How to Stop Yourself From Crying
A fail-safe guide for grown men
This is his second crack at this racket. The wedding racket that is. His first wife had found out about his affair when he’d left his email open and that was the end of that marriage. The affair didn’t last either, but he recovered quickly enough thanks to Facebook and hooked up with a teenage crush from two decades past.
Both of them brought two kids from their previous marriages to the deal and invites to the wedding were sent out. This wasn’t some classic love story, it was a humdrum, bog-standard, modern relationship saga with two people who couldn’t hack it alone, getting together to create the pretense of romance so they wouldn’t have to face the day-to-do on their own. Her with a bottle of chardonnay every evening once the kids are in bed and the dread of saggy breasts and multiplying crow’s feet make her weep at the prospect of the years of loneliness ahead. He, a lone man on the brink of middle age, on the couch in his piss-stained tighty whities with a beer in hand and the football on pay-per-view followed by a jerk in bed to milf porn as an ineffective antidote to insomnia. This was the setup for their marriage, the avoidance of the aforementioned. So the marriage wasn’t fodder for a romance novel, just two people, man and woman, with the fear of decades of loneliness in front of them and a mutually-agreed-to compromise to avoid it.
A lone man on the brink of middle age, on the couch in his piss-stained tighty whities with a beer in hand
So why is it that as the queue of guests moves along and I approach the happy couple to shake hands with the groom and hug the bride, I’m about to cry? There are two people in front of me and now, as I breathe in, my larynx acts like the morse-code transmitter on the Titanic.
This is the problem you see: I’m a man who cries. One of those men who can’t control the onslaught of tears. The slightest thing can set me off: a piece of music, some B-list celeb on a reality show crying about their most recent piece of relationship drama, a gold medalist crying on the podium at the Olympics. Why does this happen to me? Why can’t I damn well contain it? The speed of the emotional Gatlin gun is impossible to stop. I don’t have time to deflect it. The trigger is pulled and it’s rat-tat-tat-tat. If I had a strategy to repress it I would use it, but the speed of the onslaught is always too fast. Give me at least a second or two prior notice and I can suck it up buttercup, but no: trigger, boom, sob.
Then my father died
I walk to work on Monday. I always walk, unless it rains, it’s not raining now. Two days ago I buried my father. He died of cancer after a year of horrendous pain, no complaints from him, a moment of hope when his doctor told him his medication (aka poison) was working — doctors are not always right — and then the Whatsapp message from him, three weeks ago: “My darling children. Mum and I met with my doctor today. Unfortunately, we received bad news. My treatment has not proceeded in the way we hoped, I will not survive this. Palliative care has begun, therefore, I wish that the end would come soon and without pain”. A week later he was dead.
Palliative care has begun, therefore, I wish that the end would come soon and without pain
I called him back when I received his message. I cried after that call as my wife hugged me and stroked my balding head. I cried when I told my kids. I cried at the funeral. But I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would and this was a situation where a man is allowed to cry, even expected to.
As I walk to the office, I listen to the Moth podcast, it’s where people tell true stories about their lives. I subscribe to the Moth and podcasts are my morning routine, so I haven’t chosen this episode for its content, but it hits home, I can relate. It’s a woman telling her story about her mother dying of cancer. This is the type of story that always makes me cry, brings out the tears; but this time…
This is the type of story that always makes me cry
Just as she gets to the point where she explains how her mother asks her to be the one to dress her in a specific garment when she passes, the narrator pauses in an attempt to hold back her tears. This is the maximal point of emotional tension, the exact type of moment when I tend to cry and now, on cue, my Adam’s apple wobbles, it tightens, my chest constricts and I inhale to try and stop the tears that these physical flourishes would always precede, but nothing. A sole inhale of breath and my lungs expand without a resistive stutter. Where before, there would have been a crackled whimper like a tenor with a sudden case of dry throat, now there was only a hint of a hiccup. That was it.
My Adam’s apple wobbles, it tightens, my chest constricts and I inhale to try and stop the tears that these physical flourishes would always precede
What caused this. Because since that moment, my crying urge has gone. There’s still a hint of it, a faint flutter, but the guttural bursts, the snot, the tears, all gone.
What caused it to stop? Is it that as I have not faced such immense loss before, I was easily moved by the outward expression of the emotions of others? But now, as I face my own grief, I have no empathy for the sorrow of others? “You lost a loved one? Boo-hoo, you pansies, so have I, what makes you so special?“ Or is that I am numb and this will pass and the moments of free-flowing tears will return? My dad is dead, I grieve, I hurt, I think about him, miss him, want to call him, read his messages, his emails, he visits me in my dreams, so I can’t be numb. Can I?
You lost a loved one? Boo-hoo, you pansies, so have I, what makes you so special?
Why do I even care? Although I’m cured of the crying, the price paid is exorbitant and unjust. I’d let the snot shoot out of my nose like shotgun pellets and let the tears flow down my eyes like a bucket of water over a car hood if I could have my dad back.