I went to a nostalgic showing of the noted tearjerker Beasts of the Southern Wild recently. In one of the film’s many emotional climaxes, a father tells his daughter, with his dying breaths, “No crying.” From the back of the theatre, a woman issued a single brazen wail. The proverbial floodgates had been opened. The woman’s crying started a chain reaction in the theatre, much as when someone barfs on a plane, and within seconds every woman in the house was weeping. I have seen the footage of mourners in North Korea after Kim Jong Il died, falling to their knees and sobbing over Dear Leader departed, but that was nothing. The women in the theatre dissolved. The men in the theatre sat quietly.
I’m always surprised when people talk about crying as though it were something tactical. I wish crying were just another tool in my manipulation tool kit, right between blowjobs and passive aggression, that could be deployed at will. And maybe there really are adult women out there who go into negotiations and arguments thinking, If I cry, I’ll get my way. But I don’t know any of those women, and anyone who thinks tears are a “strategy” has never seen me crying. My face turns very red and stays that way for four to six hours. I fluctuate between low satanic rattling and primal sobs that carry all the pain of my female ancestors. Snot is inevitable. Cogent speech is impossible. Mine are not Hollywood tears, characterized by a s