Beside the point
By Kate Stone
He said something wildly inappropriate.
He backtracked and tried to fix it.
He held up a fist for me to pound.
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” he said. “I want you to take my apology. Really. Because I like people.”
So much of this is beside the point: everything he said (a physical comment), anything I took offense to (I’m already over it), whether or not I would accept an apology (I would). But the biggest, gaping-est hole the points that land outside of the story have created is that his reaction to his own fault was a plea for his own sociability.
“I didn’t mean to; I like people.”
Have we confused basic humanity with a pressing need to like people? Liking people is beside the point. The point, the gooey middle, of humanity is to respect other people.
How to be human in the dead center of the point is to do these things:
1. Don’t say stupid things that make other humans feel like mutant sea creatures.
2. Fall in love with—really insanely, confusedly in love with—human traits like having feelings.
3. Own your mistakes as actions you have taken on the path of being a human.
Your fallibility makes me see you as no less human. Just as you should see me as no less human for resisting your words in the first place. That may have been a mistake too. Neither of these facts has anything to do with how much you or I like anybody.
I do not care if you like me. It weights me in no direction to accept your apology on the basis of your interest in the lives of more people than the average American.
“I didn’t mean to; I have 1,500 Facebook friends.”
“I didn’t mean to; I want to buy you dinner.”
“I didn’t mean to; I’m not a sociopath.”
Of course you didn’t mean to; you’re a human. Just act like one.
About Kate Stone
Kate started taking yoga in middle school as a rebellious move against sports camp. After years of gymnastics, not having to flip over after a backbend was a relief, and the practice stuck. After college, Kate moved to Chicago to teach mean children how to read. She was marginally successful but felt severely, physically ill-equipped to deal with the fighting in her classroom. As someone who takes things literally, she became a personal trainer. Kate spent eight years in Chicago working in gyms, bars and museums, feeling like she was supposed to have a real job. Three years ago, she realized she doesn’t ever want one of those. Kate spent all of her money on yoga training, and is now a yoga teacher, writer and bartender living in Boston.