crying woman

I Miss Being Young and Dead Inside

Family Featured
crying woman
Image courtesy of The British Museum

Lately, I cry all the time, for every emotion.

Everything: sadness, anger, frustration, joy, when something is funny, when I really like something. I was one of the women who wept through the battle scenes in Wonder Woman, but you probably shouldn’t draw any conclusions from that: I also cried through the Star Wars crawl, and through all the funny parts in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Once I even cried watching a YouTube video of the “March of the Elephants” in Disney’s original The Jungle Book. I don’t know what that was all about.

The worst thing is, I don’t like crying. Tears make me uncomfortable. When I was a kid, and my mother constantly cried, I would do one of two things: a) leave the room, or b) be a little jerk about it. “Why are you crying?” I’d demand, and through tears, she’d tell me she didn’t know.

“Well, I’m never going to be like that,” I told her and myself. And I wasn’t. I spent years—my tweens, my teens and most of my 20s—not crying. I couldn’t cry most of the time. Not even at family funerals; I’d be standing next to my parents, looking down at my shoes, trying to will tears from my eyes.

Man, I miss being young and dead inside. My first reaction to the world back then wasn’t tears but anger. I miss that. I miss it like I miss smoking cigarettes and drinking four gin and tonics on a weeknight. But my 30s arrived, and the tear duct gods came to collect. I started crying for reasons that didn’t make any sense to me. I lost my mind when I saw Up and I was so mad about it but I couldn’t stop crying. I listened to a song I’d loved as a kid and I teared up. I made myself listen to it three more times, thinking I could just get over it. Didn’t work. It was like revenge for having been a jerk to my mom, but I assumed it was some phase. Something in my life was eating at me. Eventually, it would stop, and so would the tears.

OH NO. Not the case. When I had my son, the tears got so, so much worse. Once, when I was pregnant, I sobbed during a Brian Setzer Christmas song because it was, and I quote, “so beautiful.” I knew that was a stupid thing to say at the time, and it just made me cry harder. Hormones do weird things to a person. And they never really calmed down after he was born.

Now I cry often, at random things. It took me a month to be able to get through The Little Engine That Could at bedtime without completely losing it during the “I think I can” part. I worry that if I watch a Disney movie I like too much, I will go full Niobe all over the family room.

A lot of it does seem to be related to parenthood. I don’t know if it’s the experience of loving another human being that much, being responsible for that human’s survival, hormones, or the endurance test that is parenting. But I cry I lot, and it’s annoying. It disrupts things, like work, life, being taken seriously, and my eye makeup.

No wonder my hands are so dry all the time. I weep like a woman in a Victorian gothic novel. I’m constantly leaking water from my eyes; I am basically eye incontinent. By the time I’m old, I’ll just be a shriveled husk. We will have to install a salt-lick in the house so I can replace all the saline I’m losing from my face.

There are some articles online about how some people cry more easily as they age and how it’s healthy to cry more—it improves our mood and decreases stress. There’s also a theory that we become more emotionally complex as we age. I kind of buy that.

For me personally, though, I have a theory. I think I may have switched my reaction to the world from barely repressed rage to tears. I used to resent the world and lash out if I felt threatened. That seems like a cool thing to do when you’re a kid; hit the bad guys, hulk out. But life is so much more complex than comics, and we’re threatened by things that can’t be hulk-smashed, or if they can, they’re not necessarily villains. (And even if they are villains, lashing out doesn’t always solve the problem.) Once I stopped responding with anger first, the tears rushed in. And that’s probably a lot healthier now that I’m a mom; I wouldn’t want to respond to everything with anger first with a little kid. So tears it is. And yes, it’s probably healthy, even if it embarrasses me regularly.

But I miss being cool and dry-eyed and diamond hard sometimes. I miss that like I miss wearing my pleather pants from 1999. But I’m probably never going to fit into those pleathers again, and I’m probably not going to stop crying until I’m a dehydrated crone who has just run out of tears.

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