It was a Sunday, and I cried. Because somehow Sunday tears – tears shed inside the house, out of public view – felt justifiable. On Monday morning they just felt weak.
So for the next five working days, I fought them. I went to war with my tear ducts, furious when I felt my eyes involuntarily glazing over, biting my lip to hide its wobble, swallowing down the sticky tightness in my throat.
On the outside, I was composed. On the inside, I was a broken cup held together with Sellotape that had lost its stick. It was only a matter of time before I naturally crumbled.
I fell apart in one of those posh clothing boutiques that make you feel self-conscious just peering through the window. I went in for a distraction, and somewhere near the cashmere sweaters I howled. My upper body collapsed down to my waist, my eyes – celebrating their freedom – poured, tap-like. I sobbed, audibly and unashamedly.
And it felt good.
Instead of feeling embarrassed, I felt unburdened. It was the emotional equivalent of dumping heavy bags of supermarket shopping on the floor after they’ve started cutting into your hands. I wish I’d allowed myself to put those bags down days earlier: to admit that they were too heavy for me.
I was reminded of this incident earlier this month when I read the results of a study on crying by Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Looking at over 5000 people from 37 countries, researchers found that women cry between 30 and 64 times a year, compared to six to 17 times for men.
The results seemed fair, if maybe a little high, but many of the headlines reporting the story implied the same thing: that crying is bad, and women are weaker for doing more of it.
This whole idea seemed so wrong – yet it was the very view that I’d once had, and that much of society still has. But surely its time we had crying’s back?
“I believe that crying is the flipside of laughing and if it were treated as such the world would be an easier place to navigate emotionally,” admits psychologist Jacqui Manning.