Sometimes I cry, and sometimes I’m in public when the urge strikes. I’ve learned a lot from crying out in the big wide world, and because I’m a giver, I made a primer.
These are my tips for the fine art of losing your shit in front of strangers. Pass them along.
1. Do walk a few blocks away from your office. The only thing worse than avoiding strangers who might try to console you on the sidewalk is running into your co-workers who will be full of questions. It will be awkward if you have to lie and say, “Gram’s in hospice” or “I’m pregnant” because you don’t want them to know that the boss who just offered them the corner office by the good copier just offered you a free subscription to Monster.com.
2. Do bring your phone. You don’t have to call anyone. You don’t even need a charged battery. You really just need a phone case. When the urge to keen strikes, hold the phone case up to your ear and wail like it’s the day the music died. Strangers who see you weeping into a cell phone (case) will give you wide berth on the sidewalk. This prop is especially useful for people who like to scream when they cry. It’s much better to scream into your phone (case), “But what’s it all for? I gave them the best years of my life!” than to risk having shop owners trying to eject you from the premises.
3. Do get your brows waxed. This is good for when you’re on the verge of a big cry, but can’t get it out. Head over to a local nail salon. As a non-English-speaking Vietnamese woman named Tammi plucks your brows, the pain will trigger a flood of tears. Tammi will feel terrible, but explain, “It’s not your fault. It’s just that I gave them the best years of my life, and also? You’re tweezing the skin off my forehead.” Later if you have to explain why you are sobbing on the corner of LaSalle and Lake Street, you can point to your eyebrows. “Just got plucked. Hurts like a mother fucker.”
4. Do lean. The best public crying posture is to face a brick building, raise your arms above your head as if you are being frisked by an officer of the law, and let your salty tears drench the dirty city sidewalk. This stance allows you to avoid eye contact and also stretch your deltoids.
5. Do bring Kleenex. Humanity is generally a caring lot. People are going to offer you crumb-dusted tissues pulled from the bottom of their NPR tote bags. Unless you want to blow your nose into a tissue of unknown provenance, you should have your own. If you see someone reaching into her in her bag, or God forbid, into his trouser pocket to hand you a hanky, then wave your travel-size package of tissues and assure them, “I’m good. Thanks.”
6. Don’t compete with panhandlers. If you are public crying in a large urban city, be respectful of the people who are working and living on the streets. Don’t encroach on a homeless person’s turf or the turf of those who are advocating for the poor. This gets tricky during the holidays, a prime season for taking emotions to the streets, because you can’t ever cry in front of Target because SALVATION ARMY.
7. Don’t cry in an Ann Taylor Loft dressing room. You don’t want a twenty-something shop girl stopping by every three seconds to check on you, asking if you want to open an Ann Taylor Loft credit card in order to save extra 10% today. A better retail option for losing your shit is H&M because the music is so loud no one would hear you even if you were bludgeoned to death with a spiked bat.
8. Don’t duck into the foyer of a capital assessment management office building. The security guards tend to be skittish about full-grown women convulsing in spasms of grief. They tend to want to keep the business of mentally falling into shambles far away from the business of making billions of dollars for capital asset managers.
9. Don’t wander over by your therapist’s building, hoping you’ll catch him coming or going. If you “happen” to bump into him, he may charge you for his time, or, if he’s the nervous sort, he may file charges against you. Better to wander anonymously. Perhaps stroll by the local movie house so if you spot someone (say, Tom from accounting who was recently promoted to VP, Business Development), you can tell him you just saw a double feature, Terms of Endearment and Steele Magnolias.