This I Believe

Christine - Briarcliff Manor, New York
Entered on June 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

We are taught that crying is the ultimate evil. Members of our society regularly regurgitate sayings like “big girls don’t cry!” and “there’s no crying in baseball!” all because we respect those who keep their emotions in check. To cry is to be weak, to be weak is to be shamed, and to be shamed is to be shunned by those we love. Crying warrants awkward glances and half-hearted pats on the back and the soothing words of those who, despite their best efforts, cannot say the right thing.

I, for one, am a black belt in the art of crying. An Olympic medal holder, grand prize winner; I am a bona-fide crier. As an infant, I’d amaze passersby with how well-behaved I was; crying was a rarity for me. Somewhere along the line, though, something must have snapped. Perhaps the padlock broke on the floodgates behind my eyes, making me a human geyser ready to explode at a moment’s notice. I like to think that with all of that lost time as a baby I have now been working double time to empty my supply. When I’m disappointed in myself, when the people around me unite, when the old man makes up with his children at the end of Home Alone, I cry. And in the end, I can accept shedding a few tears every now and then. In fact, when my teenage angst shoots off the chart, I look forward to a good, hearty cry. In public, when thoughts cloud my head, particularly bad thoughts, my brain becomes jumbled. My breathing stifles. Everything slows down. I try to make sense of it all, but I fail. Next thing I know, my face, stained by tears, is swollen with the shame of sensitivity. I must wear my scarlet cheeks as a badge of dishonor, a fiery “A” for all to see and judge.

But why? Why does crying negate the qualities of inner strength an individual holds? Being stoic is in no way synonymous with being perfect. Not acknowledging my fears, anxieties, and flaws does not make them disappear; in fact, it tends to make them multiply. Through crying, I can let go of such worries and begin to move past them. And what are we if not a constantly evolving species? Certainly, that is nothing to be ashamed of, no matter how runny my mascara gets.