If you’re like most academics I know, then you’ve probably typed the title of this post a number of times. “Apologies for the delay” you’ve written, to help alleviate the guilt you feel in taking too long to respond to someone’s email. But, how long is “too long?” Isn’t there an emotionally-loaded nature to the term “delay”? And, why can’t I decide whether to put the question mark IN the quotes or outside of the quotes? SHOULDN’T I KNOW THIS BY “NOW”?
I’ve been gone a little while, doing a bit of reproduction. For various reasons, that would bore some of you and be extremely interesting to others, I had very limited time on the computer during most of my pregnancy and the first year of my baby’s life. I had to make some priorities, which included, predictably, “everything.” (Also: “everything”.) It turns out, however, and some of you may already know this, that “everything” can well be your verbatim priority list IN THEORY but not in actuality. So, though I planned to post on here each week, and duly felt like a guilty no-goodnik each week for failing to do so, I couldn’t do postings because of the actual things I actually had to get done to keep things afloat. What were they, you ask? AREN’T WE NOSY! They included miscellaneous things like, in no particular order: showering, eating, reading student drafts, doing my editor stuff, reviewing people’s papers, doing some of my own research (HOW DARE I), trying not to barf 24/7 with all-day pregnancy nausea, pushing a baby out my bagina (I can say bagina because I’m a sex researcher but you should use the proper terminology until you get a Ph.D. in baginaology), breastfeeding a baby 24/7 (did you know a baby can be on your nipple ALL THE TIME with no consequences except for your sanity?! I DO!), being with my older kid, drinking water, doing Facebook (IMPORTANT), and the many “just one things!” that people ask you to do until you are one-thinged to death (except I didn’t die: surprise!). Well. Writing that list wasn’t cathartic at all. ANYWAY. I could apologize for the delay in posting. Clearly, some time passed. I felt guilty. It rolls so easily off the fingers and seems eminently appropriate: Apologies for the delay. I hope you can ever forgive me for being the most horrible person in the world for taking X time to do Y.
But if I apologize for the “delay”, what am I apologizing for? Sorry for reproducing? Sorry for gestating? Sorry I got so nauseous I could barely be on my computer? Sorry my life happened? Sorry I exist? Sorry I’m a woman and was socialized with feminine gender norms and I’m also Canadian and that is a double whammy of I can’t stop apologizing? Sorry for babies? Sorry for birth and breastfeeding and my uterus and my bagina?
The thing is, though, this reproductive happening isn’t the first time I’ve wanted to “apologize for the delay.” Sometimes it takes me a few days to respond to someone’s email. GASPY! Less frequently, BECAUSE I LOVE EMAIL, it takes me a week or longer. Is that a delay? Sometimes, I’ve emailed someone on, say, a Friday, and they respond on a Monday. With apologies. For the delay. For Saturdays and Sundays? Yes, it maybe three days between when I emailed you and you responded but – in my book – that’s not a “delay.” That’s what labor activists fought for us to have and I call it “the weekend.”
A delay IS something that merits an apology by definition, one I just made up with my gut. So guess what? I’m not apologizing for the time that has passed since I last posted because I’m not apologizing for reproducing and its completely regular accoutrements-slash-complications. I’m not apologizing for having a weekend. I’m not even apologizing for taking some workdays to respond (people who know me are like: WHO ARE YOU FOOLING YOU RESPONDED TO MY EMAIL RIGHT THIS SECOND). Those aren’t “delays”; they’re life. And my life doesn’t need any apologies. And you know what? Neither does yours.