DR. WALLACE: Help, I made a mistake! I had a birthday party at my house recently and I had my teen girlfriends running all around my house and backyard for a full Saturday afternoon and evening.
Around 7 p.m., we all went outside to roast some marshmallows at our fire pit, so I went up to my room to find my favorite jacket, since it was getting dark and a bit cold. I could not find it anywhere! I thought I had seen it in my closet the night before, so when I couldn’t find it after 15 minutes of hard searching all around my house, I went out to my backyard and scolded my guests. I asked them to tell me who took my jacket! I said there would be no punishment, but that I just wanted it back. I looked at each girl and asked, “Who took my jacket?” but nobody confessed at all!
Then I even told them to all walk around my house to help me “look” for it and that whoever had it could just put it out somewhere someone could “find” it and all would be forgiven and forgotten.
So we did this! I had a dozen girls running all around my house, and I thought for sure that someone would “find” it for me. But again, nothing happened!
Then I pouted and just borrowed a jacket from my mom, and I went out to the fire pit with everyone. The mood was pretty spoiled and nobody really said much at all. The only sound was the crackling of the fire and the munching sound of marshmallows being eaten.
Thirty minutes later, my father came home from a football game he attended and walked out on our patio and said, “Here darling, take your jacket. You left it in my car last night after our restaurant dinner.” Every single girl at my party gasped! Nobody said anything, but they all had really big eyes staring at me. I kind of wanted to cry but instead I blurted out, “Dad, it was you who stole my jacket!”
Well, the laughter that followed was epic! I literally saw four girls laughing so hard they cried tears as they tried to resume breathing. They were laughing and choking at the same time. My father just looked blankly at me and said, “Whatever!” and walked away without another word. This then triggered a second wave of laughter.
The rest of the night went better since the mood was lightened. Everyone relaxed and the rest of the party went really well. But later, when everyone went home, I had this strange feeling come over me. I realized that I never apologized for accusing everyone. The laughter and the funny moment kind of ended the tension, but I later realized I made a big mistake in how I handled this in the first place. My question to you is should I now just forget about this event entirely or should I say anything more? All of those particular girls won’t be together in a group that big for a while, so it would be hard to make a big group apology anytime soon. — The Birthday Girl, via email
THE BIRTHDAY GIRL: Yes, you should say something, and start this as soon as possible! You won’t see them all at once, but starting right now, individually tell each one you see that you’re truly sorry and that you learned a very valuable lesson that night.
Ask for forgiveness and mention that you are human and that you made a bad mistake to accuse your friends in the way you did. Admit that the humor that followed was fun but that it did not excuse you from making the mistake in the first place. Give each girl you say this to a big hug and tell her it won’t happen again. One by one as you see them at school, around town or in any context, do this for each girl who attended your party that night.
The word will get around to the girls once you start your “apology tour,” but you should continue to ask for forgiveness individually until you have spoken to each of the other 12 girls. This will hopefully be cathartic for you and will demonstrate to all of your friends just how sincere and heartfelt your apology is. We all make mistakes, and the best of us take action as soon as possible while also vowing to learn our lesson and to not repeat the same careless mistakes again.
DR. WALLACE: I am pretty good at sports in my physical education classes at school, but my girlfriend in my PE class laughs at me because when we are stretching at the beginning of class, I can’t bend down to touch my toes!
She says that means I’m not a good athlete and I should not even think about going out for one of our girls sports teams. Is this true that I’m not athletic because of this? — Can’t Reach My Toes, via email
CAN’T REACH MY TOES: This fits into folklore more than reality! Many people are flexible and reach down and touch their toes without bending their knees. And then there are many more people who cannot do this! You fit into the second group, but the good news is that this does not disqualify you in any way from becoming a good athlete at your school.
Find a sport that you’re more talented at than your friend is, and when you demonstrate that you have more talent in that endeavor, tell her, “And imagine how good I’d be at this if I could only reach my toes!”
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.