After Hillary Clinton caught flak for saying “I’m sorry” in her concession, Molly McNearney kept a diary tracking every apology of her own.
On the theory — proven in a Psychological Science study— that women apologize more than necessary (and way more than men do), THR asked Molly McNearney to attempt to go a week without saying sorry. Her diary shows the results.
I apologize to my daughter: I have a 2-year-old daughter, Jane, and a full-time job as co-head writer and producer at Jimmy Kimmel Live! I try to spend parts of my morning playing with her while juggling work emails and assignments. Today, we were making ice cream cones out of Play-Doh. I was ignoring the temptation to check email on the iPhone in my back pocket. Ten minutes and two sloppy, purple Play-Doh cones later, I said, “OK, Jane. I love you. Have a great day. I’m going to go to work now” — I always try to say this part cheerfully like I’m going somewhere magical. Halfway through the sentence, she started to whine. She doesn’t seem to be celebrating my career as I’d hoped: “No. Mama. Stay one more minute.” I put a pink Play-Doh cherry on top of those cones and then walked to the door: “I’ll be home soon.” She whimpered, followed me, hugged my legs and cried, “No, no, no, I don’t want you to go to work.” I sat down. “I’m sorry. Don’t be sad. I’ll be home to give you a bath.” I pried her little hands off my legs and left. First sorry thrown before coffee.
The crew guy: Coming out of rehearsal, a crew guy was walking while texting and walked into me. I said, “Oops! Sorry!” I don’t know why I said I was sorry. I wasn’t sorry. Beyonce started to play in my head: “I ain’t sorry.” But it was a nice thing to say. It was a hell of a lot better than being rude or making him feel bad. Next time, if I remember, I’ll go with, “Boo!”
Jimmy: I saw a breaking-news story and sent it to Jimmy to see if he wanted it included in the monologue that night. He replied, “It’s already on today’s outline.” I responded: “Sorry. Please teach me how to read.” I always believe in apologizing when you screw up at work. Own your mistakes. Also, some “breaking news” already has been broken.
My co-head writer: I woke up, made a smoothie and then violently vomited that smoothie into my bathroom sink. This has become routine over the past few months. Morning sickness. I’m in my second trimester. I spent a good 20 minutes lying on the bathroom floor, waiting for the hangover without the alcohol to pass. I texted my very patient and understanding co-head writer Danny Ricker: “Running 10 minutes late. Vomiting. Sorry.” And I was sorry. He didn’t need to hear an apology. He’s a supportive and understanding man and father. But I needed him to know that I was sorry my pregnancy was making me late to work. I hate being late. I hate it more when people don’t apologize for being late. Especially if they have a fresh iced latte in their hand.
My daughter again: This was the toughest, most sincere sorry of the week. Election night, 10 p.m. Trump just won Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. I couldn’t watch anymore. I went upstairs to Jane’s room. She was sleeping peacefully, still holding her Hillary Clinton action figure. I needed to be near her sweet oblivion. I actually crawled into her crib, sniffed and kissed her head, and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
My OB-GYN: Next morning. My OB-GYN texted me. “You coming to your 8 a.m. appointment?” It was 9:17 a.m. In my post-election mourning, I had forgotten. I texted back: “OH MY GOD I’M SOOOO SORRY. I COMPLETELY FORGOT. ROUGH MORNING. I’M SO VERY SORRY.” This one got two sorrys. Flaking on someone is one of the worst offenses. This apology was deserved.
Hillary makes her apology: I dreaded Hillary’s concession speech like a eulogy at a funeral of someone who died unexpectedly. I watched it while my daughter played at my feet, unaware that history was not being made. In the first minute, Hillary said: “I’m sorry we did not win this election for … the vision we hold for our country.” I hated hearing her apologize. I know I would’ve if I were her. But I felt like we all owed her one instead.
Jimmy again: Drove into work in a fog. Walked into Jimmy’s office for the producers meeting the morning after the election. Burst into tears. Like one of those shoulders-shaking, wet-face, snot-nosed ugly cries. The ones only Julia Roberts can pull off. I think I had underestimated the psychological toll this election and writing about it every day for the past year had taken. Today was supposed to be a celebration. A day to box up all the Trump jokes and put them away forever — I wouldn’t have to watch every insane, infuriating sound bite of his any longer. Now the thought of writing jokes about him for the next four years made me collapse into tears. Jimmy looked up from his desk to meet the eyes of his show’s slobbering co-head writer, and I only said two words, “I’m sorry,” and got back to work.
But I’m not sorry about being sorry: Driving into work, I let a guy into my lane. No wave. No acknowledgment. Minutes later, a woman cuts me off, I slam on my brakes to avoid hitting her. We make eye contact. I give her a, “What the hell was that?” look. She looks back at me like I’m the crazy one. No apology. No wave. And I realize how easy it is to say you’re sorry, to take ownership of your mistakes. I know women in particular are criticized for saying it too much, and we probably do. But in a year of unapologetic insults from a man who will now be our president, I think we could all be saying it a little more. I’d rather overapologize than underapologize. I said it seven times in three days. And I’m not sorry I did.
This story first appeared in the 2016 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.