August 4, 2016
Three years ago, I drove from Tennessee to Michigan and cried the whole way. Ten hours of crying can take a lot out of you, it’s a real marathon of a weep. When I got home, I had to drink a tall glass of water. I couldn’t quite tell you now what exactly I was crying about — fear of the future, a sad song on the radio, war, predestination, the possibility that Nietzsche was right. There’s always something to cry about, if you really think.
Girl, crying over adolescent boy.
Crying, like many things tied to women, carries a lot of shame. I’ve always been a crier, I suppose, since my early days as an A+ tantrum-thrower and hellion, but crying didn’t fit well with my early adoption of feminism, which I read as female strength, and I knew strong women didn’t cry. This didn’t mean I didn’t do it. I snuck in sobs behind closed doors, in cars, in bathrooms, and generally where the feminist-police couldn’t find me. In middle school, I cried about boys and my body, which filled me with even more intense guilt, because it just felt so.. suburban. If I’d been caught in the red-faced act, I probably would’ve claimed I was crying about American foreign policy, but truly seventh-grade Abby was heartbroken over the boy in her science class who she couldn’t muster up the courage to talk to.
Girl, crying over ham.
High school brought in a different type of crying. Eating disordered crying, or crying as a weapon, a weapon that weakened my parents’ will and bought me a bit of time before my next cheese-laden meal. Eating disorders have a way of turning you back into a child, a.k.a. a manipulative little asshole who will sob and hit to get their way. You don’t recognize just how crazed you look at the time, but I’ll never forget the look on my sisters’ faces as I started openly bawling at the dining room table on Easter Sunday. No, I do not want another piece of goddamn ham.
Girl, crying over textbook.
College, however, was when I hit peak cry. College is made for the crier: care-free periods followed by intense stress, unhealthy habits and an existential crisis lurking at every corner. Everything can feel like the end of the world, especially for a high-achieving female obsessed with maintaining control. A bad grade in intro statistics, the fall-break breakup with the first love, the inevitable dissolution of an orientation friendship, rejection emails from jobs and internships. I could continue. I always knew, objectively, that I lived a pretty damn good life, and these things were setbacks, and largely unimportant in the context of poverty, war and systematic oppression. But that didn’t stop me from crying about them.
Girl, crying over vodka.
I’ve seen quite a few crying drunk girls in my four years at college; usually, they’re holding high heels and wiping away mascara. And I used to judge them. Get it together, said I — at least I still I have my shoes on. The crying drunk girl™ is most likely crying over a boy, and she is most likely overreacting. She is therefore the embodiment of all the things we shame women for: hysteria, sluttiness, shallowness. I used to judge the crying drunk girl™ because I hid my crying and my emotions for dark quiet rooms and presented a stony exterior to the world, or as was once lovingly relayed to me, I “give off a very utilitarian vibe.” I apologize to all the girls I’ve judged over the years, because as they say, there but for the grace of God, go I.
Girl, crying over boy, take two.
The crying girlfriend, or worse, the crying ex-girlfriend, takes a lot of heat. She is not chill. The crying boyfriend, granted it doesn’t happen a lot, is probably sensitive in a sweet way and probably brings you flowers and writes you poems. But the crying girlfriend? Probably just crazy. One of my best friends and partners in weeping is a crying girlfriend in a good relationship. She is a reasonable human, and if you saw her in the wild, you’d probably think she was a real tough nut. But we’ve both agreed that there’s something about boys that make us cry. Some boys can handle it. Some boys cannot. The lesson here is that any boy who cannot handle female emotion, or rejects his own emotions, is a boy not worth your time or tears. Move on and find some other things to cry about. (I suggest Fox and the Hound).
Girl, crying over clinical depression.
The above types of crying have nothing on a depressive cry, because the depressive cry don’t stop. Depression forced me to abandon all my haughtiness about emotion, or the lack thereof. If I wasn’t sleeping, I was crying. Or I was about to cry. I once dropped a rock in my Geology 101 lab and began to cry, just because the thought of bending over to get that rock felt so overwhelming. Despite this constant presence in my life, I thought I could maintain my *stoic* image. How does one do this when they’re wailing at a rate consistent with a colic baby? Avoid everyone and everything. As you might imagine, this strategy is not approved by any medical professional.
After I *mostly* fought my way out of depression (s/o to anti-depressants, my shrink and dogs), I no longer cry on the daily. I think I’m a pretty competent human, and I mostly fit my middle-school-strong-woman-feminist-ideal. Crying is my… wait for it… feminist superpower. I cry because sometimes bad things happen and people die or relationships end or a song really cuts you deep. Because sometimes, crying is a good solution to the everyday stresses of life. Our bodies are designed to cry, and therefore crying is just as healthy of a stress-reliever as yoga or gluten-free diets or meditation or whatever they’re telling us to do nowadays. Occasionally, I’ll give myself a ten minute space to have a good cry. Then, I’ll wipe my tears, reapply my flawless cateye eyeliner, put on my leather jumpsuit, and go save the world.