Friday, December 25, 2009


I've always admired actors who can cry on cue. I'm not talking wailing and carrying on with not a tear in sight (see Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking). I'm talking actual waterworks, whether it be a single drop (Glenn Close in the final scene of Dangerous Liaisons) or a steady stream (Jack Nicholson and Fernanda Montenegro in the final scenes of, respectively, About Schmidt and Central Station).

Earlier this year, a friend of mine who was visiting Buenos Aires from L.A. asked me a quite unexpected question: "When was the last time you cried?"

I answered her question with another: "Why do you ask?"

"Because you don't seem like a crier. Not that I think you're insensitive, or unfeeling, but I could never ever imagine you crying."

What an interesting thing to say -- dead right and dead wrong at the same time! As a kid, my family called me "crybaby" because everything turned me into a sobbing mess. Crying isn't something I ever did in public. I looked down on the kids who cried at school. That, I thought, was for babies. I did my weeping in the privacy of my own home, with my family as an audience.

But as an adult, I've unwittingly turned off my inner faucet. In fact, I can only remember four times when I've cried as a grown up. The first was when I was 25 years old. I was listening to Annie Lennox's cover of Paul Simon's "Something So Right" on her Medusa CD. I had just broken up with my second boyfriend, and when she sang, "I've got a wall around me," she struck a nerve. Here comes the rain again.

The second time was on my 29th birthday. I came home from a dinner that my friends had thrown for me, and as I listened to my birthday greetings on the answering machine (this was in the days before everyone started communicating almost strictly by email and, later, by Facebook and IM), I began to cry silently. So this was what it felt like to cry tears of joy. I had never before understood the concept, and I'm not sure I do now, but I can't say I've never had the experience.

The third time was when I was 34 years old. I was vacationing in Rio, and my then-boyfriend dumped me by email. I was hardly head over heels about the guy, but no one had ever broken up with me before. It was a damaging blow to my ego. I called up my best friend Lori, and as I told her the story, I found myself sobbing, this time loudly, on the balcony of my hotel room.

The fourth time was when I was 36 years old. It was six months after I had moved to Buenos Aires, and one week after I was attacked and robbed in my apartment by three burglars. I couldn't understand why such a traumatic experience wouldn't make me cry right after the fact, but on the Friday night after the robbery, as I was sitting in a bar with a bunch of friends, I broke down. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol or on a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome, but I soon found myself sitting on the sidewalk outside of the club, sobbing, this time violently an uncontrollably, to my friend Jeffrey on the telephone, telling him how terrified I was that those men were going to come back to finish me off. (Yes, I'm the eternal drama queen!)

And that's it. I've mourned the end of other relationships. But I didn't cry. I've lost loved ones to illness, to drugs, to various other things. I was devastated. But I didn't cry. In 2001, one of my friends was murdered in his bathtub. I was a mess for weeks, and to this day, I'm haunted by his passing. But I didn't cry. Every now and then, I'll have a dream in which something terrible happens to me. But I won't cry. I'll want to cry. But the tears won't come. It's frustrating -- even more so than those dreams where I end up naked in public, or where I've fallen and can't get up.

So when my friend asked me this question, I was alarmed because she'd unknowingly nailed something that has been an issue for me my entire adult life.

Then this afternoon, the strangest thing happened. I had a dream. I was at a banquet, sitting at a huge dinner table with a bunch of people I knew in the dream but not in real life. Then Lisa Kudrow showed up. She began reading a letter she had written to her sister and brother (accompanied by a slide show), telling them how much she loved them. As I sat there listening and watching, something strange began to happen.

A dark cloud settled over my head. Then there was a rush of thunder and lightning throughout my body. Then a little drizzle. Then full-on downpour. I was crying. But strangely, no one at the table seemed to notice. It was as if I were an invisible ghost. I couldn't figure out if they were ignoring my crying jag because they didn't notice, because they didn't care, or because they were trying to be polite.

Just when I started to suspect I had entered some twilight zone, I woke up -- to blue skies, clear eyes, and a dry mouth. I got out of bed to get a glass of water. I may never be a crier, able to weep on or off cue, but I felt a strange sense of comfort in the fact that finally, I'd managed to cry in my sleep.

Bee Gees "Tears"
Don McClean "Crying"
Janie Fricke "I'll Need Someone To Hold Me (When I Cry)"
Pretenders "Stop Your Sobbing"
Ray Charles "Don't Let The Sun Catch Your Crying"
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