Regrets. I’ve had them all!
If you were to offer me a piece of cake, this would be my internal torment:
Oooh cake, I don’t know, do I want cake? Yes, I want cake. But cake is too rich, it always makes me feel sick. But that looks like really nice cake. What should I do? OH, EAT THE DAMN CAKE!!
So then I’d eat the cake, and true to form it would make me feel sick. And then I would have the worst food regret EVER!
I often want to put this example to uppity people who say, “I have no regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing in my life. It has made me who I am today.”
Really? Have they never suffered Buyer’s Remorse after spending a fortune on online skincare products they don’t need? Or looked back at the hairdo they had 10 years earlier and wonder if they were having a breakdown or a sex change, or both at the time?
What about Fashion Regret? I know I’m not the only one who wore a G-string leotard to aerobics in the ‘90s. Sweating through Step Reebok in the least comfortable outfit possible, swearing under my breath at the giant “NO REGRETS” slogan above our instructor. Yeah right, I’ve got a chafing that begs to differ.
No regrets. Such inspiration. It is the stuff of corny aphorisms and posters on dentist waiting room walls (ironically, as you may well be sitting there heartily regretting your lack of flossing) and some of the great music of history.
Frank Sinatra: Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. Edith Piaf: Je ne regrette rien. As much as I love the music, I can’t agree with the sentiment because I have many regrets, starting with karaoke performances of those two very songs.
No, I’m more of a Cher girl. If I could turn back time… I happily would, because I’ve done some things that I will forever wish I hadn’t.
Am I too hard on myself? Or could you say people who have no regrets have a selective memory and the self-awareness of a four-year-old?
I don’t dwell on past mistakes. I work very hard to focus on who I am today. But, being honest, there have been times when I’ve let myself or someone I love down, and I would KILL for a time-travelling DeLorean to undo what I did.
And so, in an attempt to purge, let me present for you a regret retrospective. In compiling this (very much abridged!) list, for clarity I have divided my regrets into Things I Did, and Things I Didn’t Do. Or should that be Men I Did, and Men I Didn’t Do?
I have been married for a long time to a wonderful man, so I have no remnants of a broken heart. But I regret giving the men of my 20s the flattery of my attention.
There was the hot new stand-up comic who insensitively turned our dalliance into an on-stage joke. Or that guy who never showed up to our date because he was shagging someone else AT THAT VERY MOMENT.
Or the one who broke up with me with “it’s just that you’re not as interesting or exciting as I thought you were”. (Yeah, that’s a ripper, isn’t it?)
I’m not embarrassed by my behaviour but I regret that I made them think they were worthy of my affection. I hate that they are a part of my history, and I theirs, and that I didn’t learn to like myself more before they could treat me that way.
But then there’s the guy who was sweet and respectful and kind. To him I say sorry. I casually discarded him in favour of a bad boy in a rock band, and then when the rocker broke my heart I realised I’d wounded a fine young man for nothing but my name on the door and a drink card. I regret that.
As a friend I regret allowing my own heartache to shift my priorities. The humiliating and hysterical fight my boyfriend and I had at a friend’s 25th birthday party. I regret that her night was known for our public meltdown, just because we couldn’t suck it up and keep it for the taxi on the way home like a normal couple.
And most shamefully, taking too long to call another friend when she’d had her first baby because, heartbreakingly and despite years of trying, I had not yet fallen pregnant myself. The phone call from her husband wondering where I was has stayed with me for a decade.
How does anyone say I wouldn’t change a thing? It is true I learnt from my mistake, but that doesn’t diminish my regret at having hurt someone I love. I still would RATHER it didn’t happen in the first place.
Now that I am a mother, I look back at the version of me who failed my friend, and I realise that regrets are a measure of passing time and personal growth. I wish I’d made better decisions, but I wasn’t able to back then. I comfort myself with the knowledge that I’m a different person now, and that regret is simply a product of living, like cellulite or bad photos on Facebook. I just thank the God of Bad Hairdos that social media wasn’t around when I looked like that guy from Green Day.