Sunday, October 02, 2011

Thoughts on crying in public

A week and a half ago, Ferris and I lost his battle with whatever was wrong with him. I tried everything reasonable, and in the end I had to say goodbye. This is the second time I've had to make that decision for a beloved pet, and it probably won't be the last. I cried almost from the minute I walked in the vet for our last visit all the way out the door, and home. And I remembered the day of my Grandma's funeral, when I did the same thing. I've noticed that public crying makes other people uncomfortable, and I used to try to control my crying, rein it in, in order to NOT make others uncomfortable. Somewhere along the way I said to myself: fuck it. I am sad, I am crying, and other people's fee-fees are really not my problem. So I let 'em flow. I never cry at work if I can possibly help it, but otherwise, I refuse to keep a lid on it for the sake of polite conformity. A cousin looked at me at Grandma's funeral and said, "We're going to have to get you alright." And I thought: why? What does it mean to you if I'm sitting here crying? Let me be. Just let me be.

I've been thinking about why I felt for so long that crying in public was shameful, embarrassing, to be avoided at all costs. I know that it's considered a sign of weakness in our culture - *girls* are crybabies, and "boys don't cry." Crying is a sign, particularly, of feminine weakness, and boys the world over are punished for crying. [Example: a guy I used to date who was beaten regularly by his dad from about age 8 to age 14 stopped getting beatings when he stopped crying and started getting angry. No lie. The guy is almost totally incapable of expressing his emotions or even knowing what they are or really feeling empathy. His dad beat it out of him. Literally.]

I then remembered my personal grammar school bully, let's call him Donny Anderson, because that was his name. He sat right behind me in the third grade. I was the new kid, I'd just skipped a grade, and I was nearly 2 years younger than everybody in class. I was 6, they were 7 and 8 years old. Donny was way bigger and taller than me. I don't remember why he made me cry the first time, but as soon as he realized he could bully me into crying, he did it as often as possible. He'd sit behind me and whisper mean things to me, and I'd tear up. Or he'd pull my hair so hard that I would involuntarily get tears in my eyes. Then he'd make fun of me for crying. He'd start making submarine sounds: "Whoop, whoop, it's gonna flood, get in the submarine!" Eventually I learned to not cry when he was being an asshole, and if I gave him a dirty look, he'd start with the 'whoop, whoop' submarine noises and talking about how I was crying, and then I'd get mad at him because I fucking well WASN'T crying, but he was pretending like I was. It was just infuriating. Truly, if I saw that guy right now, I'd punch him in the face. He tormented me for three long years. I spent an entire year with skinned knees because every time I walked past the kickball game, where he was usually pitching, he'd throw the fucking ball at me and knock me down. I had to walk past it to get to the water fountain, and eventually found a different route, but he found new and shitty ways to torment me. Seriously. I would walk up to him right now and punch him in the face if I could.

But wait. Let me get to the point: it was Donny Fucking Anderson that made fun of me crying, after he'd MADE me cry by being an asshole. It was right there, age 6, that I learned from a boy that girls were big crybabies, and weak, and that was a bad thing. I was tagged as a crybaby the whole three years I was at that school because of that asshole. And where did he learn it? At home, no doubt. One hopes he grew out of it, but what are the odds? We live in a culture where crying is shameful.

I'm not sure when or why or how I decided that I would fucking well cry in public if I need to, maybe it was when my Grandma died and there was no holding back the flow, or maybe before that, but now I cry when I need to. I don't let other people determine my behavior. I will cry at the vet, I will cry at funerals, and I will cry driving down the road. I will not hide my "weakness" - by which, I think, people mean my "emotions" - for the convenience of others. I hate this idea that having emotions, and showing them, is weak and feminine.

I also hate it when someone says or does something that makes me cry, and then blames ME for being "hypersensitive." Suddenly it's MY fault that I'm crying, not theirs. It's also infuriating. You want to see me turn into a howler monkey? Call crying "emotional blackmail," implying that the crying is just fakery, designed to manipulate. Or laugh at me when I'm crying. The emotionally abusive ex used to do both of those things. I honestly have never been so angry in my life as I was when he'd hurt my feelings so much I cried, and then he'd laugh because he thought I was "over-reacting." No, I was REACTING. Accusing me of dishonesty - of crying to manipulate - is the meanest thing someone can accuse me of. I have a lot of faults, but I am not a liar, and I am not a hypocrite. My mother used to accuse me of being hypersensitive, too. I think this is a way for people who have done hurtful things to disavow their responsibility for their meanness. They shift the blame to the victim. Hm, that sounds familiar: I get hurt, I cry, it's MY fault for responding to it. No bully has ever been really stopped by the stupid advice to "just ignore him" and "don't respond." They just raise their game, get meaner and meaner, in my experience. I left two schools in six years because of bullying. In junior high, it was girls. Kelly Revercomb and Julie Roseman, I hope you are googling yourselves and find this post. I hope Donny does too. All three of them were hateful little shitheads, bullies, and I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire. Truly.

So I learned as a kid to try to hide my emotions, to not express them, but now, as an adult, I say to hell with that. If my emotions make you uncomfortable, that's YOUR problem, not mine. Bottling up emotions makes you sick. Makes ME sick. And I won't do it, not for anybody. So if you see somebody crying in public, don't think of them as weak. Think that they have finally decided they do not give a shit what you think about their emotions, because, really, it's none of your business. It's my business. I'm reclaiming crying in public. I HAVE reclaimed it.


roughseasinthemed said...

Good post Jez. Not something I'd particularly thought about but you are totally right.

Hugs about Ferris too. It's never easy and the death of a companion animal is something I always cry about.

Sarah said...

I cried buckets at the vet when my kitty died, I do think it's expected at places of medicine, and anyone who'd look askance at you ought to be slapped by a level-headed bystander.

Good for you for crying when you need to. I do try not to cry at work, but of course the reason we all try not to do that is because it's seen as "unprofessional" which is just plain silly, especially in the US where people oftentimes cannot take the proper amount of bereavement time they need - there is nothing "unprofessional" about mourning loss.

minniethemoocha said...

This post kicks ass.

Jezebella said...

Thanks, Minnie.

DaisyDeadhead said...

When you get older, they let you cry. Like, older than 50.

I think people assume its something important, maybe a cancer diagnosis. When in fact, I entered a store last week after having cried over a John Denver song in my car.


Screw everybody who is afraid of real emotions. They are trying to turn us all into androids.

Good for you!