My gospel for you today is simple: the next time you find yourself on the brink of tears while in public, go for it.
Do it to destabilize gender norms
We’re told crying is feminine, shameful, and selfish. If you’re a man who’s crying, you’re weak; if you’re a woman who’s crying, you’re an overly emotional stereotype. Obviously, fuck that!
Public crying is shameless self-advocacy in a moment when you probably need and deserve to advocate for yourself. That’s why I admire anyone who doesn’t hide themselves away when they’re crying.
It’s OK to be not OK
Normalize crying. Incorporate it into your regular life, as often as you need or want to. Force people to accept that sometimes you are visibly sad. Let your emotions take up space. If you are sad enough to cry, it’s OK to inconvenience someone else with your crying.
This is especially true because you’re probably not even a big inconvenience. You’re sending the message that it’s OK to be sad sometimes. Sadness doesn’t have to make your whole day grind to a halt, but you don’t have to ignore it, either.
You’re also sending the message that you’re not afraid of your emotions, and no one else should be, either. Crying happens sometimes, the same way thunderstorms happen. Put on your rain boots and head out there. That’s life.
The rare act that’s both selfish and generous
You don’t have to operate any differently while you’re crying if you don’t want to. Place your lunch order, clear your inbox, walk the dog, go about your day. You can be the kind of person who acknowledges that you’re not doing great and still keeps going. What’s more badass than that?
Public crying is both selfish and generous. You’re indulging your own feelings, but you’re also giving the gift of vulnerability to the people around you, especially your loved ones. You’re giving them the chance to ask themselves, “How can I do better for this person?”
Don’t you want to know when someone you love is in pain? So do the people who love you. And when you share your sadness, you’re also leading by example and giving them permission to share their own sadness in the future.
Let people surprise you
You may be surprised at how the world becomes gentler when you’re crying. People become softer and kinder. Strangers stop and check on you. It’s enough to give a weeping person hope.
I think a lot of us experienced this phenomenon in the days after the 2016 presidential election. It’s the only time in my career when I heard honest answers to the question “How’s it going?” on work conference calls.
November 9 – the day after the election – found me on a layover in the Atlanta airport. A stranger noticed my Barnard sweatshirt, and struck up a conversation about our shared alma mater. Briefly, we shared the grief we felt about our country’s misogynistic and racist underbelly.
My heart felt exposed and raw. I found my gate and collapsed onto the floor in a corner. Our new President-elect filled the TV screens around the terminal. I checked my phone and saw a concerned, empathetic IM from an old friend. And there, before the eyes of God and my fellow Delta passengers, I burst into tears.
In that moment, I found some comfort in knowing that many, many of the people around me knew exactly how I felt.