Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Idle thought

This post falls into the ‘curiosities’ aspect of my blog description, and it is the curiosity of crying.

Not a curiosity, you say? More a simple reaction, learned at birth and controlled with age, despite the rolling disappointments of growing up and growing old?

Well, it is curious to me. I observe the little ones in my life. The newborn with her occasional bawling episodes which are her only form of communication, telling her parents that she needs to be fed or that she wants to be changed or reminded that they are still there, somewhere in the dark.

I see how and when the two-year-old cries. She has by now realised the best way to attract attention is to let out any noise that signals distress. You can see she isn’t really upset. She watches you with inquisitive eyes and registers how you react.

This is clever, part of her learning, but it is something that her godmother will ensure she grows out of. A girl who unleashes tears to get what she wants is manipulative. The shepherd boy may have cried “wolf”, but the shepherd girl released a few big droplets of emotional blackmail and succeeded in getting the townspeople to just mind the sheep for her.

I know some who cry easily. At fiction, mostly. Or at the stories of others. This is soft crying, and it is a sign of an empathetic nature. We may be the only animals who will murder our own, but we are also the only species who can feel genuine sadness for the sadness of strangers.

I know others – those who have had more difficult lives – and they cry as the broken people do, with the kind of abandon they couldn’t apply to selfish teenage rebellion because of the situations in which they grew up.

I recall one night out when one such friend discovered her coat had been taken. She cried like everyone she loved had just been taken from her. For her and many others like her, it is never a case of crying for that moment alone, but of sobbing for every upset they have ever known.

When I think back to my father’s funeral, what shocked me out of the surreality of watching that funeral scene through the eyes of a child was the sight of grown men I had known all my life, crying. Strong men, those who always knew what to do, who were tough and hard-working and who to my mind had never discussed a whole lot with my dad other than the weather and the price of cattle.

I understood many things in those days. That people who may never converse in a deep fashion will still have a fierce love for those with whom they grew up.

I came to understand also that while crying may indeed be controlled with age, the urge – and occasionally, the irrepressible need - to just let the tears come spilling out, never, ever goes away.


  1. I somehow missed this one when it was written, only coming to it now.

    I find it very hard to see men cry but with women it doesn't bother me at all. I suppose that's standard, but it's a bit silly.

    Great post.

  2. Some years back, I watched a documentary about St. Ita's in Portrane called The Asylum.

    There was a woman who had been a patient there for over 20 years. She was totally unresponsive. In a severe depression, buried deep inside her mind and wasn't coming out for anything.

    Her husband came to hold her hand and talk to her everyday. He meant every word of his marriage vows and was still in love with her.

    Yep. Comes spilling out. Never goes away.

  3. Radge - Men can look so awkward when they're crying, I think that's part of the problem. The women folk just go with it.

    Holemaster - You big softie! That does sound really sad in a really nice way. Old people can be so cute...when they're not complaining, that is.