Showing unbridled emotion has something of a bad rap. We generally look down on people who scream at strangers in the subway, or follow a new crush around with a bouquet of roses proclaiming their undying love and negative test results, or respond with “More than a little constipated, and pretty unhappy about it” to the question “How are you?” And to be fair, we need something of a social order about how we display our feelings in order to prevent human interaction from devolving into guttural yells and hurling feces at one another. But there are some acts of raw emotion that should be a little more tolerated, and none more so than a good, old-fashioned cry.
What is so wrong with crying? Is it because it’s considered “girly?” Oh, “girly,” the one adjective — aside from perhaps “murderous” or “smelly” — that can immediately turn any activity into something that you don’t want anyone else to see you doing. Crying means that we’re weak, that we don’t know how to handle ourselves, that we’re the emotional equivalent of a five-year-old, crumbling at the first sight of a traffic jam or being passed over for a promotion. It means that there’s something wrong with us if we cry too much. But why?
Is it because we still associate it with the scraped knees and candy-aisle tantrums of our childhood? Is it because some of our more unpleasant moments in life are often coupled with a few wailing sobs and, if you’re a fan of makeup, viscous black liquid pouring down from your eyes like something out of a B horror movie? Maybe. But does that mean that every cry, no matter the circumstance, is automatically bad? That each time we shed a tear — of profound joy, profound loss, or because we can’t reach our finger far enough into the jar to get the last few dregs of Nutella — means we’re enormous losers? The answer is that it doesn’t. Crying is awesome, and we all secretly know it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be perfectly frank: I love crying. Sometimes, I feel like a good cry, and I just get all hopped up on Ailee and heartwarming puppy rescue videos on YouTube and have a nice sob for a half hour or so. It almost feels like a workout, in that afterword, you feel notably lighter, refreshed, and even pleasantly delirious. It feels like something has been released, and whatever catharsis was provided by those wrenching Sarah Mclachlan commercials has been transmuted into the relief you needed from the real problems in your life — the ones you are often not really allowed to talk about.
And if you think about it, there are always things that we’re bottling up. Fighting with a friend? Things not going so well at work? Recently dumped? Jealous of everything you see your acquaintances achieving? We could all use a little release valve that allows us to get it all out and return to a more-or-less human state at the end of the day. I think we’d all be genuinely happier during the rest of our time if we could dedicate just a few minutes every so often to having a good cry. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about having emotions, and we certainly shouldn’t feel shame about expressing them every now and again. Who does it hurt if we’re curled up in our bed, weeping about how “He’s overcome so many obstacles” as we watch a particularly touching backstory on American Idol? The answer is no one.
Crying is something that we all need to do from time to time to get out all of the various thoughts and feelings that we are expected, as members of civilized society, to keep in the deepest recesses of our heart space and never bother anyone else with. Crying — whether by yourself, or with someone else — is the moment that you can take to feel fully you, honest with yourself about what it is you’re really feeling. You can shed all those pains like some kind of a spiritual raw food cleanse and come out the other side feeling like you’ve just removed some enormous weight from your shoulders.
We should all be so lucky to have some crying time every now and again, and we should extoll it as the fabulous exercise that it is. Crying is right up there with orgasms and warm chocolate chip cookies — a moment that makes you feel better, and reminds you that you are human.