You’ve seen it. That innocuous little question that pops up regularly in a certain weekend supplement Q&A piece. They sneak it in there, often next to the query on guiltiest pleasure or frequency of sex. Who would you like to say sorry to and why?
Sorry is a powerful word. It’s a hard one to say and its intention is not always easy to accept. And as counsellor Karen Apperley tells me, "Apologies are every bit as important for the person making them as for the person to whom they are made."
"Making a genuine apology can promote a healthier self-concept," she says. "It shows strength and offers an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, making us less likely to repeat them."
It’s good to think that most of us are able to recognise when a sorry is needed and, as Apperley also points out, "While it can’t undo a wrong, it conveys the caring, respect and love necessary to rebuild trust and place value on a relationship."
Ahead you'll find a list of people I feel deserve an apologetic nod from me. I found working this through a potent and cathartic exercise. Don’t take my word for it, though… try it for yourself.
Unfailingly sweet-tempered, my grandmother made delicious cakes, told a good story and provided a peaceful place to read through her eclectic bookshelf, where racy historical romances nudged murder mysteries and a gruesomely fascinating medical dictionary. Then when my grandfather died, Gran was speedily moved into our house and a deeply satisfactory relationship came to an end. My gran’s grief and the struggle to find a meaningful role turned her anxious and depressed. To the insensitive, teenage me – resentful at having to give up my bedroom – she just seemed grumpy, complaining and old. I gave her less time and not enough thought. I wasn’t kind. I wish I had been.
Annie Daly, I stole Tell a Tale of the Tuckers from your bedroom when we were eight. I was totally seduced by the sheer glamour of this splendid American hardback and mighty impressed that your aunt – in those pre-Amazon times – had hefted it all the way from New York. I guess it makes it worse that I actually pretended to help you look for it.
Sarah Spencer, I read your diary when we shared our first London flat. I was particularly sorry about my snooping at the time as you wrote some deeply unflattering things about me.
And Jane Lampard, hello and yes, yes, yes I did sleep with that boy you were dating. (But lest we forget, you did sleep with my boyfriend first.)
There was no Mumsnet to help my fiery little Irish mama through the challenges of rearing four kids while working full-time. Money was tight, her downtime minimal and the approach to parenting tougher than it usually is today. When my own kids came along, the brilliant expert on motherhood I now considered myself stubbornly ignored most of the advice my wise parent tried to dish out, sighing "No one does that anymore, Mum" or "That sounds so bad for the baby". It was hurtful to her and totally uncalled for, because apart from anything else, most of the time she was bang on. Sorry again, Mum.
In a childhood mostly spent not talking to one or both of my sisters and on permanent physical attack alert with the brother, fall-outs ended in tears, fights or uneasy truces. Apologies were conspicuous only by their absence. Character-building? Sure, and thankfully we are all close now. However, I regret that there have since been times when I have not been supportive enough to my sisters, and I will never forgive myself for not making it clear enough to my Hong Kong-based brother that of course he was invited to my last-minute London wedding. Oh and siblings, remember that gloopy butterscotch pudding I made for you just about every weekend when I was 13? Yeah, sorry about that too.
Messy break-ups apart, and aside from one great guy who I treated pretty shabbily (sorry about that R), I genuinely think the apologies should mostly be rolling my way on this one. I am talking particularly about you, distant ex and now well-known author who decided to expose my vulnerabilities and shortcomings (oh, and my identity) in your bestselling book. Also up there is the mean charmer who decided to hit me just because I turned up late for a party. There's never an excuse for violence so I wouldn’t take an apology on that one, anyway.