Fishy apology no balm for bizarre, abominable banter

For the past week, I have been trying to make it up to my teeth.

Extra flossing, avoidance of sticky foods and assault by sourdough crust have been the best I could do to back up my initial apology.

When the offence occurred, I played the blame game.

I had removed my contact lenses and was distracted by thinking about the horror of what has been going on at Gloriavale. In those circumstances, who wouldn’t have mistaken the tube of ointment on the bathroom windowsill for toothpaste? After all, it was only a couple of days earlier I had returned from a three-night babysitting stint, and it made sense for that tube to be the toothpaste I had taken and still not put away.

It was the strange greasy feel and then the fishy flavour which eventually gave the show away, but it took a while for my brain to work it out. It was expecting toothpaste with a minty flavour and needed some convincing that was not the case.

Sorry teeth. Sorry toothbrush.

As you may realise, I am a bit of an over-apologiser. I blame being brought up as a Roman Catholic. Weekly or fortnightly, I was expected to come up with a catalogue of "sins" to confess to a long-suffering priest and then feel sorry for. I feel most sorry for that succession of priests who had to endure me repeating those "sins" every time — lying (confessing to that may often have been a porky), fighting with my siblings, dishonouring my parents — saying my prayers of contrition and never changing a thing.

If I had truly been sorry, wouldn’t I have attempted to improve my behaviour?

I constantly apologise for faults in my cooking. The family detests this, but it’s a habit I find hard to break. I am sorry that most of my cooking does not turn out as well as I had hoped. I know it is my fault for not following recipes properly or not using them at all, failing to weigh or measure anything accurately and not paying proper attention during the cooking process. Recently, I have taken to blaming my oven for burning things when I cannot disguise this by grating off the charcoal.

The carpenter in the family took umbrage at me blaming the tools until I showed him my buckled oven element. It could be replaced, of course, but the tortuous process of organising the repair man to visit a few years ago is still too fresh in my memory to want to repeat the experience. Burnt offerings will continue, I am sorry to say.

A true apology about anything serious should be upfront, involve an understanding of the impact of your action, genuine contrition and a recognition that you were responsible for whatever it was that deserved an apology, and you are not going to dilute that by blaming someone or something else. In the best of circumstances, it should also come with a resolution not to repeat the action or at least to try hard not to.

I am not sure where any of this leaves beleaguered businessman Simon Henry, whose bizarre remarks about food writer and entrepreneur Nadia Lim in a National Business Review interview, which he appeared keen to have quoted, have been widely criticised.

What could he blame for his outburst — being too rich, too white, too alpha male perhaps?

Maybe, like me in the ointment fiasco, he could blame his eyesight for his imaginative evaluation of the photo of Ms Lim he found so offensive in the My Food Bag prospectus. There was no cleavage (or the women’s division as one of my friends insists on calling it) on display, nor were there any buttons, fastened or otherwise.

If he wanted to criticise the performance of the My Food Bag company, which Ms Lim co-founded and for which she is still an ambassador, why not just do that and keep his demeaning views about Ms Lim (which I am not going to repeat) to himself?

The path to the eventual "apology" was farcical and almost as fishy as my ointment. There were reports of something being couriered, which never eventuated; his people said he had been phoning but Ms Lim’s people said no calls had been received or missed; and then eventually the two-sentence email turned up apologising for his inappropriate language.

Does that mean he thought there was appropriate language to express his repugnant views? This response looked like a Clayton’s apology, only made because of the furore.

Whether Mr Henry has learned much about kitchens and taking the heat remains to be seen. The proof will be in the pudding, but do not expect Ms Lim to don an apron and help him with that.

 - Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.


Poor man lives hermetically sealed. It is not a 'Man's World'.

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