How not to cry in public is a skill set involving technique and discipline. My abilities are composed of in-depth experience, high-level research, and successful methodology, In other words, I’m an expert on this topic, so pay attention.
I have an extensive history of crying and trying not to. I don’t believe I cried in public until first grade, but it began the first day of school and continued through my Ph.D. As a performer I have to hustle off-stage so I can cry in the green room. The organ is a large enough instrument to hide behind, but crying at the piano is a fairly exposed position. I cry in grocery stores because of the parenting I see. I cry in movies because the writers get the script so wrong. I cry in cars because I’m generally lost.
When I entered middle school, I believed what the authors of Seventeen Magazine had to say about crying (and blushing)–that a person out-grows it. I am still waiting for that important growth.
- Masking the behavior is rarely successful. You can try sunglasses (and personally I never go anywhere without them); however, even a very large pair only successfully hides a gentle misting from the eyes. They’re useless in a flood coursing down the cheeks.
- Tensing your neck and throat muscles to push down the tears while apologizing to everyone present produces a cauldron of tension guaranteed to promote profuse lachrymosity to the point of cacophonous sobbing. (If I keep the terms Latinate, it doesn’t sound quite as awful as the real deal.)
At the first hint of tears, slowly lift your chin up high, gaze at the ceiling, and slowly breathe in. You can do them both suddenly, but it tends to alarm the people near-by you.
This physical act raises the eyes to the heavens which has several positive side effects: (a) it gives you something to think about besides crying, (b) it releases the muscular tension in your chest and throat area, (c) it lets the tears drain back in your eyes and not ruin your eye make-up, and (d) you give the impression of being in the middle of a moment of some kind of lofty communion instead of gripped by emotion.
I am deeply indebted to my former singing teacher, Frances Brockington of Detroit, MI, for this technique. Many years ago she took compassion upon me while I was attempting to sing and cry at the same time in her studio and taught me this process. In the lesson it all connected beautifully with the concept of bel canto and lifting the apogia — but I know she’ll applaud my more general application of the technique to criers of the world.
For further information on the subject you could read my novel, How Not to Cry in Public & Other Victories, which I personally guarantee to be a deeply moving treatise on the subject. For added insights, you could also read my blogs, “”Why Not to Cry in Public: 12 Reasons” and “Why It Doesn’t Matter If You Cry in Public”, the latter of which may be useful for those of you who like the truth both ways.