothered you with this in the first place. Sorry.

--revised and adapted from an earlier post (sorry!)

 

 

 

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

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