I recently saw a girl reading a book on a busy commuter train and it made her cry. Her book actually reduced her to tears. Well, I thought, that’s one hell of a paper cut, she should probably invest in a Kindle if pages cause her that much trouble. The guy next to her was looking distinctly worried as his lapel seemed like it was in danger of being used to wipe her nose.
Well, on sharing this tale of cut fingers and public tears with some friends, it appears that what had in fact occurred on this very public mode of transport was that the girl was just one of many people who like to blub at a good book and think nothing of letting the tears roll in front of slightly uncomfortable strangers.
Now, it’s a myth that I had my tear ducts removed at the same time as my heart and soul. I actually couldn’t afford the surgery for all three so I opted for the latter two and decided to take my chances against films like Million Dollar Baby and books like, well, to be honest I haven’t cried so much as when I read Jennie by Paul Gallico and have still never forgiven my mother for inflicting it upon my childhood, but this film/book induced welling up occurs under the same circumstances as my bathing; at home and very much alone.
I fully appreciate that some books are very hard to put down as there’s something so delicious about allowing yourself to become wholly enveloped in the “other” world of a good page-turner, especially when its got you firmly by the heart strings. Similarly, I have actually been known to select a film specifically because of its tortuous “screw you” ending, where the guy doesn’t get the girl and the girl wants to hang herself using her cat. It’s a perverse joy of mine to unleash a cacophony of wailing at no expense of my own and come out of it feeling cathartically cleansed and drained of all woe. It’s an odd hobby, I’ll grant you that, but it’s less bizarre than morris dancing and that’s perfectly acceptable in small villages all across the country, but I digress. I don’t understand how it has become appropriate to flaunt this emotional out-pouring of fiction-fuelled misery in public. How bizarre, how anti-social, how terribly un-British!
There is nothing wrong with sharing your emotions with your nearest and dearest or your highly paid therapist but really? On a packed commuter train? I’ve also heard tell of one solo female traveller unleashing her eye leakage in a restaurant. A restaurant!!! I’m not even going to begin tackling the obvious psychological implications of some underlying attention seeking syndrome, that would take me years to write and I don’t think I want my Nobel Prize to be based on the caterwauling of some tart on the tube. What I’m more concerned about is how this affects me and those around the
overly sensitive emotional exhibitionist emotionally delicate reader.
I may not be the most sympathetic being out there (“hatchet faced harpy” and “person you’d most want on your gang in a prison fight” are probably more commonly used) but even I feel a sudden overwhelming urge to assist when I see a fellow humanoid leaking brine from the eye-holes. This is where it becomes highly disturbing for the innocent bystander (which would be me in this case, having narrowly avoided the prison fight) as we follow the basic human instinct when faced with a person of a distressed persuasion, which is to run the fundamental assessment: Can I eat it or f… oh, bit too basic, hang on, let me dial it up a notch *ahem*: Is the person in immediate danger and will assisting them put me in immediate danger?
If the damsel was being verbally assaulted by an irate ticket inspector/waiter or had spilled hot coffee all down her chesticles, we would then be able to formulate a clear plan of action. In the case of the evil ticket puncher/maitre d’, most would step in and politely ask that they desist from acting like a complete arse, I of course, with my prison issue rusty potato peeler-knife and bad-ass attitude would flick a well arched eyebrow in the meanie’s direction and send them scurrying for their mummy. On the other hand, if the malady that had caused the tears was a slopped skinny decaf cappafrappamochacino, well I’d tell her to drink a proper coffee for starters and then assist by proffering a tissue and some soothing words of comfort. However, when we can’t see any tangible reason for the train or restaurant to be in danger of flooding, Alice In Wonderland style, what are we to do? It’s confusing and it’s most, most disconcerting.
For those who aren’t confused and alarmed at this unexplained outburst from a nurturing point of view are, perhaps, like the chap with the absorbent looking lapel, more worried that the person blubbing for no apparent reason is clearly mentally unstable and therefore highly likely to wipe snot or any other bodily effluence all over those within arms reach. Trust me, I’ve lived in a town with a disproportionately high level of free-range fruit loops and they love nothing more than to share their vile little excretions, whether you appreciate the generosity or not. Alternatively, the crying could be a sign that the sniveller is about to try to engage the innocent bystander in one almighty pig’s ear of a predicament, containing too much personal information and little room for escape. Quite simply put, if you’re acting odd, you’re a threat. Crying in public is odd and you are therefore a danger to couture and human decency.
I’m holding firm on this point. I know I usually leave a diplomatic allowance for human peculiarities so as not to alienate the audience, but not this time people! For it is those who weep and wail in public with no apparent reason other than the fictional fantasy land in their heads who are the ones doing the alienating and forcing those around to face non-existent dilemmas regarding distressed damsels. So I say keep your tears to yourselves, keep your upper lip stiff and thoroughly British and if you can’t manage that while in public, stick to reading novels by Katie Price.