There’s been a lot of talk in the news media recently about women and our emotions, how unstable we are, how nasty we are. The current election cycle is stirring up everything from pride, to disgust, to double standards, to outright clear and present misogyny. On more than one occasion, I’ve cried tears of anger, joy, frustration, you name it.
Growing up I hated crying, especially when anyone else was around. If I fell down, scraped my knees, and bled all over myself my reaction was to try and suck it up, put on a brave face, and walk it off. I was inundated with messages from the world around me that taught me being emotional was bad; especially crying. How many times in my life have I heard the phrase “hysterical woman”.
I fought against the desire to cry time and time again. I would push emotions down; swallow them whole, eat them over and over again. Because it was more important to look strong, calm, and together; rather than be seen as a “hysterical woman”.
I worked in the corporate world for over a decade, where a woman showing emotions is never allowed to happen. A woman being angry, a woman crying, a woman doing anything, but holding her shit together was never acceptable. To cry when upset or frustrated was considered a weakness. To show anger was to be a bitch and then have to endure jokes about it being ‘that time of the month’.
Crying is weakness. Crying is for sissies. Crying is for girls who want attention. You don’t want people to think you are a “hysterical woman” do you?
But there were times when the grief got too big. There were lots of times the sadness overtook me and I needed to let the tears flow. And I found myself in a dark room, lit by the soft glow of the television, playing a sad movie, sobbing. Only then was it okay, only then was it safe. And only when I was alone. My go to movie was Beaches and it still makes me cry, but no one knows that because I only watch it when I’m all alone.
And there have been times when the tears came unwanted and impossible to hide. There have been arguments and hurt feelings. There have been times when I was so frustrated or mad that the only thing I could do was cry. Unbidden and unwanted these tears are the worst because they are the ones witnessed by the people who may have helped to cause them in the first place. They betray my strong and solid exterior by showing there may be crack in my armour. I hate these tears.
There have been people who have accused me of using emotions as a weapon. There have been people who have sat staring blankly when the tears flowed, unsure of what to do with me in such an unusual state. There have been people who attempted to comfort me, only to make me more uncomfortable; aware of my hysteria.
For the most part I hold my shit together. For the most part no one sees me cry. For the most part I keep my “hysterical woman” locked behind bars in a dungeon in a pit, only rarely being let out for a little reprieve. However, as I near ever closer to the age of forty, I’m starting to notice a change in my emotional landscape; tears flow often for things sweet, for things beautiful, for things utterly broken. I find myself crying often, so much more often than I want to; as if the years of swallowing my tears has finally caught up with me and there is no more room inside, no more places to hide the feelings and so they spill out.
I feel so ashamed and guilty. I feel so unlike me. And yet, it feels like this is who I am becoming and this is who I’ve always been just too afraid to see it. Those stories, those ‘tapes’ that play in my head and tell me that strong women don’t cry can go fuck themselves. It’s time to write a new story, it’s time to be my full emotional self; sadness, anger, and all of it. The “hysterical woman” that I’ve kept trapped has broken her bars and is clawing her way out of that pit. She is coming for me and I’m waiting for her with open arms.