Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

When Big Girls and Boys Cry

Filed in Stories, voices :: February 8, 2011

As a child in late 1960s Hollywood, Florida, I often rode past the winter campus of the Riverside Military Academy.

Somehow I came to believe that Riverside was where all little boys were sent to be taught the boy-secret of how not to cry. Even though I wasn’t privy to this secret, and knew that as a girl I could cry, I also knew that I really shouldn’t.

I also figured out early on that I am not a pretty crier.  My eyes and nose become puffy and red, and they run unbecomingly.  I know that once any tears break through, more tears wait just under the surface for at least a few hours.

Crying turned me into everything I worked very hard to avoid being: unattractive, vulnerable, emotional, overtly feminine in ways that weren’t acceptable and made other people uncomfortable.

Stoic, when I could manage it, was a much better choice.

The problem with stoic, though, especially my tough-girl version, is that being stoic shuts down my feelings and leaves me expending valuable energy primarily on not-feeling.

Humans connect through tears–but you knew that without the link.

Now I cry when I need to cry.  Sometimes it’s a lot.  Sometimes I catch myself avoiding it, and I stop as soon as possible because I know that my crying means that I am alive, physically and emotionally.

When I read that Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing in the Middle East and North Africa, recently released from his twelve-day detainment by the government, has energized the Egyptian revolution with his tears, I was not surprised.

He is alive.  The crowds are alive.

You can watch the interview, with English subtitles, in which he openly weeps for those protesters who have died,  here.

His tears, like my tears, like yours, have power.

Filed in Stories, voices


  1. Ellen Berg

    I have much love for this post because I can relate. I’m not a pretty crier, not at all. All red and blotchy and swollen and snot. No, not purty at all.

    It seems to me that along with crying, we could almost insert any other non-stoic emotion: anger, enthusiasm, passion…. How have we come to this place in our society where people admire and value others who don’t feel their feelings? Where artifice is more important than authenticity? Is it the impression that somehow emotions mean “out of control?”

    Nice post.