I can’t cry.
It’s a strange phenomenon.
It’s not like I think I am some super tough man’s man, or some emotionless robot who can’t show any emotion—I often jump up and down and shout “Hooray!” when I’m happy or I will pout when I drop my bread butter-side down or if I make a bad order in a restaurant. But when it comes to crying, I just can’t seem to muster up the tears.
I thought it might be a physical thing, but my tear ducts work fine. When it’s really cold out, my eyes water to the point that when I show up to work during the winter people will ask me, “Why are you crying?” And I say “Because it’s Monday.” I do this mainly because I’m too ashamed to tell them that I really can’t cry and I also don’t want to have that discussion on our 30-second elevator ride.
Thinking back, I can distinctly remember two times that I cried, and both times my brother made fun of me (and I can see you internet psychologists nodding your heads). They were both in 1983 when I was 14 years old, and, well, here were probably two of the saddest moments in my life:
- The end of “Who Will Love My Children?”—a TV Movie where the mother (Ann Margaret) is dying and the family is poor and she gives all of their kids away.
- The Last MASH, particularly the moment when Hawkeye flies off in the chopper and when he tops the hill and BJ has put out the rocks that spell out “Goodbye”
Wow, I could barely type that last bit.
So yes, early 1980’s television makes me very emotional. I remember watching the end of “Who Will Love My Children?” and I started bawling my eyes out. I was trying to hide it from everyone in the room but my brother saw me and derisively asked “Are you crying?” Well, he had been playing with a spaceship or making ambulance noises or something and not even watching the movie and he had no idea what those poor kids had been through and what they had to face in the uncertain future and their Pa couldn’t raise them and there were ten of them and they were being split up because no one person could be expected to take all ten kids and so they might never see each other again and what if that happened to you wouldn’t that also make you cry wouldn’t it it would and also not to mention that fact that Ann Margaret was dying of cancer!
So all of these thoughts were rushing through my head and I just started crying harder and my only course of action was to run to out of the room like Ann Margaret's middle daughter did when they told her she was going to live with the neighbors.
A few months later I was watching The Last MASH and when I saw that sign that BJ had made out of rocks (“I’m not going to say Goodbye” he kept telling Hawkeye, “I’m not going to say Goodbye”) I could feel the tears welling up and when that music kicked in for the final time (“Suicide is dangerous, it brings on many changes”) I was a blubbery mess. I tried to sneak off to my room, to cry alone, but my brother was on to me and he followed me and then proceeded to make fun of me for crying--again.
So after that, I think my body just gave up on crying because of the embarrassment factor. I had one relapse when my grandfather died, but as I remember it I wasn’t really sad myself, I just saw that everyone else was crying and it seemed like the thing to do at the time.
So maybe I am an emotionless robot.
Ever since then, when I get sad, something really strange happens. I can feel the lump in my throat and I realize I’m getting sad, and then maybe a welling in my eyes will happen. But about that time I will start to realize “Oh my god! I’m actually going to cry!” and start to believe that I might possibly be human and that will make me excited and then the excitement makes me happy and the sadness goes away and then I don’t cry again and I feel a little depressed. Shit.
This maddening chain of events has happened near the end of Slingblade (The book on Christmas with the "You will be happy" bookmark), when Dr. Mark Green died on E.R. (The Iz's "Somewhere over the Rainbow"), and most recently during an episode of Oprah (which I am not going to tell you about).