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Ask Amy: Friend considers apologizing for past mistakes

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Several years ago, I was involved in projects with a female friend (I’m a man).

I occasionally made jokes and said things that in retrospect I realize were inappropriate. She finally set me straight.

Then Covid and the MeToo movement hit, and I had time to revisit a number of things that at the time I felt were innocent remarks or actions, but were in fact wrong.

We have since become friends again, but I occasionally think that I’d like to apologize for every time I made her uncomfortable.

I know there are other men who have been even guiltier than I, but they have never apologized. Do I need to?

Would my apologizing now, years later, be just for my benefit – or would it be a kind gesture to a good friend?

– Conflicted

Dear Conflicted: Other people doing worse things than you have done should not enter into your equation. You cannot justify your own choices by finding negative examples to compare yourself to.

There is no downside for you to apologize to your friend for mistakes, “jokes” or comments you made years ago. She called you out at the time, and your friendship took a hit, but seems to have recovered.

Maya Angelou said it best: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

An apology would definitely benefit you, and offering forgiveness (if necessary) would also benefit her.

You say that your friend “set you straight” at the time and that your friendship suffered.

Opening up a discussion and offering her your current perspective and understanding – along with an apology – will help both of you to close the loop on this and move forward with greater understanding and intimacy.

Dear Readers: The following Q&A first ran in 2020.

Dear Amy: My family and I came to America from the Soviet Union when I was a teenager. We became citizens. I got educated here and own a successful business. I write well and speak correctly, with almost no accent. I feel like I am an American.

I love America, and try to learn new things every day, but I feel like something is missing in me.

Since I spent my formative years in a communist country (truly like another planet, compared to the USA), my “autopilot” reactions are not like those of typical American-born people. For instance, my manners, topics of conversation, humor, dress, attitude toward money, and even body language can seem “foreign.”

 

I feel like it is hurting me to be “culturally different.” I don’t think I say or do anything straight-up offensive – it’s more like a lot of little things.

How can I fix this “handicap”?

I would love to know how to be more American, but I can’t find any books or courses on the subject.

– NOT Born in the USA

Dear NOT: As we approach the celebration of another Independence Day, I appreciate this unusual and provocative question, which, honestly – has no “correct” answer.

First, I urge you not to see your own cultural background and habits as a “handicap,” but as an asset.

Yes, America is a country. But America is also really a series of concepts, experiments, and experiences. It is no one thing.

But here is a beautiful “American” ideal (so different from the culture you were raised in): All Americans have the right to be uniquely themselves, and that definitely includes you.

However, reinvention is baked into the American experience, and so if you want to affect “American” mannerisms, I suggest you become a student of American culture. Take a history course at your local community college. Follow up with a class on cinema and popular culture. Read Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Sherman Alexie, Gary Shteyngart, and Jericho Brown. Listen to Dolly Parton. Watch “Singing in the Rain,” “Goodfellas,” “Barbershop,” “13 th,” and “Ramy.”

Become a volunteer firefighter. Teach English as a second language to other newer citizens (teaching American concepts to others will show you how much you actually know). Work at your local polling station during the next election.

When you say or do something you believe is “off,” ask a friend to break it down for you. They might choose to tell you what I’m trying to tell you now – which is that your effort makes you the most “American” person they know.

Dear Readers: R. Eric Thomas is starting a new advice column. You can help Eric get started by sending your questions to eric@askingeric.com.

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(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



 

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