Originally published here.
Sometimes I want to cry. And I don’t mean tear up. I don’t mean touching the corners of my eyelids with my sleeve and soldiering on. I mean proper honking crying, the kind that sounds like an elephant in the throes of unimaginable passion, the kind that makes your face look like a salty cross between a cat anus and a used towel.
Like most women I know, I internalize a lot of the bad things that happen to me. When things happen that really make me feel like I want to cry – passed over for an opportunity at work, I leave my family again, someone takes the seat on the subway that I was aiming for, that I wanted, that I had already mentally embroidered “Scarlett’s Arse Wuz Here” upon – I suck it up and choke it down. Swallow it along with my pride, and my Pret sandwich. I’ve never cried easily, and nowadays I don’t really cry at all.
Part of that is being a girl. It’s hard being a woman these days. I mean, it’s probably hard being a man as well, what with wondering what to spend all your extra money on, and whether the lumberjack look is truly dead, but it’s definitely hard being a woman. That hallowed ideal of a wistful and wanting waif has been melded with the manic-pixie-dream-girl Zooey Deschanel trope and pinned up on a poster under the ideal of Having It All, As Long As “All” Doesn’t Include Inappropriate Outbursts In Public Or Pubic Hair. We’re still supposed to have that female empathy, but weakness, in a space where we’re constantly having to prove our equal strength, is unforgivable. This is a world you shout about, not one you cry about.
It doesn’t go away though, that teenage urge to open the gates and flood the world with everything unfair, unreasonable and uncertain. And storing it up means disaster, in the form of throwing a proper tits-out strop in Tesco’s because they’ve run out of salt and vinegar Pringles.
So this is an ode to the avenue and the outlet, in whatever shape it comes, for tears.
For me, when I need to cry, but I don’t want to think about things that actually matter, I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Just about any episode will do it – an elderly couple clutching hands, a young man dying before his time, any time Derek says something nice to Meredith. My perfect poison, though, is Izzy and Denny – and anyone who’s suffered their way through Season 2 is nodding along with me right now. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even have to bother with whole episodes – YouTube has it sorted for me. YouTube is my own personal emotional vending machine and poor dying Denny is my Reeses Cup. And it’s not like I don’t know I’m being manipulated; I just don’t care. Shonda Rhimes is the puppet master and I am Punch AND Judy and the girl who starts to get a bit weepy just typing in the search terms Izzy + Denny + What About Me; the perfect two minutes and twenty two seconds of mourn porn.
Books do it too. The Horse Whisperer; The Time Traveler’s Wife; The Book Thief. I idiotically watched the movie adaptation of the latter on a recent flight back from New Zealand, and I’m pretty sure that the young mother sitting to my left thought I was experiencing some kind of spiritual and physical breakdown. She gave me apple slices and congratulated her three year old son on being less of disturbance to other passengers than the wreck of a twenty six year old she was sat by.
My most recent emotional outlet has been The Fault In Our Stars, which I am too afraid to see at the cinema because I think the ushers might have to take me to hospital. I read the book in one ovary-motivated binge on a recent evening, alternating between proper gut-wrenching sobs and the odd brief angry reading hiatus because I was crying too much to actually see the page. I highly recommend it.
It’s emotional torture, that deliberate stimulation of the parts of your brain that feel things the most. But the sensation afterwards, that limp and luxurious purged state, is akin to lying down after a long hard day. It’s perfect. And none of your family pets have to die in order to achieve it – just Denny Duquette, again and again, his heart stopping and body failing at my command.
What’s your emotional porn? What’s your release? Do tell. And do go and watch The Fault In Our Stars for me. My friend was sobbing so powerfully during it that she had to take off her bra, so that’s something for you to aim for.