I got married this weekend. It was wonderful. It was everything I’d dreamed it would be. I felt overwhelmingly blessed—I genuinely did. Several members of my family and close friends traveled to be there with us. The weather was beautiful, so was my groom. I looked about seven pounds lighter in my dress. All the essential elements of a traditional American wedding were at play. I was happy.
I was also just a tiny bit miserable. Can you be a tiny bit miserable, or is the word miserable too big a word to be tiny? I’m not sure, but I am certain I felt acutely looked upon, as if I was obligated to provide direction on what to do now, how to feel next, when to help or where to go next for every person there. That is absolutely not my vibe. It sits squarely in the face of my personal brand, which is very much like, “Do you, boo, because that’s what I’ll be doing.”
I hope I don’t sound like a brat. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful. I am immensely grateful, really. I’m obsessed with looking at the photos and the videos and “oohing” and “ahhing” at all the special moments. It was wonderful in so many ways. If I weren’t the bride, I would’ve had a wonderful time. In truth, I thought I might have some sort of a breakdown the night before the wedding, some kind of a mindcrack or physical collapse. I couldn’t control my emotions or my stress the way I normally do. I couldn’t stop myself from caring entirely too much about every detail. I was prepared to set the hotel on fire for giving me trouble with delivering welcome notes to our guests. I would’ve happily punched the mailman for not delivering my father’s gift on time for the ceremony. I was completely prepared to call the whole thing off when the groom acted too bothered to take photos the morning before the ceremony. Every so often, my bridesmaids would ask me a question, and I literally couldn’t drum up an answer for fear of big, fat, slippery crocodile tears drizzling down my face.
And boy, did I cry. I cried when I saw my mom and my aunt at the welcome dinner. I cried in the shower the night before the wedding. I cried as I was getting my lashes applied. I cried down the aisle, throughout the ceremony and well into the reception during toasts. Big tears. Ugly face. Runny nose. Several Kleenex. Honestly, these were weak tears—the kind everyone cries when we think we’re unable to bear the weight of a moment. We are all accustomed to these tears and, unfortunately, attribute them to an internal error in the person on whose face they appear. Crying in professional and social settings are often frowned upon for this very reason. We think the person crying is weak. She/he is unable to bear the weight of the moment, and we prefer strength in every moment.
Women’s tears are especially treated with disdain and are more often associated with weakness. Those tears, the kind that seemingly stream up from our ovaries before reaching our eyes, are played up in movies, exploited for sales in all forms of media and reinforced in the messages we send our daughters, nieces and mentees. These tears, I think, help society form strict rules around womanhood. It helps us to simply explain human nature and wrap our minds around the idea of what might actually be a more complicated notion. That is, women cry when they are both powerless and powerful, and we, as a race of people, are taught not to inquire as to which.
In my experience (being a woman and loving other women), there are uncountable moments when women can’t help themselves from crying, or even insist upon it. We are more than capable of facing a stressful or hurtful moment objectively, having a cerebral understanding of how to work through the moment without crying, and still require a good sob. Not because we are unable to bear the weight of the moment, but because crying sometimes helps to do just that. Tears release tension that has been held in for too long. They allow for what my mom calls a “human moment,” where we take space to recognize and come to terms with our impending mortality, the realization that we are indeed not gods. Tears can be cleansing and therapeutic. They can also be a mere physiological reaction to a stimulant, one that disconnects the crier from her tears because she does not even feel the need for them. Yet, she cries. Because she is a woman. Yes, because she is a woman. And women have hormones that, when provoked, produce tears. She cannot help it.
Thus, let us commence a more thoughtful examination of our own tears and those of others. For the sake of women, girls, the men who love them or even don’t, let us approach women’s tears with better discernment and curiosity, if not genuine concern. We’ll ask ourselves what each tear means and learn to soothe them; we’ll work and speak and do despite them—and maybe we’ll even invite them, when needed.
And really, I had so much fun at my wedding. It was just horrible, that’s all. So I cried.
Author: Mariah L. Williams