“Not all tears are an evil”

I was sitting across from a famous man in a cafe, crying my eyes out into a napkin. The famous man slid his hand across the table and got a hold of mine.

“How can I help?” He asked.

“Talk to me, just talk to me,” I said.

The waiter paused with my tea. People marched up and down the sidewalk – some going toward the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and some headed in the opposite direction. The famous man’s hand was warm, mine was cold. My Urban Decay eyeliner was melting away.

“Please don’t cry,” he said.

But I wanted to.

Fragility makes for a strange currency. You really must be careful in how you dole it out. All of the assumptions that people make about an older man in a restaurant – and the younger woman who is with him, and is crying – they may or may not be true, but they can cut deeper than you expect them to. Feminists have endless debates about ZOMG MASCARA. Somehow, I think that crying in public is just a little more loaded than the length of your individual eyelashes.

I don’t feel ashamed when I cry in public – although I used to. It feels too theatrical, and even though I’m technically a playwright these days as well, I don’t buy it. I don’t buy myself when I do it. Not even when there is absolutely nothing at all that can save me in an individual moment. Not even when the choice is – cry, or take the glass of cognac and overturn it on your head. Not even then.

People expect women to be overly emotional, so there is nothing surprising about a woman crying in public. It’s expected of us – like blood and breast milk. It’s the most predictable sight in the world.

It’s only recently that I’ve discovered how much stronger crying makes me. Not because of the response it elicits – the responses are varied, and none are particularly honest – but because of the way it makes me feel.

I’m cleaner after I cry. There’s a clarity in my head that can only come after a purge. It doesn’t matter what the famous man thinks, or what the waiter thinks, or what the people on the sidewalk think – what matters is being able to go on with my day. One boot in front of the other. My burdens feel lighter right then and there. I’ve allowed myself to be weak, and I’m stronger for it – like the wise people who admit that they don’t really know anything.

Maybe I feel this way after I cry because I’m a rather bad liar. And I hate doing anything badly. So “smile while your heart is aching” doesn’t work – I do a crappy job. Bad actress. No sitting in James Cameron’s lap after the awards show.

Doing a crappy job makes me feel crappier.

“Please don’t cry,” the famous man reiterated by the metro. I told him that I would walk him up exactly to the entrance. Just in case anyone decided to sexually harass him.

But I want to, I wanted to say. It’s what I do. There’s only so much that I can afford to care about what anyone else thinks. It’s kind of like making the fact that someone might think that I look like a slut in my new minidress my problem.

Crying in public is not a feminist act. Knowing who you are and not apologizing for it, on the other hand? That’s pretty feminist, I think. I might even get there someday.

“It makes me feel better,” I told the famous man.

“But it doesn’t make me feel better at all.”

Too bad that some things are still my prerogative.

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8 thoughts on ““Not all tears are an evil”

  1. You write beautifully about interesting things, as always. Although I did read this bit possibly wrongly: ‘Just in case anyone decided to sexually harass him. But I want to, I wanted to say. It’s what I do.” Not that there is anything wrong of course in you wanting to sexually harass a famous man…

    congrats on the move to Moscow. Guess this means you got your passport issues sorted.
    Lily

  2. Haha – I just had two thoughts run into each other (which happens often!)

    One of these days, we need to get together for another beer, L.
    :)

  3. “I’m cleaner after I cry. There’s a clarity in my head that can only come after a purge. It doesn’t matter what the famous man thinks, or what the waiter thinks, or what the people on the sidewalk think – what matters is being able to go on with my day. One boot in front of the other. My burdens feel lighter right then and there. I’ve allowed myself to be weak, and I’m stronger for it – like the wise people who admit that they don’t really know anything.

    Maybe I feel this way after I cry because I’m a rather bad liar. And I hate doing anything badly. ”

    The above makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I think you’ve just help me figure out why I cry so much for a “tough” woman. Thanks.

  4. I’ve always envied women who can cry in public and get a warm hand to hold, or at least get ignored. It doesn’t work that way for me. The last time I cried in public was just over a year ago, and the time before, about 7 years before that. People ran. They looked as if I were holding a huge weapon. Maybe it’s because the things I can’t bite back on are also infuriating, and usually include some kind of earth-shattering betrayal of basic human or professional dignity. So my crying is accompanied by cussing and pounding on or breakage of some inanimate object. Funny how people perceive a woman whose wrath probably could protect a man from sexual harassment.

    For me, the rule of thumb is: When we cry to people about our problems, half the people we cry to don’t care. The other half are glad we’re crying.

    It’s nice to see that the rule of thumb that keeps me so stoic&angry isn’t necessarily true all around. And Nat, it’s nice to see that you’re feeling better.

  5. Depends on your friendships, really. And just how much you allow yourself to spin out in public. I have a fairly mild personality in general (as should be evidence by my many ANGREE blog posts – that’s where the anger goes!), and so it goes.

  6. That must be it. People tell me that I come across as really intense face to face, anyway. Happy looks horny, sleepy looks drunk, and mildly annoyed looks psychotic. Forget about losing it–which, like I said, only happens about 2x/decade.

    On-line, nobody cares to comment about how I look like this over-the-top aging pop star or that lady wrestler, which I think is the real bias behind people’s interpretations of my emotional states. I like chatting on these blogs because people will usually evaluate and respond to my words based on their merit or stupidity alone (the words, I mean). I’m perceived as LESS intense on-line, I guess. That works for me.

    I like the mix of themes & commenters (not all–but most of the commenters) on your blog, btw. It’s a nice place to chat.

  7. This. So much this. It just could be me in another country at another time. Same Urban Decay eyeliner (probably another sparkly color), different country’s monuments…but that same clean feeling and ability to go on with my day afterward. Yes. This.

  8. Great post… I have been thinking a lot about the real value of being comfortable with being an emotional being, and the potential negative side-effects of “holding it in.” This comes from many criticisms– by men– for my propensity to be emotionally affected by something to the extent that I cry.

    I saw an episode of News Radio last night that showed the secretary (I don’t remember character names well, sorry) using tears to get “her way” in negotiations. The men she was negotiating with were immediately moved by her tears and did exactly what she wanted so that she would stop crying. While she was intentionally crying to get what she wanted, I couldn’t help but notice that crying in front of men never works the way the show’s writers felt it did. When I cry in front of my husband, his reaction is not immediate sympathy, but more confusion and annoyance. He doesn’t understand that emotional reaction, and treats it like an obstacle to our mutual understanding and the resolution of the problem we’re having. It’s frustrating to have my emotions invalidated. While my emotions may not be an expression of pure rationality, they are as real as any emotions any man has and certainly worthy of consideration and sympathetic reactions. While humans are rational beings, ignoring our emotional realities is not intellectually honest or productive in any capacity.

    Thanks for making the case for healthy emotional displays.

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