Crying is actually a very ugly noise. If crying was beautiful we could happily listen to babies crying all day – and that wouldn’t be good for the survival of the species.
Kiwis aren’t given much to crying. They used to cry on two specific occasions only: women cried when a loved one died in the war, and men cried when they walked groin-first into the handles of a lawnmower. In the old days, if someone started to cry for whatever reason, you immediately gave them your handkerchief. Often the state of these handkerchiefs was enough to replace crying with shock and sometimes anger.
Crying doesn’t usually happen by itself and usually requires some kind of trigger – like shouting. When you get really angry, your emotions well up faster than you can shout, and all the words come out in big blocks or blubs.
As you start crying the immediate impulse is to try and stop yourself, especially if you’ve been brought up by parents who encouraged you to quit making that dreadful noise. Once you manage to stop, be very careful, because a rogue sob is often still lurking under the surface and can re-emerge at the slightest provocation, such as someone asking, “Are you all right?”
If you really manage to let go, it can be quite frightening just how quickly a cry can become a howl of anguish. Once you’re in full howling mode, other possibilities suggest themselves – like gnashing your teeth, rending your clothing and beating your head against the wall. Within seconds you can go from mildly tearful to positively biblical in your sorrowing.
At this juncture, the behaviour of the surrounding people is an important factor. If they get into the spirit of it and start gnashing their teeth as well, you can start a national wave of mourning within minutes. On the other hand, if someone says rather brusquely, “Put a sock in it!” … you might decide that you’re actually making rather a lot of noise over what was, after all, a pretty trivial parking incident.
Unemotional people are often surprised by the natural high you get after crying. Crying is a natural detox, and being racked by sobbing is like being connected to one of those vibrating belts that relaxes stressed bits of the body.
The significance of crying changes throughout your life. When you’re a baby, crying is just your way of making conversation and getting something to eat; kids cry because it always used to work when they were babies; teenagers cry because they are experiencing emotional suffering the like of which the world has never known; old people cry because there’s no-one left to wipe away their tears.
Crying is actually a very ugly noise. If crying was beautiful we could happily listen to babies crying all day – and that wouldn’t be good for the survival of the species. On the other hand, different species don’t cry and they seem to survive. Perhaps they do better sulks than we do?
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.
Issue 3 2014 HSH (331 KB)