That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

The crying game

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.


When was the last time you had a big ugly cry? Do you like The Cure as much as I do?

14 Responses to “The crying game”

  1. ellienob

    I love the way you write! Everyone needs a good cry- sometimes tears are the only way to get your point across – its an honest emotion.

  2. Hannah

    Oh Karen…
    I’m usually the quiet tears type.. but every once in a while I get roaring drunk and cry big and loud. It had been ages, until a fortnight ago, oops.
    If it’s your birthday your allowed to cry all the tears and eat all the cake!
    We live very near each other I think,

  3. Sarah

    Oh Karen. I love your words. I used to be a professional crier but these days I reserve it for big weeps in the shower. My only space in the universe where I’m alone and non blotchy when I get out.
    I do a lot of self talk during arguments I’m more of the ‘lets fight about this one teensy issue and then link it to the last decades worth of things that have shitted me’.

    Happy birthday. Robert smith rocks.

  4. Gemma Hawdon

    I love to cry but I try not to because I have that sort of face where everything blows up: eyes, nose, cheeks – and I have to walk around for the rest of the day with a head like a pufferfish. When I do give in it’s months of pent up frustration. I’m always alone. With a bottle of wine – no important engagements that day. Great post Karen 😉

  5. tropicalmum

    Well, I’m going through all sorts of irrational emotional behaviour right now, due to hormones, but last time was probably a week ago and it passed as quickly as it came. Before that? I can’t remember when. Happy Birthday Karen!

  6. Zanni Louise

    I so relate Karen! I used to blubber over everything. I think I spent my whole teens and early twenties in tears. Maybe I used them all up? In the last 6 years, I have barely shed a tear. I have even been to two funerals in that time. And watched some soppy movies. I cry at strange moments though, like reading Winnie the Pooh, but not when I am absolutely exhausted and fighting with my husband. That’s when I need a really big cry. Happy birthday 🙂

  7. Theresa

    I’m so similar- crazy! Cried a lot in 20’s in arguments; now rarely cry, very hard to have a big cry at all!! Tough now, I am 🙂 moving counties, supporting husband through 4 yrs of intense study while moving countries & well, becoming a mum I think, did that to me!! Love your blog gals. Xo

  8. Nicola

    I’m not a massive crier, but I do sometimes cry when my partner and I are having an argument or talking about something difficult – and I always feel guilty and try really hard to stop firstly because I know he finds it upsetting when I get upset, and secondly because I feel like he is thinking exactly what your university boyfriend said to you, that I’m just crying to make him feel bad and stop the argument/conversation. I always say that as well, while snivelling: “I’m sorry, I’m not crying to make you feel bad!” and he always says “I know!” I loved this post 🙂

  9. Rae Hilhorst

    Cryings good, I am a silent crier, tears roll down and are gently, discretely swept away. Great post, eat more cake, Happy Birthday. xxx

  10. debbrightandprecious

    Yes, yes I like The Cure as much as you do! And secondly, I’m so sorry you had birthday arguments and crying. You express this all so beautifully and articulately. I naturally wear my heart on my sleeve and anywhere else really. Crying is one of those nature or nurture things – I’m sure both have something to do with why we do or don’t do it. I’m all for it though – very cleansing and healthy. And being vulnerable is when we make heart connections. Which is why I love this post. x

  11. mumabulous

    Robert Smith – RESPECT! My tears have dried up as I travelled through my late 30s into my 40s. I can’t explain why. Perhaps its more a willingness to change what I can change and an acceptance of what I cant change. BTW -I’ve never been to AA. Have a great birthday – at 33 you’re a smokin’ hot whipper snapper.


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