Monday, January 19, 2009


Pygar has been exploring “tears” and their impact, and in his usual caring manner and search for insight, wants to know how many of his readers deal with ‘tears’, what elicits them, how they view them ...(

His questions provoked a rather contradictory response in me and while I went to comment more than once, I realized in the end that I would have to explore it further in my own venue as my thoughts were convoluted, complicated and verbose.

My gut reaction was quite simply to declare “ I HATE tears” and further thoughts on tears, while providing some insight, did not change that initial flush of emotion at all. For, right or wrong, it is bred in the bone to me to equate tears with weakness and I cannot tolerate nor abide any weakness in myself. I despise crying and have spent my life fighting a natural propensity to tears, refusing to surrender to a passionate heart and a genetic predisposition for revelling in great emotions. (The Irish are well known for their ability to tear up at the slightest brush of emotion – from rage to passion to love – requited or unrequited.)

I cannot stand to be vulnerable. And there is a vulnerability to the soft eyes, the trembling lip, the heart which leaks in trails down soft cheeks.

I cannot stand to be seen as weak. And while society wrestles with the reality of tears and the knowledge that tears do not necessarily equate weakness nor does the saltwater of passion mean a lack of character, I can’t internalize that any more than the general populace.

Tears have caused me much anguish during the years. Oddly, while I have learned since very young to ruthlessly suppress the tears of sorrow, pain and anguish, I continue to find it almost impossible to contain tears of rage. Which infuriates me even more. For women are still underestimated, seen as emotionally unstable, irrational and apt to be dismissed out of hand. To be a rational, intelligent person and have your concerns dismissed because of being unable to contain a few inadvertent tears is infuriating ... and to have my rationality challenged, my facts suspect, my arguments dismissed is galling to the extreme – because individuals look at the tears and ignore the substance of your argument.

I don’t necessarily feel that my obsession with NOT crying is linked to any child trauma either. I had, when all was said and done, a loving childhood with passionate parents, both of whom were unashamed to cry and did so on occasions of sorrow, joy and passion (whether fuelled by rage or simply a conviction of their validity). But I do believe that it is partially a personality quirk, intrinsic to who I am. For in my own children, I see myself in that respect in my eldest, who you could have flayed alive before she would cry while my second one never stopped her wailing ....

Ultimately, tears to me are a weakness and one in which my pride prevents me from indulging.

I think too that being a woman in male-dominated fields in my 20s and early 30s (1970s/1980s) at a time when that meant you bore the brunt of harassment and contempt, when you had to fight hard for simple respect, when you had to work twice as hard and twice as long as men, meant ANY vulnerability, anything that linked you even tenuously to what were perceived as “weak” feminine traits HAD to be ruthlessly and positively suppressed and tears certainly would fit that kind of narrow viewpoint.

Further, I have a rather rigid sense of honour, and tears have been a woman’s weapon for many years (understandably so, shorn was we have been and continue to be, of many other ways of defending ourselves or asserting our own will). But I despise manipulation of any form and while I believe that most women do NOT use tears to manipulate, there is enough perception of this being a “feminine” trait that I avoid it as yet another reason to suppress my tears – for fear I would be seen as resorting to a backhand and less than honourable way of getting what I wish.

One of the questions asked in Kind Dom’s blog, is do they provide a catharsis?

For me, NO. In fact, they leave me more anguished than before, bereft and vulnerable. As if personifying my dislike of my vulnerability, tears of sorrow or anguish physically hurt ... it is as if some form of acid has etched its way into the saltwater of my body and escapes to trickle burning down my cheeks, hot, acidic and hurtful to the soul and to the body.

And when I do cry, I want to be left strictly, completely alone – not unlike if I hurt myself physically – whether spiritual, emotional or physical, when I hurt, I am an animal who needs to be left alone to deal with the pain as best I can. To touch me, feel me, reach out to me is ultimately destructive to my sense of self and my ability to control my emotions and will leave me crushed. I don’t think that is necessarily a positive trait, incidentally, and can be immensely frustrating to those who love you and reach out caring hands only to have them smacked away a snarling virago spitting rage at them for daring to care ...

I slipped once and fell down steps and broke three ribs and absolutely refused to even be touched or helped to my feet but lay, pulled in on myself, clutching my agony to me, fiercely mine, not to be shared .... and that is how I am when tears do sometimes claim me.

Even physical pain seldom makes me cry. I have an immensely strong constitution and take pride in my tolerance and ability to withstand pain. In actual fact, physical pain is probably the LEAST likely trigger for tears (which, incidentally, makes me a very desirable masochist, unless of course, the tears are the desired outcome of the session).

Oddly, I have NO issue with tears in others and soften and want to reach out and nurture when I see others’ tears. Other tears open the deep wellspring of caring I carry inside me always and makes me move mountains to bring smiles, to bring some level of comfort to the individual crying ...

But tears... at the end of it all, I HATE tears in me.


Pygar said...

Thank you Selkie.

What a very moving post.


Alex Pendragon said...

Due to my upbringing as a "welfare" kid, with it's attendant effect on my self-worth, feeling pretty much like a crate of oranges that SOMEBODY had to do SOMETHING with, at least until I was 18, I pretty much understand the no tears thing. But having grown up and discovered that I'm about as worth as much as I decide to be, I consider the discomfort of being caught crying to be an irritant I would love to discard once and for all. When I watch a tear-jerking movie or hear a song that brings forth the fountain, I let it happen, simply not calling attention to it, dry my eyes, and get on with it.

At this late stage in the game, you DO have choices, and if tears continue to be a no-no, and biting the hands that seek to help you a continuing habit, then you'll just have to live with the consequences, which can be distance and loneliness. Nowadays I crave the comfort of a caring human being that I was so deprived of when i needed it most, and I consider the ultimate state of safety as being a place I can cry in. You find that in love and embraces. It's NEVER to late to rescue yourself.

