|Dear Oscar, Edgar, and August,
As the mother of future men in this world, I can’t be certain as to what your take on crying in public may or may not be; however, I suspect that despite our different genders, our philosophies may be more similar than different. I don’t make a habit of crying in public and certainly don’t subscribe to the stereotype that women use tears to get their way. There may be some people who do manipulate with tears–men and women–but that has never been my philosophy in any discernible way. I cry when I need to, when I have to, when there is no other choice. Right now you’re young, and you cry for reasons that vary from scraping your knee to not getting your way. But I haven’t yet noticed your using tears to change our minds or to try to influence our thinking. Your tears are a reaction to circumstances. And that is what happened to me today.
I was at a local business this morning when a series of events transpired that prompted me to question the honesty and forthrightness of said business. Without naming the company or revealing any identifying details, my careful inspection of the bill led me to believe that I was being charged twice for the same services–among other transgressions. I questioned the charges, their method of communication, and called into question their integrity. I was then invited to speak with the owner. And while this letter to you might have been an admonition to be vigilant in all your business dealings–and to do so without becoming overly cynical, there is more to this story and a perhaps more important moral.
In my communication with the owner, who listened and was as accommodating as she could have been under the circumstances, tears of frustration welled up, and I cried–a lot. Though there have been stressors a-plenty that could certainly explain this event, it became apparent to me after reflection that though these may have been contributing factors, these particular tears were not due to grief or sadness or worry or stress. They were due to anger pure and simple–anger at the belief I was being lied to, taken advantage of, and the disillusionment that came along as a result. This was a business I admired, one I had returned to, one that I had recommended to others, one that I had trusted.
Am I proud that I cried? Initially I think I was actually embarrassed; but then I thought about it and realized that my tears were an articulate expression of a significant emotion. When you trust someone or something and that trust is broken, it is a loss–whether literal or figurative or something else. And a loss often deserves your tears. The world may tell you–whether you’re male or female–that you need to suppress your tears (or at least save them for the privacy of your own home). But please remember that there are many societal dictates that simply don’t work in real life. Washington Irving said, “”There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.” There are many things in life some people see as “marks of weakness”–asking for help, stepping aside, allowing someone else to have the spotlight, saying you’re sorry, tears.
I invite you, as my sons, to see all of the above as marks of your strength–and to forgive yourself when you temporarily give in to society’s unfortunate dictates and believe that they are anything but. Your humanity is a gift, and your willingness and ability to express it even moreso.