SOCIAL STUDIES This is Important: CRYING Ellie McElvain

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.”

Leave Britney alone! Seriously.

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.

New York Times article

Featured image via lookslikegooddesign.com, Britney image via defglam.com

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  1. I am SO one of those people. I actually hate it. I can also empathise with wanting your crying to mean something, like when the ‘tough girl’ cries. When I feel I’m crying over something important, I hate that people think it’s just me being me! I also cry during arguments. I don’t want to cry, but I do, uncontrollably and unexpectedly. I’m also an ugly cry monster, as you put it :). I actually can’t believe how much I relate to this article.

  2. Hi Ellie! I, too, am an extremely tough super-crier. I’m an INTP on the Myers-Briggs Typology. So I usually end up crying if I feel ANYTHING more than a little bit, whether it’s a happy emotion or a sad one. (And really, I hate hate *hate* having to characterize emotions in that binary way).

    Here’s a quote from an article about INTPs by Paul James:
    …the extraverted nature of the INTP’s feeling judgement means that his emotions, when visible, are pretty direct and easy to assess. Since the INTP normally wishes to hide his emotions; when they do come out, they do so in outbursts with an almost childlike innocence. There is a sense of all-or-nothing and, when visible, there is nothing enigmatic about the feelings of an INTP: indeed, shadow functions always seem pretty raw and basic.
    LINK: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.intp.org/intprofile.html

    Love you, Ms. McE.
    -Ahm

    • Ahm, thanks that’s incredibly interesting! I remember taking the Myers-Briggs half-heartedly in a high school psych class but I’m going to do it again. Youza bomb bitch <3.

  3. I am also a crier, I actually specialize in ‘I cry at a sappy commercial’ and ‘Oh the last 10 minutes of Homeward Bound is on? Let me watch and drown in my tears’. Although I have this thing where if someone asks me if I’m okay, I start to cry even more because I think, “Wait a minute… NO I’M NOT OKAY, I’M CRYING IN PUBLIC”. Because of all the places to cry, public is by far the worst.

  4. I love this so much. I cry all the time. At least once a day. Thank you girl

  5. I don’t consider myself a crier. I didn’t cry when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, for instance. but I cried last night at Real Housewives when Ashley was so mean to Jacqueline, so maybe I’m just a misguided crier. That’s the worst of all.

    Becca Sands | 8/15/2011 03:08 pm
    • of course not! the main point is that tears are a strange biology mystery (ScIeNcE)and that they have little to no connection with our actual personalities or deepest feelings. i’d gather you certainly care a lot more about your mom than a real housewife, and don’t let your tears tell you any different!

  6. I hate it (on movies too!) when someone say; “it’s ok, it’ll be alright, don’t cry” No, sometimes it’s _not_ ok, and it won’t be alright, and maybe I/the person on the TV want to cry so I/the person will feel better after!

  7. Im a crier who is married to a non crier. Man or woman isn’t the issue, men cry too…but he doesn’t get it. I’m sensitive but strong. I do more than most girls my age could even imagine: being married, with three kids under the age of 6, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning every room about 10 times a day every day cause the kids destroy the room I just cleaned the moment I walk out, & I stay at home with no breaks. Trust me…I CRY lol, but I don’t take crap from anyone either.
    I wish non criers would understand us criers (& vice versa for that matter), cause non criers sometimes seem cold or heartless & criers seem like big blubbering babies. This hit close to home…thanks for sharing!

  8. I could not agree with this whole article more! I am definitely a crier–happy, sad, exciting, angry–I cry at it all. Anything to do with basically any emotion. You hit the nail on the head with the worst parts: trying to argue or confront someone and not being able to do so without tears, and someone telling you to stop crying. Do you think I’m choosing to cry because it’s a good look for me? NO. I’m an ugly, blotchy, red-faced, drippy crier. I’m upset, and you yelling at me to stop crying will help -100%.

    I’m going to send this to anyone who thinks I cry too much. Thank you!!

  9. “!Cry havoc and let see the flames of heaven! – blue” is your eye color

  10. I definitely am the first to cry. Always. Usually I cry the most when I’m angry, frustrated, and/or stressed out, though. Crying isn’t really a sad activity. It’s more like the easiest way to release it all–and if you have to do that when you’re out of milk, then that’s the time, damnit!

  11. i cry for EVERYTHING too!!!!! but I am BEYOND tough! it’s weird. everyone comes to me for their problems and I can figure anything out and I’m the one that refuses to be upset about being hurt or breaking up and chooses to see everything optimistically, yet I CRY FOR EVERYTHING and what you say here is EXACTLY RIGHT! It doesn’t make me weak that I cry so much, I just have overactive tear ducts! LET ME BE! Don’t judge me and LISTEN!

  12. I am a total crier. What I always try to explain through my ugly blotchy cryingness is that it isn’t a big deal and I tend to end up yelling, “You can’t tell me when I can cry! I can’t help it!” It is embaressing, and annoying but I don’t tell the tears when to come, they just come. People need to learn to accept it, just like your article says. I have made some of the best justice speeches to people I think are being mean or unfair through that ugly cry face. This article makes me feel like I am not such a freak.

  13. I can’t talk to strangers without my eyes tearing up and it is so embarrassing. I cry about everything, if I am mad, nervous or happy…everything! This article made me feel not so bad about it!

  14. I’m a non-crier and there have been lots of times I wish I could just let go and cry my heart out. You’re absolutely right, my mother’s a crier and she’s as tough as they come. She’s just sensitive (especially to conflict) but she cries and deals with it and has managed to keep her head up in pretty tough weather. I think it doesn’t matter if you’re a crier or a non-crier, you’ll get flack for it anyways.. Non-criers are often seen as emotionless..
    It depends on the person.. But in your case it seems your crying is just part of getting over things, no shame in that, it’s healthy :-)

  15. Thank you for this! I’m the girl who can handle a million stressful things at once, without blinking, and then suddenly there won’t be milk or something and I’ll completely break down. I’m starting law school next week and slightly terrified that I’m going to cry in class because I can’t answer a question or something. I should probably send all my professors this article in advance!

  16. I was reading this and ‘Behind these hazel eyes’ came on! I didn’t cry though.. Guess I’m one of those “tough” girls.
    I like that you put in the link to the NYT article, so I didn’t have to google it myself!