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.