Kathleen Parker

In the annual spirit of compulsive declarations, summations and resolutions, let me just say, I'm sorry.

For everything. The Crusades, destruction of the Mayan temples, the Spanish Inquisition, (really sorry for that), the Bay of Pigs and, not least, typing the word 'possom' when I really meant 'possum.'

But. You knew this was coming: I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a teenager and I'm an alcoholic.

I am also a gay columnist.

OK, I wasn't and I'm not. Nyet. None of the above. Never abused by a priest, never an alcoholic (well, not much of one), and not gay.

But any one -- or a combination of the above -- seems sufficient these days to explain behavior unbecoming a civilized human being. Not gayness precisely, but living as a closeted gay, in which case anything one does is pardonable because one has had to live a lie, which is not one's fault.

A quick review of the year's mea culpa parade reveals a trend we won't want to drag into the new year. Indeed, there seems to be some new contagion in the air, a virus that causes those infected to revert to their primal selves.

Celebrities, such as two starlets who left home without their panties, seem especially vulnerable to the germ.

Britney Spears found herself sans bloomers as she exited a car that also contained Paris Hilton, who, come to think of it, may be the original carrier of the bug that has infected so many.

Spears, the divorcing mother of two, apologized on her Web site, saying: ``It's been so long since I've been out on the town with friends. It's also been two years since I've even celebrated my birthday.''

Well, why didn't you just say so in the first place? Of course you didn't wear underwear!

Lindsay Lohan similarly flashed a crowd of preteens when she forgot to wear panties to the Kids' Choice Awards. She has begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Then came Miss USA Tara Conner, who almost lost her tiara for underage drinking. After she made a tearful public apology, pageant co-owner Donald Trump decided to forgive Conner, who agreed to enter rehab and undergo drug testing.

Katie Rees, Miss Nevada USA, didn't fare so well. She lost her crown for a photo collection that showed her baring breast and thong, and mock-kissing other women where the sun doesn't shine -- unless you're Spears or Lohan.

Other infected notables include actor/director Mel Gibson and comedian Michael Richards, aka Kramer on ``Seinfeld.''

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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