“I would never cry over a dude. That’s something that I’ll never do.”
It would be natural to think this quote was uttered by a lady, maybe in her mid-twenties or early thirties, who is jaded by the modern dating scene. Someone who has “been there, done that” with one too many lame dates and failed relationships.
But this declaration didn’t come from a woman well versed in heartbreak. It came from a preteen girl, gossiping with her girlfriends about a young crush gone wrong. She said this with total conviction, and her friends seemed to agree: none of them would be crying over dudes. Absolutely not.
Her statement struck me because I grew up with a similar mentality, though I wasn’t exactly proclaiming that I’d never cry over a guy. My attitude was more that I was too embarrassed to even admit when I liked a boy, most likely out of fear of rejection. The approaches seem different on the surface, but the motivation is the same: suppress your emotions and you won’t get hurt.
While part of me understands the girl’s refusal to waste her tears on someone who probably didn’t know how to make her happy (she was, after all, talking about a confused preteen boy), a bigger part of me is concerned that she wouldn’t allow herself to have a natural reaction to something disappointing. Something that, in the privacy of a journal or diary, she might even admit was heartbreaking.
If she actually liked the boy, why shouldn’t she cry? Why shouldn’t she acknowledge that those feelings existed?
Because that’s what we’re taught, isn’t it? Love—even young love—is a battle, so you’d better put on a brave face or the other side wins. Friends and family are quick to console the wounded after a break-up with comments like, “You’re better off,” “He isn’t worth your tears,” or “It’s her loss.”
And sometimes those clichés are true. Some people aren’t worth crying over, and some people are much better off alone. But what about the boyfriend or girlfriend who made you laugh and smile, who made you feel beautiful even on your worst days? Aren’t those memories worth more than a brave face? Aren’t they worthy of some real emotional reaction?
A break-up is a loss, but not just for one person or the other. Both sides have lost. And a loss is one of the few experiences in life that actually allows for tears. It’s healthy and normal to want to cry, even just a little, if someone leaves. It’s natural to feel hurt before you can begin to feel better.
I feel like this girl needs to know that if she cries, the tears will eventually stop. She doesn’t have to hold back from doing what might feel necessary. None of us should, really. We’re entitled to our feelings and should be encouraged to explore a full range of emotions, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart.
Maybe that girl and her friends will learn all of this. I know they’ve got plenty of time to be themselves, meet new people, and form new crushes. They’ll learn what it’s like to really fall in love and, yeah, some of them might get their hearts broken along the way. Maybe then they’ll figure out that sometimes, despite what everybody else says, it’s okay to cry.
Thanks, Megyarsh, for the image.
Megan S. is an associate editor at Dating & Hookup. She's a big fan of pop culture, comedy and essay collections (but just a regular fan of any sport that isn't softball or golf).
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