I was standing in the queue for the check-out at the supermarket recently, holding my usual nutritious purchases (a family-size bag of crisps, a frozen pizza and cookies – my body is a temple) with my eyes glued firmly to the ground trying to avoid any human contact, when I heard a noise. I glanced up. Through the pane of the supermarket window I saw a woman and a man in their mid-20s, clearly a couple, and from the contorted mouth of the woman a sound was being omitted – a sonic barrage of pure sobbing which penetrated the glass front of the shop and reverberated around the food-laden shelves. The man was clearly trying to comfort the banshee, his arms placed gently around her heaving shoulders and I assumed she must have received some terrible news, like her puppy had just died or that Waterloo Road had been recommissioned for its 25th season. On closer inspection her cheeks were flushed and her wet eyes had a look of anger as she stared at the man in his futile attempt to calm her down. The bastard must have cheated on her, that’s the only possibly explanation for her full-on public breakdown. After paying for my items I exited the supermarket and overheard the man whisper gently, “Ok, I won’t go tonight, I’ll stay with you.” I turned to look at them and the woman’s tears had stopped, like she had turned some internal valve cutting off the water pipes to her eyes. The redness of her cheeks had faded, her eyes were no longer glassy with tears and she was smiling. The whole overwrought sob-fest was all a grand form of manipulation and it had worked.
As a rule I don’t agree with emotional blackmail and crying to get your own way is almost as pathetic as the people who fall for it. However, what I can’t argue with is that it gets results. The bawling harpy at the supermarket had clearly mastered the practice and her dim-witted partner was a sucker for it, and if he is that easy to manipulate why shouldn’t she strong-arm him with eye water. The method probably stems from her childhood, as she likely threatened to flood her parents’ house with her tear ducts unless she got the new toy she wanted and in order to save themselves from the wailing and water damage they caved to her every whim.
The crying habits of many of us originates from our childhood (not counting if you have suffered a bereavement or heartbreak obviously) and I believe the way that adults reacted to our boo-hooing as a kid dictates how we blub when we’re older. Remember that time you scraped your knee when you fell off your bike (not in my case obviously as I can’t ride a bike – which is probably why I would fall off and scrape my knee) and then you started to cry and your parents rushed over lavishing you with attention to check if their beloved son/daughter was alright. It’s an amazing feeling and that sort of attention can be addictive, which explains why some people continue this tactic into adulthood. Some of you (yeah, I’m talking about you) stub your toe and your eyes automatically well-up, not through pain but because you are desperately looking around for someone to shower you with attention. You needy bastard.
You are probably wondering why I have such a problem with adult criers. Well, as a child I was what some would describe as ‘nervous’. During my formative years, particularly during the height of my Primary School education, I would cry at anything and everything. I would cry if I was a few minutes late to school, I would cry if I got an answer wrong in a lesson, I would cry if I got picked last for P.E, I would cry because people were laughing at me crying and I even cried once because I was so engrossed in a book during ‘reading hour’ that I didn’t hear the teacher when she said we could go outside for break time. To sum up, I was a pathetic excuse for a boy. Obviously the teachers and my parents were worried for my sanity and how I would generally cope as a human on planet earth, so they got together and came up with a reward system. If I managed a whole day without crying, my mum would greet me at the school gates with sweets and a she would proudly place a ‘smiley face’ sticker on my chest congratulating me for not being a snivelling wreck that day. This taught me three things:
1. Crying is considered weak
2. I like sugary treats
3. I like making my mother proud.
So from then on, in order to earn my Scooby Snack at the end of the day, I would push down any emotion that I felt bubbling up to my eyeballs in to the pit of my stomach. I probably now have an ulcer, I’m definitely damaged emotionally and I have an unusual relationship with food but at least I don’t cry. Apart from during that one particularly harrowing episode of Buffy. And when I drink gin. Or whenever I watch E.T.
OK, so I still cry…just don’t tell my mum.