Babies cry to communicate hunger, sleepiness, over-stimulation or under-stimulation and basically any other need. Guess who else cries when hungry, tired, overwhelmed or alone? Me! The main difference is that I am learned and practiced in the English language and am not a baby.
I cry early and often and usually without my express permission.
Obviously, I cry when loved ones pass away, when my dad and I get into arguments, when I disappoint my mom, when boys break up with me, when I have to break up with boys and when my friends cry. However, I also cry when Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Behind my Hazel Eyes’ plays on the radio, when my cat doesn’t want to snuggle, when it’s too hot outside and too air-conditioned inside and when people end texts with a period instead of an exclamation point.
On top of the excess, my crying is not pretty. I’m an ugly crier and there’s a direct correlation between increase in sobbing intensity and increase in face horrible-ness. I’ve never experienced the delicate single tear sliding gracefully down my calm, composed face as Humphrey Bogart’s heart breaks from a distance. My friend describes it like this: “It’s kind of like you turn into a monster.” And it’s true: I become a very sad, crumpled up monster, almost like I just got my monster card taken away. So unless you can speak monster-ese, there’s no consoling me.
I so want to be the girl who never cries. When that girl cries, it means something. Something other than, “I haven’t eaten a cookie in three days, someone please hug me, okay? Thanks.” She’s taken seriously. People think she’s tough. As you can imagine, as the opposite of that girl I often hear, “Just toughen up.”
Here’s the problem: I am tough, relatively speaking. I can handle my knocks and bruises and heartbreak. I dust myself off and move on and deal with it. Part of dealing with it is that I cry every so often – often. Then I wash my face and do what I have to do.
I did some digging and found Dr. William H. Frey, a biochemist who spends the majority of his time on the cusp of curing Alzheimer’s but also dabbled in serious cry-ology. In the August 31st, 1982 New York Times article entitled, “Biological Role of Emotional Tears Emerges through Recent Studies”, it is revealed that he found “absolutely no correlation between various personality characteristics and the frequency of crying… no higher crying frequency was found among people who scored high on scales of stress, alienation, impulsiveness, social distance and social impotence.”
Therefore, that girl who never cries and is thus labeled “tough” by our crying-averse society might not be tough at all. She could be fragile, sensitive and alone, she just doesn’t lacrimate – science term for crying – as often. Whereas I lacrimate my face off but still consider myself an assertive and emotionally stable person.
As I said, society does not like crying. Or at least it’s considered a big deal: the marker of a particularly effective dramatic film or the exclamation point at the end of juicy gossip, “and then she left, CRYING! Real ugly cry-face too.” Frankly, this needs to stop. As someone who so values words and my ability to use them well, the fact that I can’t get into a meaningful discussion or argument without tearing up is frustrating beyond words – LITERALLY – ba dum tish. Sorry.
So if I’m trying to rant at you and I begin crying, don’t freak out. The tears will be there whether I want them to or not so try and listen to my words. Yeah, the words may be, “AND IN CONCLUSION I THINK YOU’RE A BIG STUPID, STUPID-FACE,” but I implore you to separate the tears from what I’m trying to communicate.
At the end of the same article, it quotes Dr. Frey’s findings on how to deal with someone’s tears, saying, “‘We should comfort people without telling them to stop crying,’ Dr. Frey observed. ‘They do stop crying when they’re comforted.’” While this appears to be common sense, the amount of times I’ve begun crying and someone told me to just stop it is like a billion.
Luckily, I’ve developed my own built in comfort as I cannot expect someone to pat my back at every tearful moment. I’ve found I can make myself laugh more than just about anyone else. Usually stupid things, like anthropomorphizing fruit into royal dukes or whatever. Oh, I think someone didn’t want me at their party? Let me cry for about ten minutes and then I’ll talk about how I feel sad in my terrible cockney orphan accent and start giggling for ten more. Don’t feel bad for me. I know what works and I’ll handle it.
So, this is important: heed the advice of my new best friend Dr. Frey and don’t make crying a big deal. Someone will let you know if the event or argument or problem is serious with their words. Listen to them. And on the flip side, pay attention to that friend who never ever cries. Maybe they are stone pillars of coolness, but maybe they’re just waiting for someone to ask, “Are you okay?”
Let’s equalize the criers and non-criers.
Except for those cry-baby babies. Babies probably need to toughen up. It’s getting ridiculous.