Two weeks ago, La Guardia airport's terminal D was the equivalent of Apocalypse Now, with D standing for Doom, Delays and Deficient A/C. I was trying to fly back to my hometown for a mini-vacation to no avail, with Tropical Storm Arthur being all sassy-like, moving up the East Coast like he owned it and canceling flight after flight. My number of failed standby attempts was matched only by the number of overpriced dirty martinis I drank in the terminal bar (that would be five). The last cancellation, on day two, hour thirty-one, resulted in what can only be described as a complete and utter meltdown on the questionably colored floor of La Guardia with more than a couple of passersby giving me the side eye.
At the time I couldn't have given two rat's behinds about what people were thinking of me. All I cared about was whether or not I could convince Delta to let me fold up inside an overheard compartment because please, for the love of all that is good in this world, I just wanted to go home. But afterwards, I began to think about all the other people I had seen reacting in a similar weepy fashion and how most them were women.
Crying in and of itself has been at the center of many social, psychological and neuroscientific discussions, with studies consistently supporting the same conclusion: women cry more than men. Dr. Lauren Bylsma of the University of Pittsburg found that, on average, women cry 5.3 times a month while men cry 1.3 times. Her research also suggested that, "crying was more likely to make people feel better when they had emotional support, if they were crying due to a positive event, or if their crying led to a resolution or new understanding of the situation that led them to cry in the first place. Criers felt worse if they felt embarrassed or ashamed of crying, if they were with unsupportive people or if they cried because they saw suffering."
As someone who tears up most frequently when frustrated or angry, I can relate to feeling embarrassed. I loathe that my watery eyes can be misconstrued as weakness or agitation when really I just want to scream or argue. Perhaps I have unwillingly succumbed to the differences in gender socialization, meaning that I subconsciously know it is less acceptable for me to get visibly angry or yell than it is for men, and therefore my bubbling emotions have nowhere else to go except out my eyeballs.
In New York especially, as with other cities around the country, the lack of personal and private space makes crying in public almost inevitable. Our grief, distress, fear, frustration and desperation is on display for everyone to see at all times, unless you're lucky enough to score an affordable one-bedroom, and resisting these public displays can often do more harm than good. Bottled-up emotions, in my experience, typically burst onto the scene in the most inappropriate or embarrassing way possible, so a good cry session, location be damned, doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
It is completely understandable that seeing someone you know, or even a complete stranger, bawl in front of you can be a bit unnerving. Regardless, I don't think there should be such a stigma attached to the act. Sometimes you just gotta let it out man! I've talked with several of my friends who have admitted to crying on the train home after a long day at work, and we all agreed that there is something liberating about the experience. No shame, no attempts to hide the tears rolling down our cheeks, just an authentic expression of human emotion that I guarantee everyone has felt at one time or another.
Maybe your private meeting with your boss isn't the best place to let it all out to dry, but there shouldn't be any social limitations on crying in a public setting. Nor should there be any gender stereotypes to limit our ability to freely weep. Men are still men with tears on their face! Women are not weak because it's her third time crying that month, or day. We all have a lot of feels, okay?!
So unless someone is literally splashing their tears onto your neck or hands, I say embrace the waterworks. Since we spend so much of our day trying to ignore how we feel or distract ourselves with something else, maybe it's time to just feel how we feel when we feel it and stop judging those who are open enough to do so.
images c/o: seenheardknown.com, hercampus.com, gifsoup.com, rantlifestyle.com