If you asked any of my siblings to share their earliest memories of me, there is a high chance they would narrate a story of me irritating them with my wailing or screaming.
I have this scar on my jaw that I got at the age of 4. I had slipped on wet marble, hit my chin on the steep edge of the stairs, and had my chin ripped open up to the jaw. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Scared and in pain, I had screamed out loud.
My dad, who was having breakfast at the time, rushed out of the dining room and slapped my tiny butt several times. He had assumed I was screaming and crying over nothing, as usual…until he saw the blood and became overwhelmed with immense shame.
I was a very emotional child and I expressed every emotion with tears. I cried when I was excited, scared, felt betrayed, happy, hurt, irritated…I cried over everything! And when I got into Secondary School, one of the numerous nicknames I got was “tawoo”, a sort of onomatopoeic expression of the way I sounded when I cried. And to be honest, I still cried over everything. In fact, I was hardly ever punished, as I would cry so much already before they issued the punishment.
There must have been an event that led to me hardening my heart and deciding never to cry over anything anymore, as by the time I was 12, the crying stopped completely. It was 360 degree turn around. I still had bouts of melancholy, but I had attained firm control over my tear ducts. Somehow, I had finally been convinced that crying was either a sign of weakness or a sign of being manipulative; either way, it was inappropriate for non-babies to do.
In fact, the only time I remember crying pointlessly as a grown human was one of the nights I had a fight with an ex. We were in that power-tussle stage and he had been trying to tell me off over something he felt I needed to feel bad for. I was not in the mood to genuinely consider his points, and I was also starting to get irritated by his nagging baritone, so I cried. I figured crying was what people did when they were genuinely affected by admonition, so I believed it was the perfect ruse to get him to just shut the hell up. Unfortunately, he knew me too well. Rather than hold me and wipe away the tears, he laughed at me, saying to me that he was shocked I would stoop to crocodile tears just to get him off my back. He had said: “better stop all that fakeness. I know you. You are not really crying. You are too big to cry just like that”
His words had me feeling defeated. At first, I wondered if by big he had meant I was fat, and then I considered that he probably meant I was too proud to cry over simple issues. Eventually, I remembered Fergie’s song “Big girls don’t cry” and realized that he probably was alluding to that. He was a bit too cheesy; the kind of dude who would express himself in poems or send you songs to communicate his thoughts, rather than be concise and just pass the message across with few words. But, he was also right. I had been manipulative with the tears.
True, people can use crying as a manipulation tactic, but that doesn’t mean all crying is manipulative or bad. What if I really had been hurt? What if I actually had been crying genuine tears? Who woke up one morning and said: “Big girls don’t cry” and the whole world agreed? What do people mean when they say “big girl” anyway?
Perhaps these random memories and thoughts are rushing through my mind, as I am still caught up in worries over the little girl from the clinic earlier today. She may have been about 13 or 14, but she clearly still was terrified by the idea of receiving an injection. Her mother, however, who dint understand the tears, kept condemning her, telling her off for crying. At some point she had actually said, “big girls don’t cry”.
Do you think this child would one day become too ashamed to let herself cry, even when she knows it is the only way she would get relief? Will she learn to bottle everything up inside and never let herself express her true feelings, because she is afraid she would cry if she did? Do you think that one day she will be just like me?