The Tracks of My Tears


I’m a crier. 

Man, it feels good to type it out there for the world to see. A lot like standing up front in an AA, NA, or SAA meeting. So I assume. For the record, I’m certainly not claiming to have ever been a member of any of these groups. On an unrelated note: Susan, if you’re reading this, I still need that swing and bondage kit you promised me.

Allow me to clarify what I mean when I say that I’m a crier. I’m not the kind of guy who tears up when he’s angry or feels physical pain. No, I pretty much fall into the guidelines of the “typical” man in those examples. I swear. A lot. I’ve punched quite a bit of furniture in my day for having the audacity to move in front of me at the last second. I’ve never considered kicking a dog, for any PETA readers. On the other hand, there have been brief mental flashes of what I would like to do to my two cats after rogue claws found their ways through my sweatpants and into my scrotum. Still, no tears.

The following is a list of things that have made or do make me cry:

  1. I once teared up at a Snuggles commercial. Don’t judge me. I’d had a long day and the commercial had a whole thing with a little girl, her dad, and a towel fresh out of the dryer. As a father to a beautiful young girl myself, that damn bear just got me.
  2. I don’t think it makes me any less of a man to admit that Sarah McLachlan and abused puppies are about the worst combination when one is attempting to maintain any sort of composure. Especially after cocktail number four.
  3. The first time my daughter looked (really looked) in my eyes. Her birth was beautiful and an amazing thing to witness. But my heart didn’t fully break until that first secret shared moment.
  4. Blind auditions on The Voice. As a music lover, I’m already on the edge just by the vocals. Combine those with everyday people rousing through song a room of strangers and a panel of musically-talented celebrity coaches, all while their friends and family watch from side stage. Add a dash of a mom crying from pride when the chairs turn, and it’s over.
  5. Oh so many movies and television shows. I’m a massive fan of cinema. The size of my personal collection is embarrassing. The content of that collection even more so. I’m a fan of chick flicks. The Fault in Our Stars? I barely typed that without going immediately into “the feels.” My two cats are named O’Malley and Karev. Yes. I named them after Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t care what you say.
  6. Weddings. The vows, the speeches, when the groom first sees the bride. I recently bartended a rehearsal dinner. I was legitimately disappointed that the bride and groom did not give speeches about one another. I hope those margaritas gave them horrible hangovers.
  7. Looking inside my wallet on any given day. To be honest, this creates more of a sense of panic than it does tears, but I figured seven items seemed like a solid list.

I’ve come to terms with being a crier. My ten year old daughter has also come to terms with me being a crier. I see her regularly out of the corner of my eye looking to my face when we witness any emotionally moving event. She just knows that my eyes are going to glisten a bit. I take that as a sign of emotional well-being in her. How else would she know when to check Dad’s face? If you’ve never seen Harry Potter, skip the rest of this paragraph. One of my proudest moments so far as a father came during the scene in which Dobby died. My daughter’s breath hitched next to me. Giant teardrops fell down her cheeks. She was emotionally invested in a film unlike I’d ever seen her. And she was comfortable enough to let it all out in front of me. I felt like I might be doing this whole dad thing some justice.

Crying and tears, though, are very interesting to me. I’ve done some research on tears and their purpose. Pretty much everything I’ve read suggests that scientists across the board agree that there are three types of tears. These are basal, reflex, and psychic tears. Without going into too much detail, basal tears are those designed to lubricate the eyeball itself. They’re the liquid that is excreted when we blink. Reflex tears are those that are produced when foreign objects or vapors make their way into our eyes. Think eyelashes, cutting up onions, or moving to one side of a camp fire to avoid smoke just so the wind can switch directions on you. Another marshmallow casualty due to temporary blindness. The third type of tears, psychic, are what really fascinate me. These are the tears that are produced when you injure yourself, feel heartbreak, or get sucked into a sadistic fabric softener commercial.

There is no empirical evidence that any species other than humans experience psychic tears. Even more interesting is that after decades of research, scientists still cannot come to a consensus as to the exact function of these tears. Babies, obviously, use them to communicate needs due to their limited vocabulary early in life, although my grandfather has fairly successfully communicated throughout my entire existence by a series of grunts from behind his pipe. A large number of scientists also hold that psychic tears are a way for us to show predators that we are not a threat. For example, as an overweight child, I used psychic tears in an attempt to avoid ass-kickings from Steve the Bully. I think I did it wrong. Another possible reason for psychic tears is to show openness and gain empathy from another. Personally, I found myself on more than one occasion cancelling break-ups with women (who might be deemed sociopaths) due to their watery eyes.

Beyond these ideas on emotional crying, there are still unanswered questions. Why do we sometimes cry from laughing so hard? Apparently, laughter and emotional crying are both controlled by the hippocampus in the brain. Maybe wires are just getting crossed. Why do I try to hold back psychic tears when in the company of others (resulting in my awkward “about to cry face,” as it has been lovingly labeled by friends), but find myself tearing up while watching a movie alone? I’ve been assured by my cats that my tears are useless on them. They will continue to be assholes who knock over random objects while I watch Finding Neverland, regardless of my tearful pleas for empathy.

I actually find the mystery behind human lacrimation to be beautiful. The saying goes something like, “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” I’m not a religious man. The Bible and Heaven and Hell are pretty heavy and not something around which I can easily wrap my head. But I believe there is something that involves a type of grand design that connects us all. Perhaps what we call a soul is just each individual’s tiny piece in that grand design. And in trying to understand a soul, maybe it is exposed and shared with the universe through crying. So, bring on the vodka and YouTube videos of babies hearing their mothers’ voices for the first time. I have some soul searching to do.