How To Cry
My childhood was spent in a small southern town, being both queer and atheist. These things did not work in my favor. In fact, I learned early on that to be different was to be wrong, and that rejection from my peers was the inevitable result.
I struggled to fit in, but I also struggled with the idea of fitting in. Try as I might, I just couldn’t bring myself to lie about who I was and what I thought. I questioned things that everyone took for granted. It made people uncomfortable. I wasn’t met with kindness, and in a small community, to be an outsider is social death. I was pushed out.
People react to rejection differently, some with fiercer attempts to be liked, and others with a big middle finger to the world. That was my decision. I left that town at 17, vowing never to wear the school colors or return again. I wanted nothing to do with the south, with Christianity, with sweetness, or country music. To me, these things meant nothing but bigotry and close-mindedness.
I armored up, went up north to art school, became goth and aloof. I wore black, smoked, and read existentialism. I eschewed most things associated with femininity and thus I never EVER cried.
It wasn’t really a conscious decision, not to cry. I had a mother that routinely said when I was a child to “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” I recognize this now as a nonsensical statement, clearly, I had something to cry about, since I was already crying, but the message was clear. Stop inconveniencing everyone with your feelings.
As an adult, I found the perfect muzzle of those feelings in alcohol. I reveled in my cynicism. I found new friends. But my sensitive side was never allowed to show her head again.
When I had my own child, it became apparent that I was not going to be as bothered by her feelings as my mother had been of ours. I didn’t mind my sensitive child. She felt things deeply, and I admired her for it. But she was also very cheerful and generally preferred laughter to most displays of emotion, so it was easy.
I remember one time, gazing at me with her giant four-year-old brown eyes, she said, “mama your eyebrows look mad.” I was taken aback. I had only been thinking and I wasn’t angry. How could I tell…