:: Article

Go On, Cry

By Lisa Krusche, translated from German by Sophie Atkinson.

Picture courtesy of Matt Harrop

1. Once when I was still small, maybe five years old, I fell over in front of my grandpa and banged my knee and he praised me for not crying.

2. Since then I’ve made it my goal to cry as often and as much as humanly possible.

Immediately after hurting my knee, I marched into the nearest shady tattoo studio and bribed the tattoo artist with all my pocket money and some sweets from my pocket to — despite me being visibly underage — tattoo “Cry me a river” onto my hand in magic ink. You only see it when the rain falls on it.

4. “Do you know the story of Alice in Wonderland?” I asked him over the hum of the tattoo machine.

“No,” said the tattooer, who wasn’t much of a reader.

“Sometimes she orders herself to stop crying.” I looked over at him, he was studying my hand with concentration. “So, for example: ‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself, rather sharply, ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ There are a few more places in which she cries and in which she or the narrator tells her off for doing so.”

“Aha,” said the tattooer, who smelled of smoke like my father and on whose throat there wasn’t a single patch of tattoo-free skin visible.

“I can’t bear either of them,” I said. Then we both went quiet.

“Did you know,” he said at some point, “that one of the lesser-known things tear tattoos signify is a sort of belittling of the person who gets the tattoo? Prisoners from US jails report that they were forced by other inmates to get a tear tattoo to show that they were sissies who couldn’t measure up to the ideal image of masculinity.”

5. I asked him to give me four tear tattoos. Two under the right, one under the left eye, and one next to the left corner of my mouth.

6. It seems completely logical to me to get one teardrop tattooed next to the corner of the mouth. Because of the close relationship between words and tears, language and tears, the interplay, the mutual substitution when this other form of expression fails.

7. I could water fields of mint with my tears. Apple mint and Moroccan mint and spearmint and chocolate mint and peppermint.

8. Mint needs a lot of water.

9. I could collect my tears in small bottles and sell them as hair tonic. Beach waves, guaranteed.

10. I could build a paper boat and set sail on my sea of tears.

11. “[Alice] sat down and began to cry again…shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.”

12. Tears always have to taste salty. The organism moves water by producing a disparity in the concentration of salts and using this as the driving force for the liquid’s movement. In order to carry water into the lumen of the berry-shaped end of the lacrimal gland, salt is released there, following which, water flows from the surrounding tissue thanks to the principle of osmosis.

13. At a rough estimate, I’ve cried more than the contents of a sea in my lifetime.

14. Crying is my second-biggest talent after sleeping.

15. I cry when I’m sad.

I cry out of rage.

I cry out of excitement.

16. Gemstones are the Olympic gods’ tears of joy, which fell to earth and turned to stone.

17. I cry when I’ve misplaced something again, keys, etc. and I can’t find them.

I cry when I’m running late and I hate it.

I cry as soon as my tolerance for stress or frustration is exceeded.

I cry at every scene in every book which succeeds in any way in conveying emotion.

18. I cry after sex. This fucking orgasm. It thrums through my body like bass from a sound system and reverberates in my heart. The boy’s beauty already makes me short circuit and when sex is added to the mix, it unplugs my brain at the mains. It’s quite something, on top of all the bodily fluids that are already currently sticking to me, to add tears, I think.

19. Men who can’t deal with tears and me — that could never be anything.

20. Men who can’t deal with tears are a societal problem.

21. In a way, my emotional self-expression is fairly crude. On reaching a certain intensity, the floodgates just swing open.

22. I cry at every Grey’s Anatomy episode that has ever been broadcast. I also cry watching Rosamunde Pilcher adaptations. It doesn’t really matter what, just give me any scene with a reasonably emotional musical background or just a bit of feeling and I cry. I sob with abandon in the cinema. Strangers pass me their grandmothers’ embroidered handkerchiefs and insist soothingly that I can keep them.

23. “Squish-face,” was what Sven always called me, when my face was swollen and reddened from crying.

