Bring on the box of tissues

Paging through my school magazine (again) this morning, during breakfast, I felt a lump that had little to do with the wholewheat pita I was eating, writes St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper-Howell in her column Woman on Top


Paging through my school magazine (again) this morning, during breakfast, I felt a lump that had little to do with the wholewheat pita I was eating.

The tendency to tear up is something I share with my friends Sally and Zoe. It isn’t a generational thing – the latter is 12 and the former in her fighting forties – but it’s probably a girl issue, until proved otherwise.

In the past, I’ve written about my role as the perfect demographic for sentimental marketing, since I cry during soppy advertisements, such as the one, four years ago, about the doe-eyed pensioner learning to read. As he hesitantly spelled out “cat” followed by “mat” and then read a whole book by himself, I cried.

And I wasn’t alone. I felt part of a shared emotional outpouring – something South Africans do very well. Do you remember the 1995 Rugby World Cup?

While spiritual evolution is the ability to maintain balance and composure, among other things, my ability to be moved to tears is what it is. I don’t weep loudly or for attention, but I’m an easy ride on the emotional rollercoaster. Sob stories are my undoing; and many unsavoury characters, past and present, have emptied my wallet and wasted my time because of it.

Psychology studies show that we have a biological excuse for this type of behaviour. The “cry button” is linked to the hormone oxytocin which may be key to the ability to empathise. In other words, when we’re swimming in a hormone-inducted feel-good stream, we want to give peace a chance.

Whatever the science, I feel a comradeship with Sal and Zo, given that it’s easy enough to tease Sal into waterworks with a single Facebook image – something I seem to do to her, inexplicably, while she’s waiting to have a tyre changed, or getting petrol.

And Zo will, without fail, cry empathetically for all the animals at the SPCA when we visit – and show her strength in adversity by going anyway to help and donate despite knowing how she’ll react.

My daughter cannot understand this. She’s cut from my husband’s DNA cloth and doesn’t bat an eyelid when innocent protagonists meet doom or star-cross’d cartoon lovers part ways. She’s no mini-me and I’m not certain if that’s good or bad.

Thankfully, there’s no conclusive evidence that sentimentalists are useless, weak or not worthy of social inclusion. In fact, the world wouldn’t work as well as it does without us. We’re the ones who’re always first in line at donation boxes on Saturdays and will hum hippy songs to break the tension at a braai.

If you’ve been a grim weeper in your life, be thankful for small miracles. In a world marred by virtual reality, shortened attention spans and quick-fix commercialism, there’s room for a box of tissues, and someone to use them.

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