It’s All Right To Cry

As soon as a teary Kolten Wong was spotted being interviewed in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following his Game 4-ending pick off on first base, you knew what was coming next: endless references to Tom Hanks’ incredulous, near-whiny moment in A League of Their Own:

But I much prefer the sage advice of Rosey Grier, the Los Angles Ram who tackled Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, when he sang Carol Hall’s lyrics for Marlo Thomas in the groundbreaking Free to Be You and Me …:  

When Grier, who became a minister, sings to the little boys, “I know some big boys who cry, too,” it’s a permit slip.  Hearing — and seeing –Grier sing It’s All Right To Cry was a gender game changer, meant to help boys feel better about emotions and to make girls more comfortable with their own.  Even so, when I played softball on an otherwise all-boy team, it was a matter of pride not to even wince when I was hit by the ball (sometimes intentionally) catching batting practice. (The coach instituted a “laps if  you swear” rule since a girl was on the team; I finally swore, did my lap and the rule disappeared.)

Later as a young reporter at The Atlanta Journal covering my first murder trial, I got teary after a conversation with an editor after a series of long days. I wanted to write another story about it that seemed vitally important at the time; he wanted me to realize the case was over.  A male reporter saw me trying to choke back the tears, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I cried after  my first one, too.”

His message was in sharp contrast to the senior female editor in another department who’d had to fight and scrape for every bit of respect; for her, crying was anathema — a raised flag that women couldn’t be taken seriously. I learned from both.

We continue to send mixed messages about tears. It’s still noteworthy when a man cries or, as in the case of Hilary Clinton on the campaign trail,  when some women do.  We look down on people who don’t cry at the “right” time and askance at those who cry when we think it’s not  appropriate. Imagine if the U.S. Speaker of the House known for crying was Nancy Pelosi, not her successor John Boehner.

Above all, though, it’s human and when tears come at the height of emotion, it can be cathartic.