“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” – Charles Dickens
This past Fall, I cried while teaching a class. It was not the first time I have cried while teaching, nor will it be the last. But it was the first time I did not do something. I did not apologize. Isn’t interesting that for SO many of us, the first thing we want to do when we cry is apologize? What do we have to apologize for? What do we have to explain to others via our apologies? I was proud of myself that I did not apologize after crying, for the first time ever.
In this culture, we are emotionally constipated. We are all supposed to be running fast and on automatic pilot. We are supposed to only experience “positive” emotions like being happy or calm. Anger is okay within limits. But crying is something else entirely. If crying is done, it is supposed to be done in private. But says who? Who sent down a decree from the sky stating that crying must never be shown in public? What is so threatening about crying that it must be relegated to the shadows?
While I am proud of that first cry without apology, I can’t say what will happen the next time I cry in person. The training goes deep. For me, it is about the culture as a whole and its desire to shield us from the truth of our emotions, but it is also about the gender socialization that boys or children perceived to be boys go through. Boys. Don’t. Cry. If you’re a boy and you cry that makes you a sissy. What a toxic message we are sending to our boys and to MAAB gender nonconforming children. This training goes deep, and it is criminal. We should never be shut off from our emotions.
Public crying makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to comfort someone. We don’t know what to do. And that is really okay. But what is not okay is telling people directly or subtly that crying in public must not be done. That it must be hidden. That we should go sit in a toilet stall and do it alone rather than do it in front of our fellow humans. And that to be a “real” man one must never cry or ever show emotion.
Crying is release. In a very real way, crying is liberation. There is much in the world to laugh at and be happy about. There is much in the world to cry over and be sad about. From now on, I am going to be thankful for every time that I cry. I am going to endeavor my hardest to not apologize. Crying goes back to when we were infants and will continue until we pass away. Why should we spend one iota of energy trying to shirk what is the most basic of human emotions, indeed of being human itself? Own them tears and be proud!