Mi dispiace?

I just read a comment posted by a fellow expat and I found some of the comments rather timely, as Peppe and I just debated the timeless question…”Does love really mean never having to say you’re sorry?”

He thinks it is very “American” of me to suggest (pronounced: de-mand) an apology after an argument, or after I think he has done something insensitive. In his opinion, Americans (which, he really means ME, since I am one of the only Americans he really knows) put too much emphasis on the words, “I’m sorry.”

Well, I’m sorry (ha ha) but that is just the way I was raised. In the deep pineywoods of Southeast Texas, if you do something to hurt someone, inadvertantly or not – you apologize. If a friend miconstrues a comment I make – I apologize. Maybe not for what I said, but for the misunderstanding. If I throw a baseball and it hits someone’s car – I apologize. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I am sorry it happened. If I bump into someone at the grocery store and they drop their groceries…guess what I do?

To further demonstrate this cultural, or possibly gender-based, divide I will share an example. Tonight Peppe was getting ready to leave for work, he rushed through an open door at the same time I was walking out, and stepped on me, almost causing me to trip.

Peppe: “Baby, watch out. Don’t get under my feet.”

Me: “Are you kidding me? You ran me down!”

Peppe: “Well, I don’t want to hurt you. I am in hurry and I can’t watch.”

Me: “Dude! YOU stepped on ME. Aren’t you going to say you’re sorry?”

Peppe: “You Americans! I shouldn’t have to say I am sorry to you…”

Now, is it just me, or is there no logic here? I have never understood the line, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.” If you can’t or won’t apologize to the person you love, then either

1) you don’t love them that much – or –

2) you have a problem admitting you are wrong…
(I personally think the latter applies to My Peppino, but then again, I wouldn’t really know what it is like to be wrong…it never happens.)

Anyway – I have never seen the movie “Love Story”, but I have a strong feeling the writer was a man of Italian decent…what do you think?

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Comments

  1. Mmm, I don’t think they are taught to say “I’m sorry” – or “please” and “thank you,” for that matter. I always thank Cristiano’s mother or grandmother after lunch or dinner, and after six years, it still takes them aback. I think we Americans put a lot of emphasis on that and Italians are not raised that way…

  2. Well, surely you can’t generalize on Italian men based on a sample of one. Some Italian men can take your breath away with their charm and civility. My grandparents were from Catanzaro and I remember my grandfather as a very sweet man, but, though I never did a study, I can picture him saying “mi scusi” more readily than “mi dispiace”.

    Maybe it has something to do with the US being a much more puritan country. We feel we have much more to feel guilty and sorrowful about. Now I was raised in the US, so I can appropriatly say “sorry dude” when need be.

  3. J-your grandparents were from Catanzaro? Wow. Have you been to Catanzaro or do you live in Italy now?

    I was talking to a friend (who is married to an American man) last night about this. She said she has to tell him to say, “I’m sorry” after arguments, too, so she can feel like they got over it. Mars and Venus, maybe?

  4. Not all Italian men – mine is very good at apologizing when he is wrong – and also very good at making me apologize (and I don’t always like admitting I am wrong) when I am wrong! Maybe I’m from a parallel universe?

    There are some things that can be attributed to culture! I think we Americans do on the hole tend to say I’m sorry more often. I personally use it in place of “excuse me” a lot (like when I bump someone in a crowd, or even when I want to ask someone a question and they look preoccupied).

    This practice that I see many Americans engage in is cultural, but I don’t think it even comes close to a real apology – of which every culture practices (I think!). I think you can chalk it up to personality. Peppe and I seem to have teste dure πŸ™‚

  5. I think I wrote something about saying “please” and “thank you” in my Expat interview…how I still do it even though the in-laws think I’m crazy. So I do think there are just general cultural differences with some pretty basic stuff (to us). OTOH, P’s pretty good about apologizing, and I don’t remember us having a discussion about it; in fact, I’m worse than he is!

  6. You know – I figured it out. Pep WILL say he is sorry when he thinks he has done something wrong. But, if he doesn’t think he did, and I think he did – TESTE DURE watch out!

  7. I do know at least one Italian male who is apology-challenged, but my mother’s family is from Catanzaro, and she would KILL me if I didn’t use the usual niceties (and I am not a kid!). It drives her nuts when my kids forget. She always warns us that we will be “picking our lips up off the floor” if we are not respectful.

    He he. I actually wrote this post a long time ago, but I’ve noticed it might have been a language misunderstanding, as well. They say “scusi” rather often but not “mi dispiace,” which in English is a big difference. My husband thinks Americans are hung up on wanting apologies from everyone from our politicians to our spouses, etc. etc … Ahhh, aren’t cultures fun? Thanks for the comment!

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