For crying out loud

August 12, 1994|By Regina Brett

RECENTLY, I read where Jackie Kennedy used to periodically go out onto a friend's boat to grieve over President Kennedy's death. She waited until she was far out to sea, looked out over the vast ocean and wept over how much she missed him, according to this account.

By the time I finished reading the article, I, too, was crying.

How sad to have to hide your tears. Any kind of tears. Tears over sorrow, loss and grief. Tears over beauty, joy and wonder.

When President Kennedy died, the nuns at my Catholic grade school held up Jackie as a pillar of strength for not shedding a tear in public. She was the perfect widow, the perfect woman. She was noble and dignified and never broke down, not even at the funeral.

The nuns compared her to Mary, the mother of Jesus. They told us that Mary did not cry. Not even when she stood at the foot of the cross. Not when she held her dead son. Not at his tomb. Never. For years I believed them.

Come to think of it, I don't know if the nuns ever cried in my eight years of Catholic school. If they did, they didn't let us see it. Maybe tears were unholy under the old rules of the church.

Many years after grade school ended for me, the movie "Jesus of Nazareth" came out. The one scene from the film that has stayed with me to this day shows Mary at the foot of the cross in the pouring rain, crying over the death of her son. She's not just crying, she's wailing and weeping. This Mary wept like a woman who had lost her son. She wept like all of us, at times, would want to but usually don't.

Most of us, even those of us who cry daily, were taught that tears are a sign of weakness. If you get upset at work, you go into the bathroom to cry. You hide in a stall and muffle the sobs with gobs of toilet tissue.

If you cry out in the open, people try to stop you. It makes them uncomfortable. It's socially unacceptable. Worse than swearing. In fact, most people are more comfortable with someone swearing than crying.

That's why I love going to movies. You can sit in the dark and weep away, anonymously. Sometimes I weep over the film, sometimes over anything I've needed to cry about in the past few weeks.

Anyone who knows me well has seen me cry. My daughter teases me because I cry over Kleenex and Kodak commercials, over sappy sitcoms where you can predict the ending even before the schmaltzy music starts.

For years I tried to hold in the tears. Then one day a counselor told me those tears were an asset. "What a wonderful gift, to feel so intensely," she said.

But there are still men and women who refuse to cry, who boast over not doing it. I remember someone telling me after seeing the movie "Schindler's List," "I almost cried. It almost got me. Almost." Why did they hold back?

Why did Jackie? Or the nuns? Why does anyone?

We need to stop hiding our tears. It takes a strong person to cry. Maybe we need to be strong enough to be weak. No matter who is watching.

PD Regina Brett is a columnist for the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal.

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