24. In 1937, Picasso painted multiple variations of The Weeping Woman.

25. I cry from PMS. I cry because of menstrual disorders until the ibuprofen finally hits.

26. In the New Testament the phrase “weeping and the gnashing of teeth” appears seven times in total and stands for the torment of those who end up in hell. “Many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom will be cast out into the darkness, and there will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

27. Here, outside in the darkness, waterproof mascara is a must.

28. Ever since a friend of mine, Aaron, has cancer, I cry more than ever before. You wake up and cry. You think about doing your laundry. You eat chips and cry. Sadness and daily life don’t mix, they’ve always been one and the same. Cancer is a season ticket for crying. VIP-lounge, service at the table, all of that. I cry constantly. Aaron cries constantly. Cancer’s like this: you learn that there are no solutions and that hope is a joke. In this context, crying is wise. Crying dissolves the tension that builds up in a person, if only for a little while. Crying washes the shit out of your system for a few golden minutes. With a bit of luck, it shakes you so much, the crying grips your body with so much force, that afterwards, completely exhausted, you fall into a deep sleep.

29. Being able to cry is a privilege.

30. Since Aaron has started his second round of chemotherapy, which involves a mix of Cisplatin and Trabectedin being pumped into his body, his eyes have been swelling to the point where he can barely open them every time he cries.

31. “The day begins

With quite normal things

The window panes tremble from the detonating bombs

For a moment the heart stops

Then it continues to beat

And the crying stays stuck in the throats of the women.” – Kholoud Elfallah

32. The drying up of tears, just like the drying up of language, is a sign of the intolerability of the circumstances, of a dread so vast that you can no longer face it.

33. “Tears are the last form of communication,” writes Bataille.

34. What happens when this dries up, too?

35. I cry inside

I cry outside

I cry in the rain

I cry in the sun

I cry in public

I cry whenever I want to

I cry in the train, in the bus, in the city

no shame

36. In politics, men cry more often than women. All things considered, it’s clear that crying has become a popular tool for political campaigns, whereas years ago it ended political careers. The crucial aspect is deploying tears correctly, they should make their way down the cheeks individually, preciously, rather than streaming forth. They shouldn’t be accompanied by the voice breaking. Obama cried at least five times during his presidency. Bush did it too. Margaret Thatcher. Hillary Clinton. Vladimir Putin. Tears can manufacture a sense of closeness and feign intimacy, they can win sympathy and suggest humanity.

37. Tears are reproached time and again for their manipulative power.

38. “Whenever we talk about wounded women, we run the risk of perceiving their suffering not as just a single aspect of the female experience but as an integral part of femininity itself—possibly even as the most sophisticated element of perfect femininity.”

39. Is it tactically ill-advised as a woman to write about crying—or to write about your own tears?

40. Whenever you see yourself under structural pressure to swallow certain feelings, in order not to uphold certain forms of representation, being too hysterical, etc. I think it’s wisest to yield to these feelings excessively and let them out emphatically.

41. My grandpa contrasted me pulling myself together as a child with my mother’s constant crying.

42. My grandpa was a complete idiot and presumably still is, it’s just that these days, I don’t know the first thing about him.

43. Whenever women are too loud, too demanding, become too visible, they can be accused of hysteria. The devaluation of women can be seen in many forms of everyday sexism: women get called emotional and irrational, unstable and dramatic.

44. I wished my mother would just openly and honestly cry if crying was what her feelings demanded and not comply with this sense she had of being required to hide her hurt.

45. “[…] Our culture is geared towards a sense of pity for white middle-class cis men because they’re given the role of hero in practically every story. We’re not required to empathise to the same extent with the pain of women or the poor.”

46. In The Preparation of the Novel, Roland Barthes asks: “Who will write the history of tears?”

47. “I wish I hadn’t cried so much! said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That WILL be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer to-day.”

48. Angela Merkel has never been seen crying.

49. Maybe because she’s a cyborg. Maybe because it’s not her style. Maybe because she can’t afford to.

50. It’s a shame, really.

51. Jan Fleischhauer thinks this is cool.

52. He writes: “No one can easily throw Angela Merkel off balance. Her politics may be left-wing, but in terms of her political style, she’s conservative to the core. Never complain, never show any weakness, just do what needs to be done: if there’s anything that creates an aesthetic of heroic leadership, it’s mercilessness against oneself. Let the Left tend to their sensitivities, I don’t care: the chancellor sees things through. the chancellor sees things through. I admire that. Better a Trümmerfrau* at the head of things, who sweeps away the shards unmoved, than one of these snowflakes who sniff out affronts at every turn.”

