“Have a Good Cry.”

The first time I heard the phrase was when I was 14, visiting my older brother at college. His girlfriend at the time (who was about 22 years old) was making plans with her bestie to put on sweatpants, watch a sad movie, eat ice cream, and “have a good cry.” I was very confused. Why would anyone want to make themselves cry? Wait wait, is crying a good thing? I thought it was just for little kids? And what does it have to do with sweatpants and ice cream!?!?

I felt like these were deep mysteries of the Secret Society of Womanhood-ness, into which I had not yet been inducted.

Years later, I now understand all too well the concept of making time to schedule having a good cry, and the concept of crying as a leisure activity. What I didn’t understand as a 14 year old was that our reasons for crying change, expand and become more complex as we age. Ad Vingerhoets, a Dutch psyschologist and leader in the field of crying research, puts it this way on his really cool website about his work:

“…whereas [with crying] physical pain and hurt is important for children and even adolescents, for adults and the elderly they are less relevant. On the other hand, when we grow older, we come to cry more often for the suffering of others (empathy, compassion) and for “positive” reasons.”

The older we get, the more life experience and understanding we have of the world, the more empathy and compassion we accrue, and the more “positive” reasons we experience that move us–such as weddings, births, and other profound moments like when you are hiking in Grand Canyon by yourself and it’s so fucking majestic and then it starts to snow and there’s a raven swooping by on the wind and WTF it’s too much you can’t help but blubber.

But then, while we have more and more reasons to cry as we age, we often feel we have less and less permission to cry–for introductions to this topic check out my other blog posts here and here. So for those of us who are very sensitive and emotional people, creating space for crying as a leisure activity can be a really helpful way to blow off some emotional steam that’s been building up as we repress outward signs of emotion in our lives every day.

Are you looking for an emotional outlet and to have a good cry? Here’s a handy-dandy Buzzfeed list of 56 Movies Guaranteed To Make You Ugly Cry that I link to on my resources page. Go ahead. Slip on those sweatpants, grab a box of tissues, and knock yourself out.

I have found, however, that I have moved through the stage of needing to spend my leisure time manufacturing reasons to cry, into a new era where there are eleventy million things to cry about a day, and so I’m like “Enough! No sad movies! I just want a break from crying.”

These days I often seek movies that are ridiculous and that I know will not pull at my heartstrings nor inspire any sort or emotion, because sometimes I just need a holiday from feeling EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME…which is how I ended up seeing Why Him? in a movie theater a couple weeks ago rather than watching Rogue One for a second time with my dad and husband. Yes, Rogue One is by every metric a better movie and definitely worth a second viewing, but I knew from experience it was full of feels, and I just wanted to be full of sweet sweet oblivion, and a ticket to a stupid Rom-Com is cheaper and less dangerous than prescription opiates. MOVIES NOT DRUGS!!

And luckily, whether you are in need of a good cry or a good vacation from any sort of complex emotion altogether, you can go ahead and get your fix. The movie business has got your back.

Until next time,

The Cry Babe

Kinds of Cry

What are some reasons a person might cry?*

*…okay by “a person” I mean me, and by “might” I mean “an exhaustive list of reasons I already have…today.”

Let’s be honest. Not all cries are equal. Crying because you got fired feels very different than crying because you’ve been dumped, feels very different still from crying (sobbing) because you’re on your period and you’re wearing a maxi dress and your husband wants to go for a walk but the shoes you’re wearing look stupid with your dress and you think you look like a Peanuts character. (That 3rd one is universal, right? Just me? Okay.) So in my quest to examine and normalize crying, I thought that a good place to start would be to list the different reasons there are for crying. In generating the list I noticed some things. Meet me at the bottom to hear more about that.

  • Shame
  • Grief
  • Heartbreak
  • Physical Pain
  • Surprise
  • Vulnerability
  • Sadness (see also: Grief and Loss)
  • Happiness
  • Laughter
  • Loss (see also: Grief)
  • Beauty
  • Humility
  • Hormonal cry
  • Sex: Pain (see also: Physical Pain)
  • Sex: Orgasm (see also: Vulnerability, Surprise, Release, and Awe/Overwhelm)
  • Confusion (see also: Shame)
  • Embarrassment (see also: Shame)
  • Art (see also: Awe/Overwhelm, Beauty, Surprise, Vulnerability, Nostalgia)
  • Frustration
  • Disappointment
  • Exhaustion
  • Empathy (see also: everything else on this list)
  • Hunger
  • Anger
  • Betrayal
  • Jealousy (see also: Shame)
  • Anxiety
  • Hang Over (see also: Physical Pain and Hunger)
  • Release
  • Relief
  • You Hear a Song (see also: Art)
  • Awe/Overwhelm
  • Nostalgia (see also: Grief, Loss, and Heartbreak)
  • Injustice (see also: Anger, Frustration, Disappointment, and Empathy)
  • Loss of Control (see also: Fear and Shame)
  • Cutting an onion
  • Dust in your eyes
  • Hayfever
  • Because something is SO FLUFFEH
  • I don’t know, I just am!
  • Because you’re still asking me this question (*quiet sobs*) (see also: Frustration)

Okay. That was a long list, and I’m sure there are things that I left out. Now on to some of the things I noticed.

Looking at this list I am struck by 1. How long it is, and 2. That emotions that are seemingly opposite are nevertheless both on the same list. For example, Sadness and Happiness. Anxiety and Relief. Disappointment and Benedict Cumberbatch (okay, so that last one isn’t on the list, but is definitely the opposite of Disappointment.). That tells me that I can cry for lots of different reasons, and that those reasons can be seemingly contradictory.

As I was listing these reasons, I also noticed that to me, many of them seemed to be related, or even to be sub-sets of one another (hence the “see also”s after some of the reasons.) This tells me that a reason I am crying often isn’t one single reason, but rather a combination of many, inter-connected reasons.

And something that surprised me about writing this list was that it brought up a big question: All of these reasons make me cry. So what is it like to feel these things for someone who doesn’t cry? That’s something I’m excited to explore in future posts.

Until next time,

The Cry Babe