Rebecca Front: My New Year's Resolution to stop explaining myself

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The Independent Online

I have alighted on a New Year's Resolution which I intend to put into effect in January –I'm sorry , does that make me look like a stickler for convention? Anyway, this resolution will be to stop apologising for the way I am.

Take a look at my opening sentence and you'll see what I mean. I spend my life explaining myself, second-guessing what people must think of me, feeling guilty about everything. Rarely do I mention buying a new item of clothing without adding the disclaimer "in the sale". A similar rider is attached to going to the hairdresser's (just the local one), eating in a restaurant (special treat) and trips to the theatre (well, it's work really.)

My parents instilled in me the importance of not showing off, not rubbing people's noses in what you have and they, perhaps, don't. I still think that's a mark of common decency. But you can take it too far. There are, for instance, plenty of people who can't afford a car. Does that mean that it's poor form if I happen to mention that I have one? And if I also explain, as I frequently do, that it is just the one car, and it's pretty beaten up now, to be honest, and we've had it for ages ... how is that improving the lot of my carless listener? Besides, the whole guilt thing pre-supposes that the person you're talking to is harbouring constant, low-level resentment towards you, just waiting for you to trip on your own ermine and wipe the smile off your face. By and large they're not, and if you make them feel like you think they are, you're going to make them feel guilty, and pretty soon they'll start apologising right back at you.

Worse than that, every time you throw in your little "I'm just like you, really" apologia, you're telling the listener that you've weighed them up, and come to the conclusion that, far from being just like you, they're probably worse off than you. And if that doesn't bring you into the sub-group "patronising cows", I don't know what does. So no more apologies. No more pretending to be what I'm not. Though I reserve the right to do a fake Cockney accent when I take my car to the garage.

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