Finally getting back to one of the real reasons I started this blog – collecting and recapping various random memories.
I received some plays the other day via InterLibrary Loan, and I was reading down the cast list of one of them when I noticed a particular name, an unusual name, a last name. The name of someone I went to elementary school with, and around whom this story revolves.
He transferred to my school when we were in fifth grade. I won’t say his name, so let’s just call him…Levi Dungarees, since despite wearing a spiky silver belt to complement his spiky silver-blond hair, his jeans sagged so low you could see exactly which Looney Tunes character was on his boxer shorts every day (it was usually Taz). Remember, this was the nineties, when such things were in. I’m glad that my mom refused to let me wear jeans that sagged like that, otherwise I’d forever remember what underwear I was wearing that day.
I wasn’t popular at all, and Levi, even though he’d only been in school a month or two, was already one of the most popular kids in the class. And of course, he tormented me pretty much every day, making fun of my hair, my clothes, everything about me. Especially my thick glasses. One day, he was chosen to hand out the hot lunch stickers (in my school, when we went to the cafeteria, if you were getting hot lunch you wore a sticker saying which meal you were signed up to get), and instead of peeling it off and handing it to me or sticking it on my shirt like a normal, kind human being, he peeled it and stuck it on my glasses. Right across the bridge of my nose. Of course, he thought it was funny, but I actually couldn’t see. He tried to then peel it off, and it wouldn’t come off, so I had to spend the next 10 minutes blindly chipping away at the residue of the sticker until my teacher let me go to the bathroom and attempt to soak the rest of it off in the sink.
In October, we Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, when we’re supposed to ask forgiveness from our fellow man and atone for our sins, among other things. In Hebrew class, our teacher gave us an assignment to write an apology note to someone else in the class. Of all people, who did Levi decide to write to, and hand deliver to?
He gave me the note to read, and it was actually quite nice. In it, he apologized for putting the sticker on my glasses, and for teasing me in front of all the other boys. I thought it was sweet, and I thanked him and accepted the apology.
But with someone like Levi, you know that something else is up.
After I finished reading the note, he said something like…
“I’m really sorry. But look, I just want to tell you three things about yourself that you need to change, if you want people to be nicer to you…”
I don’t remember what those three things were – it was probably about wearing better clothes or stop using big words or something – but I kept thinking, “so this is what he really had in mind to tell me when he wrote that note.” I nodded along with this impromptu lecture, more or less zoning out, and probably responding with something like, “okay, I understand,” or something sheepish. Because the whole time he was talking (and even now, when I think of it) I’m all…
Seriously…if you’re that garbage-y of a person that you see an apology note as an excuse to shit all over them, don’t write the note. As a matter of fact, don’t exist at all.
If I could redo that moment, I would have probably done something differently, maybe said…”here’s three things about you that I don’t like” or maybe….”hold that thought”, and then called over a teacher or someone else – anyone else – to listen to what he was saying, and been like “okay, here’s someone you can complain to, because I don’t care” (even though I was 10 years old so I probably kind of did care).
A non-apology apology is chicken shit, and I have another story about that for another time. But a seemingly sincere apology that’s essentially a non-apology apology, and is a cover for backpedaling caveats and side-complaints, that’s worse. It just defeats the whole purpose of apologizing in the first place. So let that be a lesson. When you apologize, be sincere about it, and if you can’t, then don’t.
And that’s probably the first time I’ve thought about him in about sixteen years.