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Monday, April 15, 2024

Column: Crybabies, all of ya

Cry a river, and someone will probably build a bridge for you. You cry. I cry. Everybody cries. Yes, even that chiseled guy at the ARC who resembles Michelangelo’s David cries. Tell me you never cry, and I’ll swear up and down the streets of Downtown Davis that you’re evil and have no soul.

Sure, tears well up in our eyes when we get physically hurt from, say, falling off a bike or some measly paper cut. Cutting onions or getting pepper sprayed can also elicit tears.

But, what good are the tears when you are feeling emotionally distressed, besides making you feel better? Aren’t we humans supposed to be the pinnacle of evolution on this Earth? That’s up for contention, but there may be a reason humans have evolved to cry because of emotions, whether they stem from joy, sorrow or frustration.

An NPR article highlighted several studies regarding tears and the purpose they serve. First, researchers speculate that tears serve a purpose for natural selection. Infants who cry more are less likely to be left alone or with a stranger and demand much more attention from their parents. This leaves them less vulnerable to harm, and that equates to a better survival rate for crybabies! Makes sense, right? As far as survival goes, a crybaby will almost always beat the quiet, cool and collected baby in the Ray-Ban wayfarers. Who wants a baby that doesn’t cry when it falls over and hurts itself?

It all really boils down to good ol’ empathy – plain and simple. Studies found that people inferred greater emotion from photographs of faces with tears than those without them. Tears are a signal to those around a crybaby. They let people know, “I need help, and don’t mess with me,” or just “back off!”

Think about it. You wouldn’t continue yelling at someone who has been pushed to tears, now would you? If you do, you’re going to need to take an empathy 101 class. The last time you saw someone crying, your heart may have sunk like the Titanic (too soon?). No one “human” feels good seeing another person weep in sorrow.

It’s their sincerity and rarity that allows tears to be so powerful. You can expect tears to be real most of the time, because not many people are gifted with the ability to cry on command. It is a useful ability that many actors employ. Even fake crying can still elicit a strong response if it’s believable.

More often than not, people can relate to another’s tears. They know where they’re coming from. NPR likened this idea to Tiger Woods recently choking back tears as he apologized for spitting game with ladies despite being married. Everyone knew where those tears were coming from. His tears – probably genuine – called for people to look at his actions and apology through a lens of sympathy and pity. Without the tears, his apology may have been simply written off as disingenuous bullshit.

The next time you let the waterworks flow, just know that it is not useless. It runs for a damned reason. Tears are freaking powerful. They likely bettered our chances of survival as defenseless infants and enhance the emotions that we communicate to those close to us. It lets everyone around you know that “shit just got real.” It places our emotions behind a lens of empathy. It places people in a vulnerable state, and it’s something we can all appreciate. It’s a wonderful trait we’ve all inherited – except those of you who don’t have souls, of course. It makes us human.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch Vince Carter weep in the rain as his high school erects a statue of him on Youtube. Maybe I’ll let a tear or two roll down my cheek. Laugh at me or join me, but that sequence really tugs at your heartstrings and feels grounded with universal emotion. Shit just got real for a crybaby like me.

LARRY HINH doesn’t want you to be afraid to cry! Come cry to him at lthinh@ucdavis.edu. Just kidding. Sorta.

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