I'm Breaking Up With "I'm Sorry"
“Mrs. Bockee herself snapped a finger at convention and dignity, and lifted her skirts as she herself got out in earnest pursuit of the fugitive.” These words were plastered across the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle on December 23, 1923, under the headline “Woman Captures Thief in Market Street Pursuit.” Ollie Bockee (pronounced Bouquet), the convention-be-damned woman, was my great-great-aunt, and this article is the oldest existing record I have that I come from a long familial line of unapologetic women.
Ahead of this feat of civic duty, Ollie did something all the way back in 1914 that most women couldn’t: She became an entrepreneur, purchasing property in the Napa Valley, later known as The Petrified Forest. Over a century later, the same property is still owned and operated by females in my family (my mum included).
Here’s the thing about coming from matriarchal family: I’m predisposed to assume that I have every possibility at my fingertips. A ’90s-born woman, I grew up with third-wave feminism, and I assumed a set of norms that my mother and grandmother had to strive for every day. Exposing my ankles isn’t some sort of sensational act. I can dress as I want, work and live where I please, date (or not date) as I see fit. But if the politics of the past year have proven anything, it’s that my peers and I aren’t as far removed from the creaky conventions of the past as we’d like to think.
This month at Who What Wear, we’re tackling the theme of the “unapologetic woman,” a topic that’s set my wheels spinning. Working at a company founded and run by women, in an industry bursting with women of incredible talent, I could easily lose sight of the ways in which traditional conventions still limit us. And yet despite my own career path, I, like many women, struggle with how to move through the world without creating ripples. If you scrolled through the emails I’ve written today, you’d learn I’ve unnecessarily used some form of the word “sorry” in three emails already (it’s not even 3 p.m.). I’ve also apologised to Lyft drivers for getting out of the car early. I’ve apologised to men for not being interested in dating them. Navigating the world at 23, 25, and now at 27, I’ve learned how easy it is to slip into the habit of apologising for things that I don’t have any reason to feel sorry about.
Learning to embrace my power and right to be wholeheartedly myself is a longstanding battle of mine. Blame it on my role as the oldest child, or the fact that I’m a Capricorn (both I’ve heard before), but I struggle with imposter syndrome, body insecurities, and fear of failure. Still, as I’ve slowly grown into my own womanhood, I have become okay with not just having a voice, but exerting it.
According to Merriam-Webster, to be unapologetic is to be a person who is “not feeling or showing regret or shame.” To me, the unapologetic woman I strive to be isn’t one who refuses to say “I’m sorry.” Instead, I want to be a woman who has the right to choose when I exact my words and how I present myself in the way I dress and act. Let’s not kid ourselves—despite my own neurotic obsessions with some notion of perfection, to embrace what it means to be unapologetic means not that I refuse to acknowledge my shortcomings but instead that I find beauty and truth in even the biggest sources of self-doubt.
Working in fashion, I view so much of the world through a sartorial lens—and have psychoanalysed my own style choices ad nauseam. As in many other industries, there will always be someone smarter, harder-working, better dressed, or more accomplished than myself. So what if I’ll always be the tomboy who defaults to sneakers? It’s in my embrace of whatever wacky outfits I put together that I see the first glimmers of an unapologetic energy, the shedding of the insecurities of my early 20s.
I find I’m most myself when I follow the pathways plowed by the women before me. Once it was hiking up a floor-brushing skirt and taking down a thief solo. Now, it’s finding confidence in sharing who I really am (however quirky that may be) and finding ways in which I can stop apologising (when I want to) and start embracing my unique self.