Your Groveling Advice

June 12, 2013 | By | Comments (0)
Rick Bragg

Illustration by Jack Unruh

A few months ago, I asked readers for advice on how to grovel. The alternative—to do right in the first place—I rejected from self-awareness. Well, proving that people have too much time on their hands, I actually got some tips. I now know three indelible things: one, the Southern man knows more about groveling than he ought to admit; two, the Southern woman enjoys being groveled to way more than is attractive; and, three, nothing I learned will do me a bit of good.

Susan, who wrote from Yorkville, Illinois, told me not to worry my pretty little head about it, and seemed to imply I should not expect too much of myself, being a man.

In my last groveling story, I mentioned I set a small fire while multi-tasking—cooking a grilled cheese and answering the doorbell—which was perhaps one more thing than the average man can do at one time.

“Men have different brains than women,” Susan explained. “You probably mess up with a longer list of expected tasks. Some of it is probably not your fault.”

Jeanne, from the World Wide Web, informed me there are two kinds of groveling: simple and compound.

“Simple groveling is due when the offense is singular, like eating potato chips at 2 a.m. Compound groveling is due when you have lumped your mistakes into one big ball of stupid.”

That would be the one I need, that last one.

Recently, the dog ate my best shirt. It was a soft cotton button-down, and took a long time to get just right. I had worn it to Louisiana, where I ate the best crab soup I’ve ever had, three times. A little of the soup fell upon the shirt, a thing that is just going to happen to an average man. I wore the shirt, soup and all, on the plane, and back home, exhausted, I unbuttoned it and let it drop to the bedroom floor, where the dog, Woody Bo, later ate it. I don’t even want to think about where the buttons went.

It was my fault, a tumbling, roaring cascade of fault. I was told I ought not have gotten soup on it to begin with, not have worn it out where people could see it, and ought not have left it on the floor.

But Jeanne’s advice held a fatal flaw: “You have to at least pretend,” she wrote, “you want to do right.”

David, of Clemmons, North Carolina, shared a three-step plan: 1. Grovel often. It’s expected. 2. Admit you’re wrong. It’s quicker. 3. Don’t worry about being sincere. They know.

Larry, of Southport, North Carolina, devised a plan complete with potential verbal exchanges, including the often necessary “silence.” He defined active groveling, passive groveling, super groveling, and reverse groveling. “Groveling is not a bouquet of flowers and a kiss on the cheek,” he explained. “Rather, it is a way of life for married men.”

He has been married 48 years.

I was told by Lauren, also from the Web, why women have no need of groveling. They cook, and must be careful not to waste too good a dish on a small matter.

“A pound cake is not for a ding in the car door.”

Rose, of Alabama, suggested I kidnap my wife, and drive her to where the white sand kisses the Gulf and buy her a barbecue along the way. If I close my eyes, I can see it…

“You’re driving too fast,” she would say, “and everybody knows there is no decent barbecue outside Memphis.”

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