Monday, March 30, 2009

Mea Cat-Culpa - Well, Sort Of

We now return to KITT-FM, where it's all kittens, all the time. And now, broadcasting live from our studios in Purrbank, Cat-ifornia - heeeeere's your hostess, Mother Catresa!

Hi folks!

As a journalist, I learn so much about the world and its people - and, alas, about myself - through the stories I write. Since I write a lot of human-interest features about relationship issues, I often conduct interviews where I can honestly say, "Yeah, really. I hear you, sister! Don't you hate it when that happens? I know, guys like that are schmucks, aren't they?"

(Yes, there's a feline angle to this post; I'm getting there. Promise!)

Recently, I wrote a story about a topic on which I am passionate: the importance of apologizing sincerely and effectively, and how to teach your children how to do this, so that they can have successful relationships in the future. I was interviewing an author about this topic, and we discussed the non-apology: the charming "I'm sorry you got so upset," or "I'm sorry you thought I was a jerk." (In other words, an actual blame wrapped in hot pink, fake apology tissue). I am all too familiar with it, and it's hurtful.

When the author gave me tips on how to model the art of apologizing with kids, one of the things he suggested was setting an example with the family pets. "What do you mean?" I said. "Well," he replied, "like when you step on the dog's paw, tell Fido, 'I'm sorry.' "

Now, I definitely could relate to that one, and I told him so: just that very morning, in fact, I had stepped on my cat Dharma's paw. And I, the noble one, apologized loudly to her as she shrieked in discomfort!

And then, as I silently patted myself on the back while talking to my subject, it dawned on me: The hypocritical Mother Catresa, ever so disdainful of non-apologies, actually gave one to Dharma!

The grey and white tuxedo cat, see, was doing the feline Figure-8 routine in the kitchen; y'all who have cats surely are familiar with it. I had stepped into the kitchen for my morning Diet Coke, and the ravenous Dharma started encircling my moving legs in Figure-8 patterns, while she meowed and demanded that I feed her breakfast. Combine a drowsy head with walking legs and marathoning paws, and what happens? You step on the poor pet's foot. Ouch!

"Oh Dharma!" I said. "I'm so sorry I hurt you! Poor baby."

And then, came the disqualifying "But":

"But, darn it, will you quit running over my feet and between my legs when I'm walking?"

The translation, let's face it, is: "I'm so sorry you got hurt, but it was your own damn fault."

It's like saying the following to the pedestrian you've just hit: "My God, I am so sorry. Really, I am. I feel horrible! But geesh, nucklehead, what the hell were you thinking running in front of a moving car doing 70 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?"

A sincere apology, the experts say, never includes a "but."

OK, so I did it. I felt bad for hurting Dharma's paw, but I gave her a lame non-apology. I admit my error, and I am truly sorry.

But ... Dharma, quit tripping your mom-mom, already!

Until next time, I remain,

Mother Catresa
Patron Saint of Homeless Felines
(and the "smitten kitten")