Friday, January 11, 2008


Crying has been in the news a great deal lately. Coincidentally, I have been giving a lot of thought to the topic of tears.

One shabbos night, the rabbi started explaining tears to Iser. Some, it seems, come out of tear ducts; the rest leave the body through special tubes in the nose.

"Oh," said Iser excitedly. "That is why a nose blow is different from a crying blow," causing the rabbi to nod his head appreciatively.

Now, think for a moment: Why did Hillary's tears make the headlines? Because she is a woman, and would-be female leaders commit political suicide when they show emotion? Because she IS a woman, and wanted to show that she can cry openly, unlike most men, who are, at best, emotionally constipated? Or because the whole nation, the press being bellwether for the entire U.S.of A.,has such mixed feelings about tears that they did not know what to do with them? Mock them; praise them; ridicule them; sympathize with them - qui sait?

As usual, the private is political and vice versa. The people around me hardly know how to react when I cry. I try to remind them that shed tears contain harmful stress hormones; after all, everyone knows the research results that showed major differences in the compositions of "real" tears and "tear-jerker" induced tears.But even this knowledge is no comfort: When I cry, people leave the room; make jokes about faucets; turn their backs and even leave the house and marriage. After crying, I always feel better and have to start rounding everyone up again.

So why the great ambivalence? Nobody freaks (except brand-new parents) when a baby cries; nobody (that I know of) goes nuts when a puppy starts yip-yipping. Why then are adult tears so hard to tolerate?

The answer must lay somewhere in our archaeological past, but where? Did crying signal imminent death? (What a riot must have ensued when Christ started crying blood.) Did people actually start crying blood when things got bad enough? Were tears the last outburst of fluid when a woman was about to die in childbirth? Or what? Sometimes people try to fake tears: crocodile tears. (Do crocs pretend to cry?) Other times people laugh, even when the going becomes rough, until they cry: laughing with "yashtikahs" (salamanders). Other times people cry tears of pure joy. (Where do the stress hormones go then, or is it that even pure joy is stressful?)

Anyway, I'll let you know about the tears at Jeff and Sheryl's wedding next week. I really think that paying someone to apply makeup may be a bit of a waste of money, unless of course all the ingredients will be waterproof plus,,,,