By Karen Charlton
I celebrated my 33rd birthday last weekend by having a ripper car fight with my husband and crying into the green woods of Red Hill. The crying slowed to a gentle weep by the time we curved around the rolling hills of Flinders, and after some dilly-dallying and passive-aggressive behaviour from the birthday girl, we managed to get some cash out and buy some bakery goods before hitting the park.
It would appear I was suffering from severe cake deficiency, which can only be cured by shoving a large slice of chocolate mud cake into your face in a public space. My audience was only a group of pre-schoolers celebrating another April 14 birthday (Happy 3 Other Louis, #cakeit). The cake managed to fill a hole that was most certainly pie shaped.
My university boyfriend – a philosopher and keen martial artist – once accused me of crying in order to win an argument. Apparently there is a book of argument maneuvres, and of these legitimate techniques, crying is one of the more conniving ones, a little bit like a kick to the groin. It forces the opponent to submit defeat in an otherwise even sided conflict.
And yet, if you asked 20-year-old me to stop crying for whatever reason, she would have been unable to do so. In fact, asking her to stop would have made it more difficult for her to do so, because she would then be overwhelmed with sadness at the fact that she’s doing The Wrong Thing.
Despite my recent semi-public display of crying, I’ve noticed I’ve become a bit of a non-crier in the last 5 years.
There could be a number of causes; I don’t laugh as much as I once did, so perhaps we could say displays of extreme happiness or sadness become harder to communicate as you age. Perhaps the world doesn’t seem as funny or tragic when you’ve got a bit of living behind you.
Perhaps it’s that I live in a house of males, and despite the majority being small children, frustration is more often expressed in angry tones than in sad ones. Sometimes we struggle to articulate exactly what it is we’re frustrated about, so it comes out in belongings being thrown or doors being slammed. It shocked me to hear one of my son’s friends, a 6-year-old boy, articulate to his mother beautifully (albeit with a whiney tone) “He hurt my feelings.” Not his elbow, or his leg, but that slippery stuff that’s hard to name, and cuts to our very core. Our feelings.
It might be easy to forget young boys have feelings beneath all those arms and legs, beneath all that noise. Perhaps it is because they have so many feelings, that they are so easily irritated. If you lumped me in with this lot, you probably wouldn’t be too far off.
It comes back to vulnerability, and how much of your feelings you are willing to expose to your opponent, if indeed you see this person as your opponent at all.
To the victor go the spoils. And the cake.