I’ll admit it: I’m a cryer. I cry, well, I cry an annoying lot. I cry listening to a good song, hearing a good story, or watching moments in movies or tv shows I’ve already seen. I cry anticipating watching moments in movies or tv shoes I’ve already seen. I cry when I think about certain people, certain flowers, certain events. I cry fairly reliably when anyone says the word “dog.” I cry out of frustration, in the middle of any argument, and when I’m just plain tired. Waterworks abound around here.*
There is little that frustrates me more than being a person who cries out of frustration – and you can imagine the terrible spiral that creates. Coupled with a life long battle to overcome a deeply routed perfectionism and powerful pride, my teary habit will nearly inevitably rear its ugly head in all kinds of inconvenient situations – on airplanes. At work. At the mall. Frustration births a powerful headrush of teariness, the holding back of which will compound my frustration, and so on and so forth until a tear escapes and alerts everyone to the state of distress I’m in, which adds embarrassment to the frustration and good Lord here we go.
I’ve spent more time trying to convince myself not to cry than doing just about anything else in my life. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not a wuss. I’m not a pain crier. If you punch me, I’m not going to fall apart on you. I understand that frustration is a part of life – I’m not afraid of it, nor do I avoid conflict with the fervor I did in my youth. I expect and accept that I will let people down occasionally, and rationally realize that most of the time it won’t be the end of the world. But I’ll probably cry about it. Because I simply can’t help it.
I’ve tried long and hard to eliminate crying, but the bottom line is, it helps me to cry. That pent-up bit of nastiness that forms at the back of my throat disappears with the release of a few quiet tears, and I can go on with my day. I’ve been known to lock myself in a bathroom or corner myself in a closet at my workplaces just to let it out so I can move on. I’m not concerned about its effect on my job performance, my makeup, or my self worth – all of them are pretty immune to damage from a little salt water. But people’s perception? Now that concerns me a little. Because the presence of a tear or two is a one way ticket to “emotional crazy girl” land. A land I’ve fought hard to avoid.
And I’ll admit it – even I judge people when I see them crying. My first response to someone crying in a situation where toughing it out is expected (an office building, a competition, a reality tv show) is not so much sympathy as “Oh, please. Cut the drama.” Which, when armed with the knowledge of my own typical flight or cry response, is a completely ridiculous thing to think. So I’m vowing, at 7:07 on a Wednesday morning, to check this bit of judgement at the door from now on. To treat crying as a perfectly inevitable human response, and as long as it’s not a weeping and wailing spectacle with obvious ulterior motives (reality tv show again), treat it with a hand on a shoulder and a good conspiratorial wink. Because it happens to all of us, occasionally. Some of us more than others.
Not that this new acceptance is going to keep me from going to the closet to cry it out. We do what we gotta do, kids.
How are your tear ducts, friends? Do they betray you in inappropriate places and times? What assumptions do you make when you see someone crying in public? When’s the last time you cried in a completely embarrassing way?
*It may be worth noting that I have a weird inability to cry at times when it would be appropriate to do so – like when everyone else is crying because they’re genuinely sad. No tears for me at funerals or going away parties, but I find tears of joy irritatingly contagious. I’ve cried when a stranger finds her wedding dress more times than I can count. My tear ducts have a seriously messed up set of priorities.