The first place I feel it is in the back of my nose. That’s when I know I’m about to cry. Usually there are one or two tears at that point. If I can rein it in before the tension builds up in the back of my jaw I’m usually fine. If not, there I am: crying in public.
In the last week, I cried (at least) at the following times:
+When I found out Whitney Houston had died
+While watching “The Vow” in theaters
+While watching the trailer for Titanic in 3D during the previews before “The Vow”
+When “Someone Like You” came on the radio on Valentine’s Day
+When “Riding Solo” came on the radio on Valentine’s Day
+When I tried to start my financial aid forms
+When I got rejected from Iowa University (even though I don’t want to go there)
+When I missed yoga
So yeah. I’m a crier.
The absolute worst place to cry is at work. I can tell you from experience, it’s completely embarrassing. There you are in the bathroom talking yourself down trying not to cry (which always makes it even harder) and wondering if anyone will notice that your eyes are bloodshot. It’s basically the worst ever. Western society demands emotional restraint in public. Those who cry at work are often perceived as being overly-emotional and lacking in self control. Often criers get pegged as vulnerable or incompetent. Women in particular are relentlessly encouraged to unlearn teary reactions and do everything in their power to avoid crying. Much like baseball, there’s no crying in business.
Michelle Goodman, author of The Anti-9-to-5 Guide, gave Jezebel the inside scoop on the wheres whens and whys of crying at work. I have to admit, I get secret joy from the admission that everyone cries at work. Finally, at least, someone is getting real about how to best cover it up. Goodman’s rules about crying at work:
+Get Out. Go out for lunch, take a walk around the block or hide out in your office. Just get away from everyone else
+Make an excuse. Goodman suggests taking a fake phone call. I’m a big fan of pretending my contact fell out.
+Compose yourself. I’ve always been a victim of red eyes, but I hear thinking about regular everyday things like doing laundry or the Queen works well for putting yourself back together.
+Offer a short explanation. Not a short explanation like, “Sorry, I’m just so tired.” More like, “Obviously, I have strong feelings on the issue.”
+Do a great job and move on. You can cry over constructive criticism as long as you take that criticism and rock at your job.
+Don’t do it a lot. If you’re routinely crying at work, something else is probably going on. Either you need to take a serious look at the issues in your personal life or consider changing employers.
Though you are, mostly, expected to be an emotionless robot, Goodman explains some of the times when it’s acceptable to let the cracks show. So there’s no crying in baseball… except when your team wins the world series! People tend to be more comfortable with the occasional tears of joy. “You can still pull off tearing up in a professional setting if you’re giving a speech, presentation or toast about a project or team that’s near and dear to your heart,” says Goodman, “especially in a mission-based organization or with a program that serves a greater social good.” Additionally no one expects you to stay stoic upon hearing tragic personal news. No one expects you to keep in together in the face of accident, illness or death. The funny thing is, this is just like the difference between crying during a movie while sitting with a friend, and crying during a fight with that same friend.
Still, what’s often seemed odd to me is that we are expected to wholeheartedly throw ourselves into our work, yet express no reaction when such work is not going well. We’re expected to pretend that our jobs are our highest priority, but that accidentally blowing thousands of dollars, losing big clients, dealing with assholes, being repeatedly told we’re doing something wrong or spilling our third latte in a row doesn’t bother us one bit. If someone is expected to stare stoney faced while being yelled at, does that mean they’re employed merely as a punching bag? Why must we be judged by an involuntary reaction of the sympathetic nervous system?
Unfortunately I can’t change the rules of social stigma. I suppose, because I’d rather not work a phone job the rest of my life, I might as well get used to suppressing my inner crier.