The Problems With Public Crying

I'm a crier.

I mean, I cry at sad movies, sad stories, or stirred up memories brought on by watching Mister Rogers reruns on YouTube.

It's a big joke in my family about how much I cry during movies. Field of Dreams and Rudy are absolutely devastating, and I won't watch them with anyone else, because I just sit on the couch, bawling like a baby, while my family stares and wonders, "what the hell is wrong with him?"

This is unusual, since guys my age grew up in the '70s and '80s, when men were tough and macho. Our role models were Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and we learned how to be "real men" by watching the their movies.

These were guys who could get kicked in the goolies and only have to clear their throat a little. They would get shot and complain about getting blood on their favorite shirt. They would clench their jaw and stare off into the distance when a loved one died. But they would never, ever cry.

If you cried, you would be teased about being a sissy, so we grew up believing crying is for girls and sissies. We learned never to do it because otherwise you weren't a "real man."

But I decided to embrace my inner crier in my mid-20s, when I realized the so-called tough guys were really just cowards who were too afraid to show their emotions.

That's right, tough guys. I'm calling you out as a bunch of sissies. You're the ones who are afraid to cry in public. You're too scared about what other people might think to even let a single tear leak from your eye that time when Mister Rogers talked to that little boy in the wheelchair about what it was like being different and how he was still special and dammit now I'm getting choked up just thinking about it.

But while I might have a good cry now and then, I don't like to do it in in public because people are such an emotional buzzkill. They ruin the moment, like an unrealized sneeze. Or when you're yawning and stretching, and someone pokes you in the ribs.

If only there were a special room where criers could go so they could be alone while they pour out their emotions, and emerge refreshed and ready to face the world.

Like a public bathroom, or your own bathroom at home, or at home alone in your tiny apartment with a chicken pot pie on your lap while you watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix. That could be their new motto, Netflix and Sob Uncontrollably.

Or maybe if you created a special cry closet that allowed you to cry in peace and solitude, like a certain western university has done.

Worried that people aren't making fun of Generation Z enough, the University of Utah has installed a cry closet in their library as a place for students to de-stress during finals week.

According to a USA Today story, the closet is actually an art installation created by Utah senior, Nemo Miller, as part of his senior art project. And yes, Miller did it with a sense of humor knowing how ludicrous it sounds. Still, he sounds kind of serious when he talks about it.

"The space is meant to provide a place for students studying for finals to take a short 10-minute break," says a placard on front of the closet. Artists always talk about "space," and never a "room" or a "building" or a "vertical emotion coffin.

There are even rules about using the cry closet. First, you must knock before you enter, which not only calls for some careful planning and patience so you can release your emotions at a designated time. But knocking will totally kill the mood of the closet crier, like getting poked in the ribs when you're stretching.

You're also only given a 10 minute time limit inside, so no crying yourself to sleep. That also means your existential crisis can't take too long because there's a long line of other stressed out students holding in their emotions like a sports bar men's room at halftime.

Finally, because we are dealing with college students, only one person is allowed into the crying closet at any one time. I don't know who's going to enforce that, but I'll bet $130,000 it will be rechristened the "coitus closet" before the semester ends.

The closet is lined with a black interior and there are several stuffed animals inside as well, but I'm not sure if it's actually soundproofed. It could be that everyone within a 20 foot radius can still hear you wailing over your Chem 210 final, so you may as well just cry in the bathroom like everyone else has done for the last 10,000 years.

Miller said in an interview, "One aspect of humanity that I am currently exploring is connections and missed connections through communication."

Which makes no sense. If you want to explore communication, shutting people in a closet so they can process their emotions in complete solitude is not it. Scratching out that "only one person in the cry closet" rule is a better way to study communication. More fun too.

Still, while Miller's art project may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek, I still worry that we're going to start seeing actual cry closets in other universities, which will only create a false expectation in college students that this is what real life is like.

I hate to disappoint you. There are no cry closets in real life, there are no safe spaces other than the ones you make, and when life is hard, you've just got to sob in a bathroom stall by yourself until the feeling goes away.

At least that's how Clint Eastwood did it. Only don't tell anyone, because he's kind of sensitive about it.

Photo credit: Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office. News and Features Bureau. (12/17/1942 - 09/15/1945) (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

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