Please Don't Pretend to Apologize

5 min read

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

I had sat there listening on the phone to the apology she believed she had offered me at the beginning of this year.

"I'm sorry you feel that way. And this situation, well, it's really not my fault. It's not his fault, and it's not her fault, either," as she had named the other players who had been involved in the situation that had transpired amongst those who I had trusted and thought were friends. And clearly, they weren't.


I decided to cordially end the call and hang up. I wished her a good rest of the day, with Michelle Obama's voice ringing in my ears: When they go low, we go high. There was no point in unwrapping, dissecting, and debating that apology and revisiting what had actually transpired amongst us.

So I didn't say thank you for the apology. Because it wasn't really an apology. And at that very moment, I decided I would only say thank you to real apologies — not to fake apologies. I am drawing a line. I can't thank you for a fake apology.

The fake apology is passive-aggressive, a check the box exercise, a sign of insecurity...

"I am sorry that I hurt you" vs. "I am sorry that you are hurt."

"I am sorry that I said that" vs. "I am sorry that you were so sensitive."

"I am sorry that I got angry" vs. "I am sorry that you had to leave the room."

What's in a real apology? Why is it so important? Why do I even care?

Because a real, true apology is admitting to the mistakes you have made. It's sincere, authentic, and heartfelt. It's a promise to do better. It's an opportunity to start a new chapter, turn the page, and move forward in a relationship.

And at the end of the day, we all want to be seen. We want to be heard. We want to be acknowledged. And that's what a real apology does.

We apologize to our friends, family, and coworkers. Government officials apologize to the masses. Leaders apologizing for horrible behavior. Companies apologizing to consumers. Scroll on your feed, and at this moment you will find an apology; somewhere, someone is apologizing for something they did or said. But our screens are also littered with pretend apologies.

The co-founder who apologizes for stealing credit from his fellow co-founder. Matt Rivitz of Sleeping Giants using the fake apology tactic: "Nandini clearly deserves a lot more credit than she has gotten for her groundbreaking work with Sleeping Giants and I'd like to apologize to her and to anyone else who may have felt this way during the course of this campaign…"

The comedian who apologizes for being a sexual harasser: Louis C.K. and his apology where he never says the words "I am sorry." Instead, he says he was remorseful and tried to learn from is irresponsible behavior. His pretend apology only came after he lost a distribution deal for his movie, had an upcoming Netflix special canceled, and had his shows removed from HBO's streaming services.

And last but certainly not least.

The Silicon Valley Tech millionaire who apologizes for being a racist. Caught ranting and raving on video and shouting racist remarks at an Asian American family. The Orosa family was celebrating a birthday at a restaurant in Carmel, California while Solid8 CEO Michael Lofthouse can be seen smirking and giving his middle finger to the family.

"Trump's going to f--- you," he said in the video. "You f---ers need to leave… f—-ing Asian piece of sh-t."

"This was clearly a moment where I Iost control and made incredibly hurtful and divisive comments," Lofthouse's apology statement said. "I would like to deeply apologize to the Chan family."

"I think he really meant what he said and what he did. I don't believe his words because his actions speak louder than the words he says," shared Ray Orosa with the local ABC News in reaction to Lofthouse's apology.

I agree with Ray Orosa.

All of a sudden. It seems like you can behave badly, just apologize, and then we can all just move on — all is now right with the world. This Silicon Valley Tech millionaire was just sorry he was caught on camera. Well, we aren't sorry you were caught, Michael.

So please don't pretend to apologize. I am sorry you feel that way. I am sorry you were hurt. I am sorry you misinterpreted my actions. I am sorry you misunderstood. I am sorry that you didn't understand what we agreed to. Maybe you should just actually just say, "Sorry, but I am not sorry." Because you really aren't sorry at all, and you never were in the first place.

Here's what I try to remind myself when I need to apologize for something big or small, I have done. I need to be genuine. I need to acknowledge what I did wrong. I need to be specific about how I will do better or be better. If I am not ready to apologize then I will wait until I can provide a real apology.

I would say it's never too late to apologize. Yet in today's world of Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, time is always ticking. And it's ticking fast. If you were caught on camera, you can't wait to apologize. If you do a fake apology, there will be hell to pay. And if you do apologize, providing a real, true apology, it still might not matter. Even the most thoughtful, well-crafted, genuine-sounding apology posted on Twitter can't erase behavior that cannot be unseen. For behavior that is damaging and can't be forgotten, there will still be hell to pay.

So please, don't pretend to apologize. To those who have been caught or yet to be caught, maybe if you stop behaving so badly — stop saying and doing as you please with no regard for others — then you won't have to worry about apologizing in the first place.

5 min read

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.