Anonymous said...

Wow..this really made me think.
I grew up in a very emotionally charged home. My husband is the exact oppposite. He is always *in control*...he see's crying as a weakness, and does not "put up with my tears" unless it is truly a case to be crying over. I've seen him cry 3 times in 16 years however. The first time is when I threatened to leave him early in our marriage, which when he did cry, it made me feel like he loved me so I stayed. The other times is when we nearly lost our younger daughter when she was a baby due to a childhood illness.
This is a tough one to ponder...I cry much less than I used to, my husband has taught me to be strong, so much stronger than I used to be. He is older than me by about 10 years, and during our marriage has been my husband, lover, teacher, father figure....yeah, go figure....I think I need counseling! LOL

Anonymous said...

I want to cry that we still live in a world where tears are seen as weakness and women are still subject to the things events that Selkie touches on.

An excellent post.


selkie said...

Pygar, thank YOU for another topic which fired me into thoughts I might otherwise not have broached ...

The Michael - I know you are right. I know it in my heart and soul - but whether I can change - whether I can even find the desire to change is questionable. You have found someone who you can trust, I think that is the crux of finding the strength.

sweets - my family was (and is) every emotionally charged; my own immediate family (kids and husband) tend to be passionate and loud and touchy feeley - and 2 of my 4 kids are 'cryers' - 2 are not (and like me, prone to tears more from anger or passion, hugging their pain to themselves). Tears, I DO know are NOT a weakness - at least rationally i KNOW that - it is just internalizing that reality. It sounds like you and your husband have a balance - perhaps you've taught him some emotinal softness? Because I think any extreme is not the way to go.

Sir J. - thank you - your compassion is a tribute to your feelings and your obvious and excellent care of your girl, who is lucky indeed!

Anonymous said...

S, I have to agree with you again (dammit), I don't believe women manipulate with tears, but I have an iron woman who works for me and she rails on women who cry. Of course, not me, I cry at anything from old people dancing to little kids singing. I cry most when I see my loved ones hurting.

morningstar said...


i sat here reading your words and thought "my god that could be ME!!" You have no idea !

i too push people away when i most need to feel the connection to another human being.... AND i too will fight to help another..

But i have to say.. tears come more easily these days.. and i think it is because i feel safe to cry.. (at least in private with Sir)

morningstar (owned by Warren)

selkie said...

Tallgrass, I find that utterly charming, your comfort in crying! And yes, if she is around my age, your iron lady had to come up through the ranks. It was a tough world out there (still is, but slowly improving) for women trying to make it in a man's world. Unfortunately, you learn to discard some of a woman's strengths as well as her weaknesses.

morningstar - I've often though you and I are very alike in some ways ....

Anonymous said...

Before I met M, I felt almost exactly as you described here....hated to cry in front of anyone, both because of the distress it caused others, and that I felt it left me looking 'weak'.

With M, there is a catharsis when I cry. When we 'play', I never cry through the physical pain. However, if there is any sort of emotional pain inside me, usually connected to my care responsibilities, then the tears often come. Its horrible while its happening, but leaves me with such a sense of peace afterwards.

I've been trying to write a posting on this for some time now, but its complex and so far I haven't managed to do it. Maybe this will trigger the thought organisation to make it happen.

love and hugs xxx

selkie said...

I think I'm seeing a common denominator here, and that is unrelated to choice of lifestyle. Of course the bottom line is TRUST. If one can trust, and a moment of intense emotion is experienced, then the individual can allow themselves to find a release of an emotional maelstorm in tears- knowing that the person to whom they are exposing themselves are THERE for them, not judging them, not seeing them as weak, but sometimes in fact acting as the catalyst for that emotional release.

Thank you all for your exellent and insightful comments. Between Pygar and here, its been an astonishing insight into something so apparently simplistic as 'tears'...

O said...

Selkie, I related to everything you say and feel exactly the same way. Quite extraordinary! I'd write about the topic but you already have, and so well

Anonymous said...

M:e again.....any idea why the feed for your site might not be working??


selkie said...

M:e, thank you for even wanting to subscribe! I've added one of the "blogger" gadgets, maybe that will work better?

Anonymous said...

Just about the only time that I am struck by tears in this stage in my life is when I hear or see things of great beauty.

I can not keep a dry eye when viewing The Phantom of the Opera, or several other movies. Also, Alan Parsons has several songs that move me so that tears do fall.

I find that pain, fear, or anger do not move me so. My sorrows are my own, and my tears are for greater things.


aphron said...

I tried to comment earlier today, but Blogger was having a fit.

It depends on the person as to how tears affect me. Whenever Sybil sheds tears, I know she is EXTREMELY frustrated and angry. Since she shuns the shedding of tears, I know she very upset.

On the other hand, I have an employee that will boo-hoo at the least, little thing. Correcting her is difficult because she wears her heart on her sleeve. In her case, the shedding of tears makes me respect her less.

Although I have some Irish in me, the English side of me keeps my emotions in check. May even keep my emotions walled off.

Tears can be a weapon, but usually it is the only way that person can show his/her emotions.

selkie said...

Sindarian, Sir, indeed the tears for something beautiful are some of the very few tears I have no shame about shedding...

aphron, it sort scares me that sybil reacts like me -tears of anger and suppressing the others - of course I LIKE sex a lot - so there is THAT difference ...and the reaction of that employee of yours is EXACTLY what i CANNOT stand and as a woman and a feminist drives me NUTS.... it is a form of manipulation no matter how much denied in that type of scenario.