Making Sense of the “No Regrets” Obsession

In its hostility with all forms of remorse, doth our culture protest too much?

The other day someone asked about the scar above one of my incisors, which appears when I smile. I did crew for a minute in high school, just long enough for my boat to drift into another boat, or vice versa—I never found out. There was shouting, and a huge oar ripping toward me. It slammed into my face and I started slipping into the water. Someone grabbed me, and then I was in a motorboat, and then bleeding all over someone’s mom’s backseat on the way to the hospital. Broken nose and gum surgery, mainly. I’m fine now.

After I relayed this story, the guy said, “Bet you regret the day you signed up for crew.” It was a throwaway remark, but I thought about it anyway. Did I regret it? Do I regret anything? I grew up, got married, had kids. Once, I found a hundred-dollar bill under a plum tree. I wouldn’t miss this scar but it seems dangerous to go around regretting things. Yank the wrong thread from your past and maybe the whole tapestry comes apart.

But it’s one thing not to regret something, and another to be all “no regrets” about it. No Regrets is an a priori policy that’s become something of a lifestyle brand: triumphalist and hyper-masculine, faintly corporate, and subtly hollow. It’s also weirdly popular. No Regrets crops up in the form of tattoos, bumper stickers, and t-shirts. Celebrities are apparently required to come up with two to four Pinterestable quotations per year on their lack of regrets. No Regrets is a Long Beach accessories shop and No Regrets is Ace Frehley’s memoir. No Regrets is a Southern California mini-truck club. They’re all about the mini-truck lifestyle and living it to the fullest. The No Regrets Men’s Ministries want an army for Christ. No Regrets Parenting is about time with your kids—finding enough, making the most of it. No Regrets is a 5 BR/3 BA vacation house on Emerald Isle in North Carolina. (Pet-friendly!) There’s a No Regrets stationery store in Oklahoma City and a No Regrets Career Academy, which assures us that, we too, can have the lifestyle we desire, provided we adopt the right “strategies.”

“It means don’t cry over spilled milk,” Clifton, who works at the No Regrets Tattoo Emporium in Memphis, explained to me. Tony, from No Regrets Tattoo in Raleigh, said it means not caring about anything. “Nothing bothers me,” he told me. “Since I got divorced, I’m carefree.” Tyler from No Regrets Tattoo in Oklahoma City said, “I don’t know why they picked that name. I have a shit-ton of regrets.”

Gather enough people making the same declaration and you’ve got a country trying to tell you something. I thought the tattoo parlors might have a handle not just on the proud permanence behind the sentiment, but on its adamantly public aspect as well. The outward insistence of No Regrets confuses me: the startling number of hashtags-per-minute, the sheer acreage of body ink. What about the doctrine begs to be shouted from the rooftops? Why isn’t it just a quiet, private position?

Of course, a general acceptance of one’s past can be a powerful thing, and anything that reminds you to make good choices on a day-to-day basis is lovely. But mostly, No Regrets strikes me as an unanswered-for notion. It’s not just tepid, but fundamentally unclear about its own status. Does it reflect aspiration more than reality, as much-repeated messages tend to do? (I wish I had no regrets!) Or has the culture genuinely defeated the forces of remorse, and the public pronouncements are a kind of victory lap?

No Regrets takes on a darker cast when blown out to a national scale. Wars, colonial conquest, slavery—with a few hard-won exceptions, No Regrets has been the official policy around these, and, who knows, maybe that messes with our heads. Maybe at some level, every defiant No Regrets is a garbled reckoning with the contrite Yes Regrets messages we never hear.

Whatever the answer, I regret rushing my daughter every morning. I regret not squatting on some domain names and I regret not walking on the sunny side of the street more. I regret missing that one flight and I regret not sticking with piano. Certain remarks—Jesus, of course I regret them. And I regret that I never met Tony, the Raleigh tattoo artist who became carefree after his divorce. One day in the ’80s, just out of basic training, he got a tattoo of a big black panther. He was young and stupid. Later, he lasered it off. No regrets. He just wanted something more colorful.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.