One of the weirdest, most awkward parts of a relationship is knowing how to react when the other reaches their limit and shoots a geyser of saline out of their eyeholes. At least it is for men -- I obviously can't speak for women because of all this dong. But it seems to me that women are just as baffled at a man's lack of knowledge on how to react in those moments, as men are when a woman has them.
I can't fix that. Hell, I don't know if anyone can ... but I can at least explain why we turn into drooling dipshits when we see you crying.
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The day has just been one huge broken, overflowing septic tank. You got all the way back to the office before realizing that McDonald's screwed up your order and ruined your lunch. You spilled coffee on your best shirt. You thought you were doing exceptional work, but your boss told you in so many terms that you'd be better off cleavage-polishing a brass pole at bachelor parties than doing your current job. He didn't say that exact thing, so you can't turn him in, but goddamnit, you know that's what he was thinking.
You get home, and it all hits you at once. Your husband asks what's wrong, and you tell him, "Nothing, it's just been a bad day," and leave it at that. You'd like to let loose and unload all of the shit that's been shoveled onto your back, but there's nothing he can really do about it. He can't unstain your shirt, and lunch is six hours in the past. Telling him about your boss would just piss him off, and there's a chance he'll call him up and threaten to spin-kick his pancreas in half, getting you fired. You just need to get in the tub and cry it out.
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And maybe fill that tube with vodka.
But in His Mind ...
Men think of crying as a negative thing. I mean, we know the difference between an emotional breakdown and crying through your vows at the altar -- we're not that far removed from the concept. We're not thinking, "Oh, God, she's crying at her own wedding! She must hate me!" But in cases of the former, our natural instinct is to track down the cause of the problem and dick it to death.
It's not just a stereotype that men are linear thinkers. We like simple solutions to fixable problems. It's how we give ourselves worth and keep things stable and organized in our heads. So when we see a woman crying, to us it's like our car alarm going off at 3 a.m., and we're desperately fumbling around and pressing every button on the keys to shut it off before the neighbors wake up and sic their monkeys on us.
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Don't underestimate them. They'll bite your whole goddamn face off.
In a panic, we attempt to locate what triggered the episode: What made her cry? How can I eliminate it? What can I do to make her happy right this second? Will joking help? Should I hug her? Let her punch me in the dick? Whatever it takes, that's what I'm doing because this is awful. To many of us, it's inconceivable that there might not be a solution at all because ...
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"What the hell is wrong with me?" you ask yourself, blowing your nose after a particularly touching cellphone commercial. Yesterday, you lost it in traffic because a dance song came on the radio, and it reminded you of high school. Three days ago, someone worded a compliment wrong, and you felt like it was a small jab meant to subtly call you fat. You spent the next 30 minutes crying on the toilet. All you want to do is snuggle up with your boyfriend and embrace some normalcy for a night ... but 20 minutes into an X-Files marathon, it starts back up again, and you quickly excuse yourself to the tub.
You feel silly because you can't explain why it's happening. You don't feel depressed, and you're not really stressed about anything. It has to be hormones. You've dealt with it before, and you know you'll get through it this time. It just has to run its course and level out.
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And if not, then you'll just have to start a bar fight like a normal person.
But in His Mind ...
"What the fuck was that all about? This wasn't even one of the episodes where Mulder and Scully almost kiss -- it's one of the weird comedy ones."
It sounds horrible and almost condescending to say that we don't have as much experience with crying as women, doesn't it? Like we're taking a cheap shot at them, throwing out a sarcastic insult? But it's true. According to TheAge.com, women cry an average of 64 times a year as opposed to 17 for men. And it's not because they're weak or crazy or irrational. There's an actual scientific reason for it, namely that they have 50-60 percent more prolactin in their bloodstream than men -- that's the chemical that helps produce milk, and it just so happens to play a part in producing tears. So saying, "It's just hormones," is actually correct in certain situations.
You can say, "It's just in my blood," and be correct in a literal sense.
But sometimes when it seems like we're being insensitive or making light of you crying, it's because we truly don't understand. Men tend to have a fairly stable set of circumstances that make them break down, and if crying stretches out beyond those, we can usually pinpoint the problem as depression. So there are times when we're told the reason for a woman crying, we cross reference that with our own list, and we think, "There's no way she's crying about that. She just doesn't want to tell me what's wrong. Well, I'll show her. For the rest of the week, I'm talking like Humpty Hump."
And because of that ...
"Oh, my God, if he doesn't just drop it and leave me alone, I'm going to flip out and foot-massage his colon. I've told him five times that nothing is wrong; I just need to be left alone!"
But still, he persists like a scorching case of herpes. Nagging, questioning ... just being goddamn annoying about it. Why can't he understand that not everything is about him? That, sometimes, a woman just gets overwhelmed and needs some time to herself to reboot and get her thoughts organized? This isn't a complex problem. Hell, you've done what he asked you to do when you first met: You told him directly what's going on and exactly what you need him to do without mincing a single word.
"I need you to fuck completely off" probably wasn't what he meant by that, but close enough.
But in His Mind ...
When I said that men go through a mental checklist of things that could be causing the "problem," I meant it literally. "She's not in pain. She didn't watch Toy Story 3. She doesn't seem angry. I didn't fart on her. Yet." And once we've exhausted all possibilities, the only thing left is us. "It had to have been something I said and didn't realize."
There's a danger in this besides the obvious problems that come with assuming. The biggest of which happens when a man takes offense to being silently "blamed" for something that he didn't even know he did. And, in reality, didn't do at all. And that's exactly the message many of us get when a woman is crying and saying, "I'm fine," while offering no other explanation. We think she wants us to figure out what we did wrong. It's why you'll hear certain men trying to play the episode down, claiming that she's overreacting. Or even getting aggressive and starting an argument: "What the hell do you want from me? Is being with me so bad that it reduces you to tears every other week? Christ!"
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I know what will make her feel better: yelling!
It's a defensive move in which they're deflecting an imaginary blame back onto her because we can't imagine a scenario in which there simply is no blame. Something had to have caused it, right? And if she's sitting there, silently resenting me for it, then I need to head that shit off at the pass and let her know who's the real problem here. "It's not my fault you can't control your emotions!"
Of course, it often goes the opposite direction, where the man clams up and doesn't say anything at all. There's a reason for that, too ...