Columns

Doyle ’18: Big girls still cry

By
Opinions Columnist
Monday, October 26, 2015

I still remember my biggest fear about entering high school. I convinced myself that I was finally too old to cry in school. “What am I going to do if I get hurt in gym class?” I worried. I got over this idea fairly quickly. I cried the first day because I missed my middle school friends. And the day after that. When my first serious boyfriend broke up with me, I cried in the hallways for a month (once so hard my nose started bleeding — talk about attractive!) I quickly ascended to the throne of waterworks queen.

Five years later, not much has changed. I’ve cried in quite a few public locations just this semester: Metcalf Auditorium, the Sharpe Refectory, Sayles Hall and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center, not to mention outdoors. It has become routine to me. And every time, someone asks me, “Do you want to go someplace private?” Of course these people mean well. Still, I can’t understand why I should need to hide my emotions. I am human, after all.

Brown is probably one of the most understanding and safe places for individuals facing mental health challenges or those who are simply outwardly emotional. Many student groups on campus work every day to make this possible. Students for Samaritans, Active Minds and Project Let’s Erase the Stigma are just a few student groups that help to foster this sort of environment. Still, the stigma remains obvious.

The first few times I had meltdowns on campus, I was paranoid that people were staring at me. To my relief, I quickly realized that few were that insensitive. Still, what I’ve experienced is troubling in its own right. It is quite the opposite of staring. In fact, no one will make eye contact with me. And I completely realize that this comes from a place of caring. You think maybe if you avert eye contact, I’ll feel less embarrassed. But to be honest, sometimes a smile is all I need.

It’s true that you probably shouldn’t bombard a clearly distraught student with “What’s wrong?” — especially if you don’t know the student. Still, ignoring the person completely is not much better. If you usually make eye contact with and smile at passersby, do what you normally do! Of course, every student is different, and I can’t speak for all students by any means. But if I wanted to be alone, I would be in my dorm room, not at the Ratty.

Sometimes the smallest gestures can mean the most. In my senior year of high school, when I walked into class crying, my teacher didn’t ask what was wrong. Instead he asked if I’d like to wear a giant Christmas tree costume and collect charity donations in the cafeteria. I was thankful for the distraction and enjoyed the chance to help out while wearing boots shaped like presents.

More recently, I stood crying outside of the Duck and Bunny. A man about my age walked by and asked if I’d like a hug. He proceeded to tell me he hoped I had a wonderful rest of the day. With the way that he offered me such kindness without asking for a reason, I couldn’t resist feeling a sense of happiness.

This isn’t to say that a simple act of kindness will make someone’s troubles go away. Mental health and emotions are complicated. Frankly, you may not help at all. But I can almost guarantee that the individual will deeply appreciate your gesture.

If reading this made you uncomfortable, or if the thought of seeing me bawling at Josiah’s gives you secondhand embarrassment, you might want to keep in mind the stigma you are perpetuating. By treating emotions as strange, embarrassing and inappropriate, you make those who cannot control them feel like they don’t belong.

Tears are human. Scientists believe that crying could be an adaptation allowing for a signal to others that you need help. Some studies have shown that tears contain natural pain relievers, which explains the feeling of catharsis that often follows crying. It can happen when you’re happy, sad, angry, embarrassed, scared, frustrated, stressed or anywhere in between. Crying is healthy, natural and okay.

It can be scary to remember that the “real world” does not look kindly upon tears. When politicians cry in public, it makes national news. While crying at my summer internship (and wiping my face with a pay stub), I was acutely aware of the danger of appearing weak in the professional environment. But I’m determined not to let my emotions run my life. I will continue to strut proudly down Thayer Street, cheeks glistening. And you should do the same — and know that I’ll smile at you.

Allie Doyle ’18 is that girl you always see crying at the Ratty.