I cry differently as an adult. I mostly cry about the same kinds of things, but there seems to be an odd threshold for actual tears falling now that there wasn’t when I was younger.

I have always been fairly emotionally sensitive, crying when I perceive that someone I love is hurting or finding myself so deeply embedded in a book or movie that a fictional tragedy sends me reeling.  I have also always been a frustrated-crier. That is to say, if I ever feel completely misunderstood or disregarded or unfairly shut-down, the anger that rises in me does so in a liquid form rather than a vaporous trail of words I probably ought not to utter.  I am one of those women who cries when her boss yells at her or when anyone in authority calls me out, especially if it is unjustified.  I have hated that quality for most of my life, all the while knowing that it has special powers over some males of the species (in my younger years, I was pulled over for speeding/taillights out/changing lanes without signaling a few times and always, the tears tumbled over each other to cascade down my cheeks — I have never ever had a ticket, only warnings).

As an adult, though, it seems that something has changed. Either my older-woman body is producing less liquid or my eyes have sunk deeper into my lower lids. Despite continuing to have very strong feelings about a variety of things, I seem less able to cry actual tears than I used to be.

Today, as we headed to the mall to shop for back-to-school clothes (admittedly one of the activities I despise the most, so I may have been a tad bit predisposed to negative energy), Eve said something mean to Lola. Instantly, I felt my chin begin to dimple and my eyes moisten behind my driving glasses.  I quietly pointed out that Lola’s feelings were quite likely to be very bruised by that comment and asked Eve to consider her sister’s reaction before opening her mouth. In the uncomfortable silence that followed, my emotions continued to build as Eve’s words echoed in my head and I imagined just how painful and shocking it must have been for Lola to hear them.  I half-wanted Eve to glance over and see a tear rolling down my cheek, if only because it may have made my point for me, but not one drop crested the edge. I blinked. My eyelashes glistened, but still no tears fell.

When my cat, Marley, died I was heartbroken. She was my first real pet as an adult.  This tiny, charcoal grey bundle of silky, purring fur that slept on my lap, shared my pillow with me, and loved everyone she met.  She lived for 13 years and when the Emergency Vet called to tell me she died peacefully in her sleep I was stunned.  I couldn’t cry for the longest time. A lump inhabited my throat, my face screwed up in that hideous way that prompts you to cover it with both hands, and my chin quivered, but no tears fell.  I alternately held my breath and gasped and buried my head in Bubba’s shoulder in true, physical grief, but it took forever for the tears to form and release.  Once they did, it was a torrent of warm, salty emotional relief, but it took forever.

I never did cry actual tears today, although my eyes did well up for a bit. Eve didn’t notice, or if she did hear my occasional sniffles and put two and two together, she didn’t let on.  The emotion passed and we ended up having an okay time shopping together, the three of us. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t start crying and risk sparking a “whole thing” as Eve says, but it does make me wonder just when I stopped being able to create a flood of tears so that my ‘crying’ has morphed into more of a sad-face-making endeavor than a sloppy mess.

4 replies
  1. Carrie Wilson Link
    Carrie Wilson Link says:

    That's how it was for me when I was on anti-anxiety meds. Didn't/couldn't shed a tear. I tear up easily now, and often, but never a big ol boo hoo.

  2. Dee
    Dee says:

    Dear Kari, like you, I seldom shed actual tears. But even as a child I cried little. In fact, I refused to cry because I didn't want anyone to think they'd gotten past my barriers.

    And yet, for some rather inconsequential thing–like the Betty Crocker bake-off–I can shed tears of joy for the winner. Go figure! Peace.

  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I believe it is not a definite thing. At least with me, there are days when tears come easily and there are periods of "drought". Maybe according to moon phases? Planet alignment? Who knows?! Whatever way you can allow feelings to flow, go for it.


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