*Trümmerfrau – literally “rubble woman.” One of the women who cleared up the ruins and debris of the bombed German cities in the aftermath of World War II.

53. Jan Fleischhauer is like my grandpa: a complete idiot.

54. The emotionless woman, who, when faced with the ruins of war, visible and invisible alike, grits her teeth and gets on with things and, despite all the trauma, swings her broom—that’s what men like them want.

55. Having to conceal pain. Who has to swallow their tears, and when?

56. “Interestingly, for many men, the only time they do feel able to talk about their own suffering is when they are trying to stop women talking about theirs. In every other context, men and boys are discouraged from talking about their pain. Thinking in a new way about sex, gender, and power […] can help men to process their pain.”

57. I believe that concealed behind this stance that dismisses female pain as notorious or old-hat—a stance that’s already been heard, a hundred times before, 1001 nights-long—are more deeply-entrenched accusations: that suffering women play the victim, that they escape into weakness, that they’re letting themselves go instead of being brave. I think denying these wounds exist provides a comfortable excuse: finally one no longer has to deal with listening to these stories.

58. How we think about female pain also says something about how we engage with male pain and how we think about pain in general. All the feels, which shouldn’t be there.

59. I send Jan Fleischhauer an email in which I advise him to blast “Waves” by Dean Lewis at full volume and to let the song into the depths of his small, broken heart. “Just cry your eyes out, Jan,” I write, “it helps.”

60. Or just read a newspaper, and then the tears will come all on their own.

61. Who writes a history of tears and what sort of tears will it include?

62. Radical softness is a weapon. And it won’t be Alice who drowns in a sea of tears. It will be men like Fleischhauer who are washed away by our tears.

63. Hopefully.

64. On 6th June, the influencer Shahd posted a selfie on Instagram. She’s crying and holding a tissue in the left hand which she’s supporting her head with. It’s the only photo in her entire feed where she isn’t smiling, laughing, or looking relaxed. “It’s really hard being an influencer and sharing information that is ‘off-brand’ and not worthy of the ‘feed,’ but I cannot hold this in anymore. I am at my office crying because I have so many emotions in me and I feel horrible. There’s a massacre happening in my country Sudan and a media blackout and internet censorship.” After a few hours, the photo found its way into my feed just like it found its way into many others’ feeds, and there it brought the revolution in Sudan into focus. After the paragraph in which she writes about how one of her friends in Sudan was murdered and another abused, Shahd apologises for the post to all the companies with who she collaborates on campaigns as well as to her followers. “To my followers/supporters who this is too much for, I am also sorry but my regularly scheduled content/reviews are also on pause. If this offends you, I am sorry. But I need to speak out and share this in a time like this.”

65. There’s no reason to apologise.

66. “Pull yourself together” was always and is now, more than ever—in the face of current events—the stupidest phrase in the world.

67. “And cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

68. I want to be there, in Hell, if that’s supposed to be Hell, where the weeping and gnashing of teeth is. I want us to cry together and gnash our teeth.

69. I want us to call out, full of tenderness, “Go on, cry” and mean well. Go on! Cry! Go on, cry!

70. I want us to cry like girls. I want the phrase “cry like a girl” to become something inspiring, something which people take to heart. I want this phrase to eventually fade out of use because there are completely different categories. Because we’ve smudged the old categories with our tears. Cry for me, Angela!

71. An esoteric website reminds the reader that injuries from other lives persist until today, it says the emotional body exists outside of spatial and time limits; it’s 5D. It claims this is how dull pain crept into us all. And as such, all of us have “old tears to cry which are deposited in us as crystallized tears. Through their release, these crystal tears—consisting of the salt of the earth—become diamonds of a vast transformation.”

Pictures courtesy of Sophie Atkinson (left) and Lisa Krusche (right)

Lisa Krusche, who was born in 1990, lives in Brunswick, Germany. She writes essays and fiction. She has won several awards, including the Deutschlandfunk-Preis at the 44th Festival of German-Language Literature. Her debut novel Unsere anarchistischen Herzen will be published by S. Fischer in April this year.

Sophie Atkinson is a writer and German-language translator. She currently lives in Manchester and was previously based between Berlin and Leipzig. She has written for publications including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Die Zeit, Vogue Germany, and more.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, January 12th, 2021.