A Platonic Apology

Two decades ago I sent out a project entitled ‘Apology’. Back then, my audience consisted of about five close friends who received my work through the postal service, as this was right before we all had e-mail. It was more fun that way: I could send out offensive things and have a few days to regret it before the damage was delivered. Which is basically what happened with that project. After a few months of getting battered by friends and family alike, I decided to go the usual passive-aggressive route (with a decided emphasis on the second half of the hyphenate) and address it in my writing. And theirs.

For ‘Apology’, I used Plato’s definition of the word. Unlike what most of us think of an apology, my version was a throwback to its original meaning – a defense. Over the years I’d amassed a decent collection of condemnations against me. Most were from people I’d never even met. The ones that mattered – and the ones that hurt the most – were those that came from the people whom I thought knew and understood me. Many of these were letters of blame bandied about in anger, but at the core of them was a simple critique of me and my lifestyle. Not so much my gay lifestyle, but a lifestyle of honesty and bluntness, and perhaps not-always-popular-opinion made unabashedly known. I was hated, and criticized, for being myself. Not always without reason, but often. And so my ‘Apology’ was born. Birthed from an exasperation of being attacked (you should see what people write to me on FaceBook and Twitter – I may be a bitch, but I rarely do it on someone else’s wall), it came from a dark place, an angry and defensive place, and as such it alienated just about everyone. (When you only have five viewers, it’s probably not the wisest move to make them all mad.) But I knew I needed to be alone then, so I did it.

On each page of the Project, I copied and printed out the worst letters that people had written to me (including all my friends who were about to receive it). On the back of each page I wrote a response to each of the accusations, outwardly apologizing for whatever bad things I had supposedly done, while rather transparently mocking such attacks. It was petty and childish – and it got the point across. But being right is a lonely place to be.

Twenty years later, I’m still fending off unfair characterizations, unprovoked attacks, and misplaced blame. I think I’m a little better at dealing with them now. Yet every once in a while I feel it may be time for a New Apology. (And before the next volley of criticism comes this way, please remember that no matter how cruel you think I sometimes am to others, no matter how cutting and critical, it is nothing compared to the atrocities I inflict upon myself. You don’t need to believe it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.)

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