Bookworm: ‘Cry, Baby’ – An excuse for a good sob-session
“Cry, Baby: Why Our Tears Matter”
- By Benjamin Perry
- c. 2023, Broadleaf Books
- $26.99, 225 pages
Your nose is running. You need a tissue, stat, because you’re a mess, tears on your chin, your eyes burn, and you’re all snotty. You know you’ve been crying for long enough, but your brain won’t tell your eyes that and so you can’t stop. No worries. In the new book, “Cry, Baby” by Benjamin Perry, you’ll see that your tears are actually beneficial.
Like most little kids of the past century or so, Benjamin Perry learned when he went to school that crying wasn’t something that boys did. In his early years, he says, his parents comforted him when he cried but peers weren’t so kind.
After awhile, he just stopped crying. Years later, he realized that it had been decades since he’d shed tears over anything.
That changed when he was an adult, and he realized that stoicism was not beneficial, that “we are physiologically and psychologically hardwired to shed emotional tears.”
Says Perry, “tears communicate something speech cannot.” Tears bring us together, they signal that someone is in some sort of crisis, and studies show that most people respond to tears in public. As for ourselves, tears are “a gift: an opportunity to process... emotional experience in a... safer setting.” It’s particularly damaging, then, that “the most common number of crying episodes in a month for male participants [in a study] was zero.”
History and ancient literature shows that “crying is part of change.” Tears show up in ancient texts, in the Bible, and in children’s stories. Classical literature is awash in tears –. and yet, both women and men in today’s times try to hide tears for myriad reasons. Tears fall under different public categories, depending on your race or sexual identity. “Lacrimation” can be manipulative, to the good, the bad, or sometimes the downright damaging.
And in our core beliefs, says Perry, “tears are often our first and best prayer.”
The last time you cried was when you cut an onion, stubbed your toe, broke your arm? Those tears are legit, but in “Cry, Baby,” author Benjamin Perry barely discusses them. The biggest focus, instead, is on physiology and the emotional reasons for crying.
That’s a pretty wide subject, one that’s obviously hard to nail down, but Perry makes a valid try using his own life and experiences as an anchor. Because of the vastness of the topic, however, readers may feel that they don’t have the whole story here, or that they don’t have enough. An occasional attempt at levity – one that feels far too gentle – seems like the wrong substitute for information.
And yet, readers who need the comfort of this book will find it, if they let themselves: Perry is convincing in his urgency for welcoming tears for all reasons, and his words help make them safe – so go ahead and bawl. Howl to the skies, swim in a sea of saltiness, wipe your schnozz, and enjoy the catharsis of it all. If you need an excuse for a good sob-session, “Cry, Baby” is on the nose.
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The Bookworm is Terri Schwichtenberg. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.
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