Public Apology

Dear Mom

(This letter is an excerpt from the new memoir Public Apology, out today!)

Sorry for choosing Hannah and Her Sisters when you asked me to go out and rent some movies for our family to watch to get our minds off the fact that Dad had been diagnosed with cancer.

You remember, I'm sure, that this was just a couple weeks before I graduated from high school. It must have been a weekend, because we were all at home in the afternoon. Dad walked in to the TV room with his friend David Landy. You could tell that David Landy had been crying.

"The doctor just hit me [...]


Dear Shrewsbury, New Jersey Board of Education

I'm sorry for vandalizing your schoolhouse.

This happened in 1985, when I was a freshman at Red Bank Regional High School. Red Bank Regional as you know, draws from the towns of Shrewsbury, Red Bank, Union Beach and Little Silver, where I lived. It was fall, not too long after school had started, and we kids from different towns were still getting to know each other. I was on the soccer team with a guy named Scott who lived right across the street from the Shrewsbury elementary school. Scott's mom went out a lot, and his red-walled kitchen became a place where groups of 14 year olds would gather to [...]


Dear Jews Who May Have Been Sitting Near Me And My Friends In Connecticut College’s Harris Dining Hall Fall Semester, 1989

Dear Jews who may have been sitting near me and my friends in Connecticut College’s Harris dining hall fall semester, 1989,

Sorry for making anti-Semitic slurs.


Dear Jon Bon Jovi

Dear Bon Jovi,

Sorry for throwing empty beer cans on your lawn.


Dear Sales Rep for a Textbook Distributor

Dear sales rep for a textbook distributor,

Sorry for lying to you on the phone.


Dear Todd And Chris

Dear Todd and Chris,

Sorry for spilling grain punch all over the box of "Calvin and Hobbes" T-shirts you were hoping to sell.


Dear Mr. McCormack

Dear Mr. McCormack,

I'm sorry for rejoicing over the prospect of your hometown being destroyed.


Dear Coot Veal

Sorry for writing you and asking for your autograph under false pretenses.

This was a long time ago. 1981 or 82, I think. My friend Chris Pack and I were ten or eleven years old, and deeply, totally obsessed with baseball. We collected cards, memorized statistics, perfected pantomime of our favorite players' pitching deliveries and batting stances—Dan Quisenberry's submarine sidearm, Cecil Cooper's low-slung crouch, Graig Nettles' rod-straight right leg. In the summer, we'd watch the Yankees on Channel 11 every night (the Mets on Channel 9 if the Yankees had an off day) and play our own games of Wiffle ball in my backyard—all day, everyday. The fence [...]


Dear Juliette

Sorry for making that obnoxious joke about the music you were listening to on your iPod.


Dear Mrs. Noonan

Dear Mrs. Noonan,

Sorry if it seemed like I was trying to see you naked.

I wasn’t, I swear.


Dear Joel

Dear Joel,

Sorry for stinking.

You were seven years old at the time, which was December 19th, 1991. I remember because I had just turned 21. The day before, as a matter of fact. You were in the first grade at a school for emotionally disturbed children in New Jersey, where I worked, as an assistant to your teacher, Suzanne.


Dear Nightshift Manager At The Sheridan Garage

Dear nightshift manager at the Sheridan Garage,

Sorry for taking the key out of the engine of my car after you'd jumped the battery.


Dear BMX Bike Rider

Dear BMX bike rider,

I'm sorry for shunning you after you got up in front of everyone and cried at the personal growth workshop our parents sent us to in Philadelphia.


Dear Deb

Dear Deb,

Sorry for making you take all those water-logged maxi pads and tampons off my car.


Dear Sanj

I'm sorry for reporting you to campus security.

This was September 1989, at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. In the Marshall Dormitory at the north end of campus, where I shared a much-too-small space with two roommates, Sean and Jeremy. (Sean is now the communications director for the Republican National Committee—he had to shave his head on live television last fall after losing a bet he'd made that Mitt Romney would be president. Did you know that? Crazy, right?)

You and I didn't know each other at the time. I didn't know anybody, really. Classes had just started that week. I had come to recognize most of the [...]


Dear Jon Pack

Dear Jon Pack,

Sorry for using you as a moving target.

It happened pretty regularly for a while there that summer, 1981 or 1982, I’d think—when you were eight and I was ten, or you were nine and I was eleven. It was a game we invented, your older brother Chris and I.


Dear Davida

Dear Davida,

Sorry for squeezing your hand so tightly at the Gravediggaz concert.

This would have been fall 1997. I was working at Vibe magazine. You had looked me up and given me a call after reading something I wrote—and I was flattered. We hadn’t spoken in a couple years, I don’t think. Not since we’d graduated college. We hadn’t spoken in any substantial way, really, since you’d broken up with me at the end of junior year. Which was okay. We’d only been together for a few months. A nice, easy-going relationship; never very emotional, never a huge big deal. But I was freshly single again when [...]


Dear Woman Who Lived Up On The Hill Near The Lighthouse

Dear woman who lived up on the hill near the lighthouse,

Sorry for stealing the head of that Greek statue from your lawn.


Dear Jen

Dear Jen,

I'm sorry for telling you that your allergies were psychosomatic.


Dear Pam And David MacNeill

Dear Pam and David MacNeill,

Sorry for letting your children watch The Amityville Horror.