My friend, the “Southern Belle,” whom I’ve written about before was crying the other day. One of her dearest friends is dying of cancer and she went to say goodbye. As she was sharing her sorrow with me, tears began to fall over her eyelashes and down her cheeks. She didn’t wipe them away as most people do. She was unapologetic over her show of emotion. Speaking calming, not at all hysterical, the tears slid off her face as easily as laughter flows out of others.
If there is such a thing as perfect tears, she has them. They were big, fat, juicy tears. They rolled with perfect roundness, maintaining their clarity until they dropped off her face. I was nearly distracted from listening to her grief and offering empathy by the absolute perfection of them. No exaggeration, these are the kind of tears that poems are written about and that movie directors rush to capture on film. They possessed the same glisten as dew in the morning light.
She actually looked beautiful crying. I kept thinking, “Are you kidding me?! How can you look this good with that much moisture pouring out of you?!” There was no smear of mascara. No dark lines of makeup that streaked down her fair skin. No redness of eye. No puffy face or swollen nose. She was crying her eyes out and looked absolutely…..lovely. Through the pip plop of tears, she maintained a demur vision of femininity. Picture one those Disney characters that have huge eyes that exude tenderness and vulnerability, mesmerizing you with deep pools of color and emotion that you get lost in. Yep, that’s her.
I actually leaned closer to study them. This kind of crying is an anomaly to me. I have been blessed with what people call, “The Ugly Cry.” I think you’d recognized it because it’s more common than the Southern Belles of the world. My face immediately gets blotchy as I contort to the agonizing spill of emotion. My eyes get smaller as I squint and squeeze out the tears of anguish, and my cheeks looks larger from the swelling of my face. I make a loud noise of sucking in the snot so that drips of mucus don’t mix with the saline droplets that are stained from eyeliner. My eyes go straight to bloodshot and look as if I spent the night breaking the record for most tequila shots.
I thought this was normal. I thought people were supposed to look unattractive when sobbing. Isn’t that the whole point? The portrayal of this emotion is suffering, inner turmoil that is breaking you up inside. If a friend is sobbing across the room, without even the auditory sounds of her emotional pain, you rush over at the sheer sight of the misery of it all. The crumpled up Kleenex, the irregular breathing, the physical exhaustion of what they’ve allowed to burst forth. Definitely pathetic, not beautiful…..until Southern Belle.
If I looked like her crying, I think I’d do it all the time. I would be one of those people the cried over everything. Do you remember that scene in the last Harry Potter movie where Professor Snape is dying and he asks Harry to collect his tears? They were not substantial and I’m not sure how Harry was able to capture a couple in the vile. As that single tear lay on Snape’s pale skin, I thought. “That’s not going to be enough for a memory.” Harry needed the tears my friend can produce.
If you want to see ugly crying, you need to watch the movie, “Spanglish,” with Adam Sandler. I really didn’t like the move that much. It wasn’t spectacular in any way. However, I remember the crying. The wife cried in such an ugly way, I remember the movie because of it. She looks so bad that when she tells her mother that she needs to talk to her husband, her mother actually pauses and tells her that might not be a good idea because she appeared so hideous. I could relate. I don’t like to cry publicly because I know that’s precisely how I look.
Having grown up in a stoic Norwegian family that did not express emotion with tears, an unabashed display always takes me back. I once caught my father crying hard after his parents passed away. It was the first and only time in my life that I would see that. A couple weeks later, he had a double heart attack that made me conclude his heart must have just imploded from the rush of emotion.
I’ve since learned the truth, partly from age and partly from marrying an Italian where tears can be shed if the meal turns out well, that tears can come naturally for some and for others are choked back and gagged like an animal you don’t want to let loose. I used to stare at my mother-in-law, absolutely transfixed at how she could laugh, talk, scold and cook all while crying. The freedom, the release, the abandonment….
When was the last time you cried without being embarrassed and didn’t dry the tears as fast as they fell? Do you sniff and do dainty dabs at the corners or your eyes? Do you tear up and immediately start to fan your eyes or look away to distract yourself so that you’ll stop? I’ve seen many women do that.
There are those that cry at a drop of hat, where their waterworks are so familiar they hold no power. Then there are those like “Southern Belle” that not only hold our attention but our hearts as well, over the sheer beauty of their sadness.
June 27, 2013