I have cried on all forms of public transportation, including planes, trains, subways, buses and London tubes — I lived in England for several years — and, naturally, I’ve cried in my car.
Every woman who drives a car has cried in it; why there isn’t a permanent tissue holder next to the steering wheel defies understanding and offers evidence for the need of women to be more prominent in STEM fields, particularly in automotive engineering and design.
Subways and tubes are the worst places to cry because the lighting flatters no one. Even riders who will unblinkingly sit next to a person who’s been homeless since 1986 will move away from a young, sobbing woman. A young woman crying (especially if it’s close to midnight) is scary. She’s volatile. She’s a mess. Only in movies are women attractive when they cry.
In real life, women crying are just about the most frightening creatures on Earth. Somebody weeping in public has nothing else to lose. Like the unnamed monster in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” she has lost her dignity and is beyond help. It’s best to stay away.
“Places I’ve Cried After Midnight” might well be my next book. Were I editing an anthology, I could get approximately 2.4 million contributions within a week. Eighteen of these would be from men.
The best place for a woman to cry is, of course, her own home. That way she can look in the mirror and watch herself. I fully believe it’s the origin of the Medusa legend. Some guy back in Greece watched a woman looking at herself while she was crying and was horrified.
The current trend is for young women to take pictures of themselves crying and post them on social media. This is not a good idea. I’m not sure how to make that clear to them. It might simply be something they need to grow out of, like biting their nails or wearing blue eye shadow.
Most of my public crying occurred when I was in my 20s. I cried not only when sad but more often when enraged and unable to distinguish between those two emotions. It was as if the tracks were crossed at a railway switching station.
I’ve been married for 25 years now and the best thing about being married is not having to deal with boyfriends. There is no part of me that wants to sentimentalize the nights I walked through major cities holding my cheap high heels in one hand because some poor soul was paying more attention to another girl. I did this in London, walking from a flat near King’s Cross back to my place on Gower Street at 1:30 a.m., yelling things into the otherwise peaceful English night. I did it in New York, where I’ve cried in every borough except Staten Island.
I cried all over Hanover, N.H., because that’s where I went to college. I cried in the library, I cried in the study halls, I cried in my classrooms. Basically, I left a little trail of salty tears all over campus.
My friends tell stories about crying in the shower, crying on their couches, in the stairwell of a fancy hotel after a friend’s or sister’s wedding, or on the back porch while having yet another bad-for-them drink or cigarette.
The crying that I remember best, however, happened 10 years ago. My father was dying a long, bad death. One of the last things he ever said to me, as I sat next to him racked with weeping, was “Gina, relax.” He’d said the same thing to me my entire life. All he ever wanted for was for me to stop crying. When he whispered, “relax” both of us laughed.
I don’t cry much anymore. It’s like a habit I’ve given up, like biting my cuticles. In part it’s because I feel that anything worth crying about is probably worth laughing at — that much my father taught me — but also because tears, like time, are a currency that has increased in value. I used up lot of it when I was younger; what remains I want to make sure is well spent.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at UConn and author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at ginabarreca.com.