Men Gone Wild And The Forgotten Art Of The Apology

For centuries, men have behaved badly. To fraternity pledges; to rival sports enthusiasts; to servers and flight attendants; to people who don’t share their worldviews; to the homeless; and to the helpless.

And, of course, to women.

By and large, men have a rich history of being jags. Women? Not so much. If you don’t believe me check into the life and times of Caligula, Nero and Tiberius. Okay, I get it, you don’t like the Romans, so what’s your take on the Japanese “Comfort Women”; gang-rape in New Delhi, or dumpster rape guy Brock Turner and Judge Michael Persky who was rightfully slammed for not tossing the guy in the slammer? And tossing away the keys. Like I said, men can be jerks – and it’s global.

And the list keeps getting longer than Moonves’ millions. There’s Les, Weinstein, Rose, O’Reilly, Ailes, Laurer, Seagal (now that he’s a Russian, will we see Seagal in Chekhov’s The Seagull?), Franken, Wynn, Keillor and more than 200 others on a list that’s updated daily and published by VOX. They come from different industries, were consummated in different years, grew-up in assorted parts of the country, and observe different religions. Other than treating women like shit, many have something else in common. They’re sorry for what they did. Sort of.

These guys are all masters of the standard default excuse that’s made a cameo in every statement of regret: these were mistakes that happened years go. Is that it? Since when is a mistake not a mistake? Apparently when it’s groping women. Remember what Rose Kennedy wrote:

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

It’s never gone gents so don’t cast a woman’s feelings aside with the mighty stroke of your spokesperson’s pen. Are the mistakes of the Holocaust less mistaken because they occurred decades ago; are the assassinations at Virginia Tech more palatable because it’s been 11 years; are the 58 accusers of Bill Cosby’s unwanted exploits – dating back to the 1960s – somehow whole again after he tore their lives in half?

Of course not.

And then there’s this: times were different back then. Sure they were. So let me take a moment to make sure I have this right. Somehow, in the last 30 years, give or take a decade or two, women have changed, they now have feelings, sensitivities and purpose; all characteristics that are brand new. Give me a break.

The shit you did 35 years ago is still the shit you did. Own it bro.

But it’s not just men behaving badly; it’s men apologizing, badly. The art of the apology has landed in the unapologetic laps of lawyers, reputation managers and corporate shills. Does anyone see the irony? There’s nothing quite like damaged goods providing the cover for damaged goods.

Now it’s time for me to enter the narrative since none of you gropers and abusers seem to know the first thing about apologizing without slipping in a few thinly veiled excuses including this one: I’m not a perfect person. That’s why I’m here, because I know how difficult it is when all you have is a blank sheet of paper and an equally blank soul. So use this starter template to begin your apology tour.

“I screwed-up. No excuses, no finger-pointing, no buck-passing. I screwed-up by treating women horribly. And I want to be clear about this, the mistakes I made 20 years ago aren’t any different had I made those mistakes 20 days ago. They were wrong then and they are wrong now. I am sorry that I have caused this much pain for people who deserved none of it.”

That’s it. Some day, someone will get it right. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.