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That curious watery build-up on your eyeballs

August 24, 2013

Let’s talk, man-to-man. Even if you don’t consider yourself a man, just hunch your shoulders a bit and say “Ug”, so we can talk man-to-man anyway. Or as close as I’m ever going to come to talking man-to-man. It conjures up bad images of being squared up to by someone very hairy with a crinkling brow of fury.

Listen, crying is nothing to be afraid of. I’ve seen you all, patting each other awkwardly on the arm or head and saying things like “Don’t cry”. I understand; you want to do something, but it’s not clear what you should do, so you don’t really do anything, just sort of act like you are and hope they’ll fall for it, or something.

But that’s just it – most of the time you’re not really supposed to do anything. There very rarely is anything you can do, since often times whatever it was causing the tears is in the past and they’re just letting off steam. It is true that women cry more than men, but it’s only a physical expression of emotion. Think of it as a more watery version of a frown or a glare. We know how to do those, don’t we? Grunt, grunt, grunt.

Tears come more easily to females because of some physiological curiosity I can’t explain, but they don’t really get more upset than males. I can attest to the fact that it is physically more difficult for males to cry, just like it is to scream, or sing in a high pitched voice – not that this is usually an expression of emotion, but to each their own. Instead, building things up, keeping it down, snapping and acting aggressively to inanimate objects might take crying’s place for those less able to do so. Most of my computer breakages can be attributed to this.

Not to say that men don’t cry, of course we do, but it’s generally not as wet. Think Daniel Radcliffe’s attempt in  Prisoner of Azkaban. For me, it’s more like the grizzling of a baby –  and then it stops, short, like my face just put the breaks on. It’s a good job I’m not an actor, that would be a sight to see. It’s certainly a mistake to say men who don’t cry are purposefully holding back. I don’t know the meaning of the term; I flail my arms and yell all over the shop when I get upset. But when I cry, it’s over almost before it’s even started. Such is the way of the world.

If you aren’t that familiar with crying, you won’t see it as being an alternative expression of the same emotion. True, crying can sometimes go on for unnerving periods of time, until you’re sure that person ought to have dried up like an old prune. You’d be excused for thinking there was something seriously wrong; the mistake here is to think that, if you are not crying or else showing outward signs of emotion, you are OK. In fact, emotions hover around annoyingly sometimes for days, and a straight forward physical outlet for it can be just what is needed. It is the less intimidating, less destructive version of putting your fist through a wall.

The similarity here is that crying is not just an expression of sadness, but rather all manner of feelings. Some negative but not strong (irritation), some strong but not negative (relief), and some not even emotion based but rather physical; a friend of mine once got a bit too tired after a long walk and just burst into tears. I had been with her and was sulking and grouchy, because I was also tired, and that state lasted a lot longer than her crying. I wish I had simply cried, it would have been over a lot sooner. Nothing that a kip and a wank didn’t sort out, but still.

Coming back to responses to crying, you might know someone who cries when they get into a fight. First thing you have to know is, that’s really annoying for the  person crying. I used to do it. It feels so insipid when you’re trying to express anger and frustration and let someone know how out of order they’ve been and all you can do is cry. Now, that’s gone, and instead I get into arguments which escalate where they would once have dissipated. Tears incite a guilt response, diffuse a situation and help lay the foundations for reconciliation. Anger doesn’t do this. Thinking about it, if I could choose which guttural emotional response I would have, crying, while embarrassing, would probably be more useful.

Whether there’s something very wrong or whether there isn’t, certainly saying “don’t cry” will not help. Crying is a release and needs doing sometimes, like bleeding the radiator. Because we know how to do that too, don’t we? *Spits in a manly fashion*. Also, emotions are naughty things that don’t respond to commands. Have you ever noticed that when you tell someone to calm down, their reaction is sometimes to start throwing large objects directly at your head? Unless there’s some misunderstanding of definition, I’d say they were not calming down.

You can’t escape tears. You can make the mistake of thinking all female tears are caused by periods, then take off and go live in your car for a week out of every month – if you’d rather catch hypothermia than risk seeing a bit of salty eye water. But that won’t sort it. Actually, you’d be surprised how effective completely ignoring it can be. Most of the time, the tears will go away and never be mentioned again. First though, you should set it up so that that person knows they can talk to you about it if they want to. No one’s a mind reader, no one knows if it really is about the low-energy light bulb (my mum’s mini-breakdown) coupled with exhaustion etc, or if there’s something bigger going on.

It might sound callous to just ignore tears but it isn’t, as long as you’re being pleasant and not impatient. Sometimes, that’s what you’re supposed to do. After all, to what extent can one have a lengthily heart-to-heart (a bit like a man-to-man, only with softer shoulder-slapping) about a curious tendency to leak like an old teapot at inopportune moments?

In this society, we always want there to be a “reason” for something, and though of course there’s always a reason, it may too or even understand. What’s important is not whether it’s logical, because you can’t logic emotions away. They’re just there. If you’ve never known what it’s like to be frustrated by the insipidity of your own emotional responses, by god are you a lucky one.

Sometimes, a hug can do the trick, and they’re easy; like a wrestle, but with fewer people ending up on the floor complaining of a bruised coccyx. If in need, your average person  will rarely turn down a hug from someone they are fond of (particularly women, who are either naturally more tactile or simply less inhibited in this respect), so it’s usually a safe option, particularly if there are issues afoot.  Alas however, I dare say if you wandered up to Sandra at work and draped yourself over her for 20 minutes without a word of explanation, she might be somewhat alarmed.

Often, all anyone wants is for someone to be there, maybe to vent at or maybe not. You don’t need to do anything; indeed, you can be quite the most useless person on the planet (I should know) as long as you are there – literally, there, in the room at the time, sitting on your arse, not thinking about anything even remotely related to the situation. Which, if you were home alone, you probably would have done anyway.

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From → Gender Politics

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