Wednesday, February 11, 2015

It is such a secret place, the land of tears. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

I am working on a short story where the protagonist is a person who can't cry in front of others. She saves her tears for when she is alone. This has led me to think about the big questions around crying in general.

What makes you cry?

 I really prefer to think about what makes people laugh but I have watched two movies and a Youtube video and have been brought to tears by all three this week. Hector and The Search for Happiness although a quietly funny movie moved me to tears. A young man singing on one of those contest shows and doing it really well while his little boy and wife watched from the wings--he ran out to his dad at the end-- really got me going. Both of these were "good feeling" tears. 

Are you a private crier or a public crier?

I am a private crier. But I know a few public criers. There are times when these folks frustrate me. The prolific public criers sometimes make me think they are trying to avoid responsibility for themselves so they turn on the tears to stop the rest of us from confronting them with the real issue.
But there are other folks who are genuinely moved by what they see or hear and can tear up in public quite comfortably. Those of us who cry in private can be accused of not showing our feelings enough. I guess we have to find a middle of the road crier to find out how they manage to know when to publicly cry and when to go private. I don't think we get to choose although I have choked back tears a good many times to avoid being a public crier. 

Do you cry more or less the older you get?

I used to cry quite a bit when I think back. Usually when my feelings were hurt. I have almost stopped crying over what others say about me or to me. In my short undocumented research on this topic I found that a lot of people do cry less as they age. There are others who cry as much as they ever did publicly. I don't know for sure about the private criers because of course they cry in private. I am pretty well surrounded by private criers and they tell me they do cry less as they get older.

Do men cry as much or more than women?

There is a theory out there that men cry more as they age and women cry less. I saw a one woman show one time where the actor demonstrated this fact so well I laughed until I cried. I've met some serious male criers in my lifetime. Hockey players, football players and some men who lose their high profile jobs cry in public. There aren't enough women in these positions to know if they would cry too in the same situation. Generally I would say that women still cry more often than men but again a lot of men may cry frequently in private so who would know.

Does real life sadness such as the death of a loved one make you cry?

I have only lost older people in my family so far (thank goodness) so I may not fully understand this question. I continue to have my moments when it hits me that my parents are really gone. But they had long lives and were ready I believe. This makes me less inclined to cry. I see this in many folks around me who have lost their parents in their seventh or eighth decade. A sadness yes but not easily moved to tears. The natural order of things. I cannot imagine nor do I want to, the enormous loss of a child. I believe those that I know who have experienced this are so deeply affected that tears don't do justice to that kind of sorrow. 

Are tears over rated?

My tearing up over the movie Pride where the miners show up to support the Gay and Lesbian community in England during the Margaret Thatcher years was real emotion. I teared up in parts of the movie Hector and his Search for Happiness. One was a true story and the other fiction. Both had moments of real humanity which is what moved me to tears.
But I can feel teary when someone cries over a make-over in their house or a Youtube video showing a father dressing up to take his three year old daughter on a date. Hearing the Last Post gets me every time.

Some facts I found in my crying research that I thought were interesting. 

  • Tears brought about by emotions have a different chemical make-up than those for lubrication; emotional tears contain more of the protein-based hormones prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller) than basal or reflex tears. 
  • An insincere display of grief or dishonest remorse is sometimes called crocodile tears in reference to an Ancient Greek anecdote that crocodiles would pretend to weep while luring or devouring their prey.
What makes you cry? Are you a private or a public crier? Are you happy with the kind of crier you are? 


  1. I think menopause has a lot to do with tears, crying, emotions in general. You know, they call me Granite!

  2. Having trouble leaving comments these days.

  3. I used to be plagued by frustration tears! I don't know if it's a female thing. Amy Poehler talks about it in her book at one point though. All you want to do is hold them in, I've hid in bathrooms as required.