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The only words more insincere than teenagers telling their partners, "I love you," are "I'm sorry." It has become one of the most meaninglessness, ineffectual phrases we use. Its mere utterance is an immediate indication that you mean nothing of the sort, and should draw more contempt from the person being offered the flimsy phrase due to your incapacity to make any effort toward sincere reparations.

I have become numb to apologies. I take no comfort in them when they're offered and see no point in bestowing them, either. They are the most disgusting offerings one could make in an attempt to heal an injury. The only situation in which an apology is acceptable is after a minor accident, like bumping someone on the way around a corner. Anything else is like offering a Band-Aid to keep one's decapitated head on: totally insufficient. Insulting, Absurd.

Our initial exposure to apologies helped establish their insincerity. In elementary school a boy beat me up; his last name, suitably, was Bratt.

Another boy played chicken with me on the Slip 'n' Slide, only I didn't know this until after his fists rammed into my face when I slid farther than he thought I would. Children threw wood chips and sand into each other's eyes. Really, a playground is nothing more than a caged area for heathens. And yet, no matter how severe the barbarity, all was to be forgiven when the teacher held us in front of our offenders until they said, "I'm sorry."

It wasn't the apology that made me feel better, but the retribution my attackers suffered, losing their privilege to an extra milk carton that day, or having to sit on a bench for the remainder of recess. I'm sure the chaperones were hoping we'd associate our satisfaction with the apology, and not with the pleasure of seeing the other child reprimanded.

Aside from trying to curb our primal, physical urges, adults also forbade name-calling, which inflicted a deeper injury. The right verbal characterization, warranted or not, could ruin a child's experience anywhere from several days to years. Verbal attacks are not limited to the schoolyard. In fact, as we grow older and physical violence is tolerated less and less, more frequently we turn to oral barrages as our last uncensored weapon.

The worst is when someone irreparably scars you and thinks an apology is sufficient to excuse the intentionally inflicted trauma. I would fight with my mother and she'd say I was the worst mistake she'd ever made. When I began to hang around with other students in a school where friends were few and far between, she'd accuse me of whoring. She'd show me a black suit wrapped in dry cleaners' plastic and say the only way she expected to bring my father home (he worked across the country, too far for a daily commute) was in a coffin. I'd be hysterical, an emotionally, hormonally plagued adolescent lying on my bed, face soaked with tears, and she'd come in and say, "I'm sorry. Give me a hug."

Give her a hug. The phrase still stupefies me.

"I'm sorry" was supposed to excuse all that. "I'm sorry" was supposed to make up for the fact that she was projecting her depression, her insecurity, her vindictiveness onto me, that she blamed my existence entirely as the reason things where how they were. And yet the fact the memory of her words is enough to upset me almost 10 years later shows how much her words hurt, and how little "I'm sorry" helped. After all this time I know how to better articulate, but she still doesn't really understand the effects of her mind-boggling manner of verbally preparing my sisters and me for the ways of the world. If I were 14 again, nothing would be different. But she was sorry.

One may believe, having read this, that the only reason I find apologies insincere is that I'm numbed to them. But their inappropriate applications have only demonstrated their inadequacy. How many times are we asked to put ourselves in others' shoes and determine how we would react? How many times is our answer, 'I don't think I'd know until I was in that situation?' Luckily, (or perhaps unluckily), my opinion has been formed by experience. I do not dismiss apologies completely; I just notice how often they are thoughtlessly invoked as the easy way of making amends.

I have been asked to apologize for words I've spoken or written that have given offense to others. But I know the delicacy of feelings and believe it is the worst crime to distress other with either casual insults or insincere apologies, so I offer neither. I meant every word I've said and feel no need to apologize for hurt feelings that may have arisen from intentional criticism. My sincerity, while providing little comfort, is certainly more desirable in any form than "I'm sorry," which I'm not.