After writing about hook-up culture on campus for Valentine’s Day, I didn’t think twice about it being published... at first. Then I had some people tell me they really enjoyed it, and then it dawned on me that people had actually read it. I started to think of my parents and of my hometown.
I could feel my heart racing as I imagined my third-grade teacher scrolling as she read through my article. When I received no scathing text messages or concerned emails, I forgot about it. It was as if I had never written it, even though all you had to do was Google “Addy Perlman JHU,” and it would be one click away.
A few days ago I received a text from my mother that said, “Call me.” Being 801.8 miles away, a text with those two words spurs a virtual heart attack. She told me we needed to talk about my article. Several palpitations later, I was informed that my uncle and aunt had been sent the article.
Through an intense text battle, I had to defend why I wrote the article. They said the article was too personal and that it was on the internet for the world to see. They asked, “So you don’t care if your uncle or your dad reads it?”
Of course I cared, but I wrote what I believed. I was told that “it was too first-person and that wasn’t necessary.” I asked them if they wanted an apology and waited for them to say, “absolutely not.”
I believed women shouldn’t be judged for casual sex when men are praised. I wrote paragraph after paragraph without pausing to listen to what she said. I felt an immense amount of guilt and embarrassment. Knowing that my family had read about my college experience made me feel ashamed.
Fear about what others might think plagued me because if my family, the closest people to me, were judging me, then how would others view me? I became a proponent of the problem of shaming women for engaging in casual sex that I had written about.
When I finally started to listen to what my family said, I realized they weren’t judging me. I was messaged, “it should be okay to do what you want to do. Same as a boy!” Because of the stigma and the double standard that exists around sexual expression for women, I immediately felt ashamed.
I had an intense need to apologize. I felt that I may have shared too much and that people would shame me. I felt that I had placed an conspicuous scarlet “A” on my chest.
Then I got another stream of messages. My family had all talked to one another, and they called me to tell me they were proud of me. They told me they were caught off-guard because they didn’t want to read about that part of my life.
My mother said she was happy that I wrote the article even if she was mortified at first. She told me that women needed to have something like that to read because I was right and women don’t need to be ashamed. My aunt and uncle emailed me to share their praise, and they said that this was a step in being a trailblazer like the women, especially my grandmother and great aunt, in my family before me. He said they would be proud, and I believe him.
And I didn’t need to apologize, and I shouldn’t apologize because if I do, then I am undermining everything that I am telling other women to do. I wrote a piece that mattered to me. I wrote a piece that advocated for women.
I will not apologize because if I do, I am undermining everything that I am telling other women to do. I will not apologize because I should not be ashamed for self-expression.
I will not apologize because I am a woman. A woman should never have to apologize for an act that a man is high-fived for. We should not have to feel ashamed.
I have found myself apologizing in situations that an apology was not warranted because I have been trained that I should apologize by society. The line between being polite and being subordinate sometimes gets blurred. I will always be polite because I am from the south and that is how I was raised, but I will no longer apologize when I don’t need to.
This is my last apology: I am sorry that I felt ashamed for what I had written. I am sorry for telling woman to be proud of their sexual identities when I myself faltered.
No more apologies. I am proud of who I am and of what I wrote.