Sophia Money-coutts -Coutts explains how to cry in public
When Christmas ads start, we’re encouraged to be as slushy as the ground we walk on… which is just as well as I keep welling up
When was the last time you cried? I’m thinking it might have been recently, what with all the TV shows about penguins and adverts about small boys who are given a piano for their Christmas present only to turn into Elton John.
I last cried three minutes ago when an Oasis song came on the radio in this coffee shop. My boyfriend and I broke up a couple of weeks back and I’ve wept so much in the interim period that I look like someone in constant anaphylactic shock, as if I’ve a near-fatal peanut allergy but can’t stop shovelling the things in my mouth. I cry every time I open my flat door and his stuff isn’t there. I cry when I open the fridge and his beers are there. On Monday, I cried in a yoga class so that, when I stood up, there were two damp patches either side of where my head had been lying. A few days ago, I cried in the bath when I spotted a single hair of his glued to the side. It’s like being permanently trapped in a Bridget Jones film.
But given that I’m not the only one making myself dangerously dehydrated at the moment, I thought it might be an appropriate moment to address when and where crying is and isn’t acceptable. Because I read a headline this week asking “what makes grown men cry?” which went on to talk about the penguins in Attenborough’s latest BBC documentary, and everybody bawling at the moment the crew stepped in to save said penguins and their chicks.
It didn’t feel very 2018, that headline. Surely, these days, when we’re all encouraged to discuss our every emotional twist and turn, grown men (or women!) can cry at whatever they like? It might be penguins, it might be Elton. The animated carrots in Aldi’s Christmas advert made me more weepy than the John Lewis effort, but I’m not the best judge right now since I also cried when Magic FM played Abba’s Knowing Me Knowing You in my kitchen last week. Like Captain von Trapp, I have since forbidden music at home. Brexit on Radio 4 only, which will also make me weep, but for different reasons.
It’s marvellous that we’ve all opened up, that the stiff upper lip has become wobbly. It is now absolutely fine to howl at all manner of things. The back of a taxi is a very good place for a little sob. So is the cinema because it’s dark and you can pretend it’s about the plot. There’s no shame in being blotchyfaced on any form of transport (especially planes, unless you’re in a middle seat). The office is less good, however. And during sex is generally unfortunate. It’s also not a great look in an off-licence. Buying a bottle of wine the other night, the lady behind the till asked if I had “a bad cold”.
And yet my grandmother used to have an expression – “pour some concrete in your spine.” So although it’s progress that we’re more openly emotional, a tiny part of me still thinks “steel yourself ”. A proper cry is healthy and cathartic, whether you’re a three-year-old girl or as manly as General Melchett. But after that? Some concrete. Nature may be red in tooth and claw, but life goes on, I say to myself, as I squint at the sauvignon in the offy.