Duct Tape May be the Ticket

This will be repetitious if you’ve been around here for awhile. It’s even getting tiresome to me, and I’m the one thinking and writing it.

I embarrass myself when I cannot conceal tears that reveal my inability to rein in my emotions. Not just major emotions. Emotions one might feel in a movie theater. Or watching a newscast about the after-effects of a hurricane or wildfire. Or watching kids in a public park enjoying themselves so much it just moves me to tears.

This matter has been the topic of so many of my posts I’ve lost count. I doubt I could even find all the posts that deal with this. Apparently, I haven’t satisfied myself that I’ve adequately addressed it, so I’m trying again.

Friends and others poo-poo my concerns. “It precious that you cry so easily.” “You’re just in touch with your emotions, and that’s great.” “You are revealing a part of yourself that too many people insist on remaining hidden.”

Yeah, right. But it also reveals a weakness our culture finds inexcusable. Seriously. And it’s not just weeping men who bear the brunt of ridicule and criticism. Women, too, whose eyes leak too often are judged. They are weak, they lack emotional control, they are weak, their emotionalism makes them undependable, they are weak, their tears are artificial—just ploys in search of pity. Oh, and did I mention they are weak? That’s the bottom line. Tears, in this culture anyway, convey weakness. If they are infrequent and only spill in times of soul-crushing distress, they’re okay. But if they fall with any degree of frequency and, especially, if they flow in response to others’ distress, they signal fundamental weakness.

I watched a video of a speaker who issued one of those “tears are just fine” platitudes about people, especially women, in management positions, offering that “tears say you’re human and that you have emotions.”. And then she added, “of course, you can’t just cry at the drop of a hat.” And there you go. People who can’t simply switch off that automatic tear response to emotional triggers are in some way deviant, unsuited to positions of responsibility or authority or otherwise just a little “off.”

Knowing my propensity for spillage, I’ve tried a number of tactics to quell the flow. I distract myself from the issue at hand by diverting my attention to other subjects. What number category would apply to the number of leaves on all the trees on earth…centillion? What if salamanders could understand human language? I wonder why we haven’t figured out a way to construct a multi-lane causeway between the U.S. and Europe? By the time I realize I need the diversion, though, it’s too late. It’s my eyes that cause the problem. I don’t sob, my nose doesn’t leak, I don’t contort my face or wince or otherwise signal my emotions. It’s just my eyes. They fill with tears and, unless I dab them away, they slide down my cheeks in large wet drops. Even dabbing them away leaves traces. There’s evidence that I’ve broken a social rule. The eyelids are a little too pink, the reflections in my eyes shimmer a little too much.

I am not one to judge a person for his or her tearfulness, but I guess that’s because I’m acutely aware that it’s not something that’s necessarily easy to control. My wife knows that, when we’re together and hearing or seeing something that tugs at our heart strings, she should discretely slip a tissue in my hand. I then attempt to discretely staunch the flow. Of course, it’s hard to hide a wet and dripping facial tissue. That last thing; just kidding, they don’t get that wet.

There must be a biochemical explanation. It’s not just that I am abnormally emotional. It’s that my body responds to emotional stimuli more readily than most. That must be it. But even if that explanation is completely factual, it doesn’t relieve the embarrassment of too-frequent tears any more than knowing a person suffers from a biological need to urinate frequently doesn’t relieve their embarrassment (inasmuch as I don’t suffer from that, yet, I can’t make that last claim with any certainty). I try to make light of it. I do try. And I sometimes succeed. But, dammit, I wish there were a pill that would “fix” the free-flowing tear ducts.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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