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Crying Has Kind Of Become My Personality

Crying is not a sweet release anymore; now, it’s an affliction.

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As a younger woman, I cried in movies. This is what we all did together, was to sit on sofas in someone’s rec room and cry at movies. And then look at each other while we wept to see how pretty we probably were; you always said everyone looked pretty, but this was only true on account of youth. The thing I adored was other people’s drama and the hot salty tears they afforded me. No Friday night was better than making popcorn and settling in under a scratchy ’80s blanket for a night of intentional crying. We cried when we watched Out of Africa and Terms of Endearment and, oh, Lord, Steel Magnolias. Go ahead and watch Dolly Parton try not to cry then tell me you held it together. Try it.

I’m 50 now, and I avoid these movies like ticking time bombs. If someone comes at me with a copy of Stepmom starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon as the mother we all want to be, I back away with my hands in the air. No, no, no. I know what this movie will bring to me, and it’s that shuddering sound no one wants to hear from someone else, or, worse, themselves.

Crying is not a sweet release anymore; now, it’s an affliction. Crying has kind of become my personality.

When someone tells me they saw a movie that made them cry, I feel so bad for them I want to cry, and then I get the name of the movie so I know to avoid watching it in public, just in case. This might be one of those middle-aged woman afflictions, because I’m not the only crier in my group of mom friends. Once we went to see this movie Dear Frankie, and it was an Irish movie, so there you go. The whole movie is about a young boy who is deaf and writes letters to his father. I’m not telling you any more in case you want to see it. My friends and I all saw the movie after half-priced appetizers at the local pub. Then we go to the movie full of pulled pork potato skins and spinach dip, wine and beer, lightheaded from all the no-kid freedom we are enjoying. We sit back in the dark with our movie treats with small giggles still ready to jump out from around our rib cages. Then about 45 minutes into Dear Frankie, we realize what’s happening, and no more giggles. Everyone is panic-sobbing into our Kleenexes, avoiding eye contact. Now we only see rom-coms.

But I think I’ve figured out why we’re all bawling now. Back when we were younger, sadness was just an idea — a concept with a soundtrack and probably some period costumes. Then you get older, and loss happens. Someone breaks up with you, and it’s the first time you know deep down under your skin that people can decide to stop loving you. Just like that. You get older and people you love die. Your grandpa who was also your best friend. Your friend in high school who died before he could even drive yet. You get divorced some day, and you are packing your house up in the sunshine, and you can still smell the fresh paint in the family room, and you think, “Two weeks ago, I picked cayenne red for him for this room, so I guess that was the end of everything.”

It’s not just your own loss. You break your kids’ hearts sometimes too. You wanted to give them a life that was light as a feather, but you are the anchor around their necks on some days, and this is the loss you feel the most. The loss of the mom you thought you might be. But you can’t cry in front of them all the time, so you hold it together until.

Until, say, you are looking at boat neck tees at the Gap and your size is sold out in the navy you were hoping to pair with your white linen pants because this is also who you are now. You put your fist in your mouth and get the hell out of there before you vomit tears all over the sales associate.

You cry in public washrooms, in your car, over a bowl of pasta, in the bathtub, in bed. You cry when someone else cries — like a yawn, but wetter. You cry on Christmas morning, and your kids laugh and roll their eyes because now you are a meme. A mom who cries. There are enough real tears behind the eyes of middle-aged ladies to fill a pool. Because now we know about life and guess what? Sometimes it’s just really sad.

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