I used to cry whenever someone would say something to me that was harsh or unkind. A girl on the playground would criticize my dress or my cartwheel and I would burst into tears. Then I would listen to her laugh while she stood with a group of girls, all wearing the same color hair ribbons and she would say "She's such a crybaby." Girls are so cruel to each other. You couldn't pay me enough money to go back and do that part of my life all over again. It never eased up either. All through elementary school, middle school and high school, there was always that group of girls who went out of their way to be judgmental and cruel. I remember in high school, just after breaking up with a boy I wasn't really into, overhearing Katie Hanniford say "I don't know why she would break up with him. It's not like she's ever going to get another boyfriend." It wouldn't have stung if I hadn't thought that Katie was a friend.
For the Record: I'm sure I said my fair share of cruel words as well. I regret every single hateful thing that came out of my mouth. I am sincerely, truly sorry if I said those things to you. You deserved and deserve to be treated better.
By this time, my outsides resembled a hard bouncy ball and those snide, snarky comments just bounced off. What did I care any way? I was too busy plotting my escape from that town to give a thought to boyfriends or mean girls or friends who really turned out to not be friends. The crybaby phase did not last long. I learned pretty quick how to shut off the main valve to the waterworks of my eyeballs. Tears only showed up in cases of pain (like the time I broke my arm on the playground and had to sit in the main office for four hours waiting on a parent to come get me) or deep sorrow (like the time my favorite 4-H extension agent got a brain tumor and died). Getting the inside part of my ear pierced hurt so bad that I wanted to jump off the table screaming, but I did not cry. Not crying became part a rule. First, you never let them see you sweat. Then, you never let them see you cry.
Do you even remember those deodorant commercials? "And never let them see you sweat!" Women were supposed to take care of the kids, the house work, have a career and stay fit. Like really fit. Like look good in a leotard and leg warmers fit. You're supposed to do ALL of that without breaking a sweat. Or burping. Or farting. Crying is the ultimate weakness. We're expected to cry but we should be ashamed of it. "Whut? You gonna cry like a girl?" is a line they teach all of the bullies. Only sissy babies cry. Thanks to that stigma of weakness, we've been forced to sequester our crying jags to while we're alone in the shower or sitting alone in our cars at the grocery store parking lot. Sometimes while shoving Oreo cookies in our mouths. We must be exhausted from always putting on the 'brave face'.
If I start crying in public it means I have lost all kinds of control. And THAT is unacceptable. The problem is that main valve I shut off so many years ago has gotten worn out and in the process has sprung a leak. The threat of losing control hangs over my head like a guillotine. One time I walked into the women's bathroom to find a coworker crying. We were both so awkward neither one of us knew what to do. It was like I had might as well have caught her smoking in the bathroom. It took a minute, but I came to my senses and reached out and hugged her to give her some kind of comfort. She didn't need me to tell her that everything was going to be okay. She didn't need to explain herself to me. I had already used that bathroom for a crying space so many times. I didn't need an explanation. Instead, I told her this was a good place for crying. It’s like we just don’t know how to even handle seeing someone crying let alone allow another to see you cry.
The thing is, we've been taught that showing any emotion other than happiness is in some way wrong, weak, or just generally unacceptable. It makes people uncomfortable to see you sad or even just indifferent. You're sitting on a park bench minding your own business or walking down the sidewalk when you hear someone say "Smile, sweetie!" You can't let your face rest for a second.
Every time you smile, it's a fake. Stop pretending...
I sweat. People have seen it. I don't care. I cry. People have seen that too. I'm trying not to care.