My brother placed a bet on me

I had dinner with my brother and his wife the other night. For privacy reasons, I won’t tell you which one.  As with any time with my brothers, the evening was delightful and I messaged him the next day to tell him so.

Message Brother: “Dinner with you guys was delightful. We should do it more often.”

Message Wendy: “It was, and I even made money off of you.”

This peaked my curiosity.

Message Brother: “How so?”

My brother proceeded to explain that while waiting for my husband and I at the restaurant, he and his wife bet on how many times I would say sorry over the course of the evening. I say sorry about as much as I breathe. A camp yearbook declared that “if the world was upside down, Wendy wouldn’t apologize.” But, while an apology from me may be as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotter game, an estimation of their quantity is less obvious. Like guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar.

“A lot of times though you’ll apologize in threes really quickly,” said my brother, “like, sorrysorrysorry. So we had to decide whether that counted as one or not. ”

The rational, lawyerly, side of me thought this logical, but the irrational side of me that causes me to apologize unnecessarily was feeling indignant.

“And?” I asked, my voice taking on its characteristically flustered squeak.

“We counted it as three.”

Having agreed to this strict enumeration rule, my brother bet that I would apologize twelve times while my sister-in-law put her money on “way more.”

“But you only apologized six times!” my brother said.

My brother makes Mother Teresa look like a bitch. I knew this innocent game was all in good fun, but considering just how much I hated this neurotic compulsion of mine and just how hard I’ve tried to stop it, I was left feeling frustrated. I needed to refocus myself and gain some clarity on this habit.

“Now, was the final number a result of two sorrysorrysorry’s or six individual apologies?” I asked.

Whatever. I couldn’t believe that while I was there at dinner enjoying our banter, drinking wine and counting the calories in the crème brûlée they were there only sipping wine so as to preserve their concentration in counting my apologies! I started to feel mad about his childish, little, contest. Unapologetically mad. Leveraging my neuroses into a stupid game was so silly, so utterly juvenile!  Nevertheless, I couldn’t just let his puerile antics go without an appropriate response. I had to assert myself.

So I told on him to our father.

“Dad,” I whined, after recounting my brother’s game to him, “Don’t you think you should cut him out of the will or something?”

My dad sat back pensively, arms crossed. I awaited his verdict, sure to be as wise as any rendered by King Solomon.

“Really? ” he said, “You only apologized six times? I would have thought it would be way more than that.”

I harumphed furiously, vowing to never utter a word of contrition ever again but as my father’s surprise sunk in, I started to sit up a little straighter. I halved the lowest bid. I’m improving. And as I grow, in the meantime, I love being able to laugh at myself. I love that my family can laugh with me.

I have spent virtually my entire life berating myself over this senseless habit, hating how subservient it made me seem. I’ve listened to countless people tell me how annoying it is and I have apologized to them for apologizing. Why do I give myself such a hard time? Isn’t this simply a harmless quirk of mine that really shows my sensitivity to others? Why shouldn’t I just laugh at it? Plenty of people have irritating habits, many that are much more meanspirited than overapologizing. Lots of people have irksome qualities, idiosyncrasies they would just as soon change about themselves-at least I have the tact not to point them out.

My brother accepts me and wants to spend time with me, twelve apologies and all. I think he sees that they are a minor part of my character as a whole, something to be funlovingly teased, not to be aggrandized and taken so seriously. I like this perspective.

I owe myself a big apology.