CryingBlack women deal with a lot of “expectations”  about our behavior and what we should or should not do. And as a teenager I can remember my peers utter disdain for how it seemed certain white girls could start crying at any given moment over any particular thing and about how weak and pathetic and needy that was. And as my peers would go on and on about the apparent weakness of fragile-hearted white women, I would say nothing because I had a not-so-secret secret.

I wasn’t like my black girlfriends who only started crying if they were about to fight someone because they were so full of rage, or maybe shed a tear over a crappy boyfriend or two. I was like those white girls.

I cried over every dang thing.

Always had and still do, to the befuddlement of my parents and friends and pretty much every black person in my life. But I truly can’t help it. I feel feelings. I feel all the feelings and sometimes that means bawling your eyes out because of “hormones”  or “memories” or dreaded “hurt feelings.”

Yes. My name is Danielle Belton. I’m a black woman. And I cry. A lot.

On average, I get slightly choked up at least once a day, either over something I’m reading, watching on TV or from memories. Sometimes memories can lead to full-on bawling. And I pretty much hate myself for it the whole time as it was not how I was raised.

I’m not supposed to cry. I distinctly remember my father, when I was a small child, yelling at me to stop crying and me, through tears, exclaiming that “I can’t help it.” And even though to this day be believes that you too can help it, I cannot help it. I hate crying. For me it represents my Charmin tissue softness. My sentimental, sensitive heart. My weaknesses. The reason why I was a bully magnet for most of my childhood. (Tears fuel bullying super powers apparently.) If I could fix my crying problem I would as I have tried everything. I have choked down feelings. I have ignored feelings. I have rejected feelings. And yet, I still feel and, eventually, even if I’m able to keep it together for several hours, I’m going to cry.

Maybe I won’t let you see me cry, but I’m crying. In the bathroom. In my bedroom. In the car. Alone.

My parents have admitted to not understanding why I cry so much or knowing what side of the family I inherited this curse from. Both my parents are people who don’t cry, save for a funeral. They don’t get choked up when watching people in pain on the news. They can get through sad stories on 60 Minutes without constant eye wiping. They can recall touching stories about loved ones without turning into a hot mess.

But I couldn’t. Even though they expected me to suck it up. I was taught that turning into a snot-nosed, runny-eyed mess was sign you’d lost control of your emotions and now were not worth taking seriously. My father would literally stop talking to me if I started crying as he couldn’t deal with it and at least 50 percent of my “serious” conversations with my father usually involved me crying. So that was a lot of walking away. Of course, he was walking away because he thought he’d caused it when you don’t really have to do much to make me cry. But when he walked away I felt rejected. Why couldn’t he hang in there and keep talking to me until I came back around, as I always did once I got those tears out? That’s what my mother did (even though she also disliked crying, but at least would attempt to console you, even if it were tears of rage as opposed to tears of sadness.)

Probably the most maddening thing about my hatred of my own tears is that I don’t care if other people cry. I don’t hold it against them. I don’t think they are weak. Crying is just a reaction, like laughter or yelling in anger. Sometimes it’s inappropriate, but other times it can’t be helped. I even think crying (for other people) is healthy and a stress reliever as a lot of people feel better after they cry.

But that’s for other people. For me, it’s  “Oh my word, you’re crying again? God, you’re such a wuss.”

I’d like to be less mean to myself about it. I’d like to view myself as I view others.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to convince my father that my feeling of all the emotions is also what makes me a loving and attentive friend, daughter and sister. That the same thing that makes me cry makes me want to cook elaborate dinners for my family and tell them how much I care for them all the time. That makes me loving and loyal. That sometimes getting angry and crying is just getting angry and crying, not some shameful act that must be shunned.

Still, I probably need to convince myself that first.

  • http://gravatar.com/hsm36 Whatever

    We’re opposites. I don’t cry a lot. Even when I am on the verge of tears, I try my hardest to fight those tears back…and I mean hard! However, I sometimes wish I would just allow myself the freedom to be in the moment and react the way I feel like.

    I have realized that with age (I’m 30), I cry just a bit more. I fought my hardest during “Crooklyn”, at 11 years old not to cry at the end (won’t give spoilers). Now, there’s no way I could get through tough scenes without letting the waterworks loose. I even cry sometimes for happy moments, whether it’s from fictional stories or real life ones.

    Sometimes it just feels good to flow with your emotions. But I will admit, I hate crying for fear of looking vulnerable. Which is why my crying usually takes place in privacy.

  • Maya

    I understand this to an extent. But I believe we must ask ourselves why we as Black women feel like we are not supposed to cry? For me personally, I’ve learned not to cry publicly or often because I just don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction. People really don’t really care and especially about my Black ass. I am proud and will never give over that power to people outside of my circle because only people who know me and understand me deserve to see me at my most vulnerable. Let’s face it, white girls crying is expected. It’s oftentimes a ploy for them to get sympathy from others or manipulate a situation because that’s how many of them have been taught to use their femininity. My mother always stressed the importance of “time and place” so crying every time I feel deeply makes it less significant and also makes me vulnerable in a world that 9 out of 10 times can really care less about me as an individual.

  • Afrostyling

    I cry cos im emotional. I cried when a superior tried to bully me at work and the coo came to my rescue. These tears are stopping for no one.

  • http://gravatar.com/hsm36 Whatever

    ” I am proud and will never give over that power to people outside of my circle because only people who know me and understand me deserve to see me at my most vulnerable.”

    YES.

  • Keisha

    A thousand times this! Thank you for sharing, it’s the thing I can’t stand about myself and spend the most amount of energy trying to reconcile so that I can love myself completely. But, it is the beauty in me as well as you described.

  • Star Bright

    I cry less than I did when I was young, but I still cry a lot, however I don’t usually cry in front of other people. I am sensitive and sometimes it is a burden. I cry when I think I hurt someone, I cry when my kids get blood drawn at the doctor, I cry when I’m sick, I cry when someone I know is in pain. Things that would bother the average person for a passing moment might bother me for days, weeks, or months. My sister, my mom, me, and my daughter. We’re all the same in that way. Nobody made me stop crying while growing up, however, I always hated for people to know my true emotions when I was sad.

    I usually feel better after I cry, though, almost like someone lifted a weight off my back.

  • LeoLady83

    I can so relate to this. I am a Black girl, and growing up, i used to get made fun of A LOT for crying all the time. I can still remember being called a “CryBaby” and “BabyCry.” Even my parents would yell at me for crying. Now, I don’t cry as much as I used to, and if I do, it is in private and around a few people that I love and trust. I agree with your mom’s assertion that there is a time and place for everything. I don’t think that if you cry a lot, you are weak, but unfortunately, MANY people don’t see it that way. Also, we live in a world that is progressively more and more insensitive.I don’t want to cry in front of people for fear of being perceived as weak. I commend you for this piece, though. I think you are brave. With this article, you have broken the stereotype of White women being the only ones that can cry, and that if Black women show an emotion, it has to be anger or aggression or indifference rather than tears.

  • march pisces

    i cry; i chalk it up to being an over emotional pisces. it used to bother me that i cried so much at what seemed the smallest things. then it hit me one day tears show you are human and care about someone other than yourself. i am in no way saying that people who don’t cry don’t care about others this is what i told myself to stop from being so hard on myself and judgmental about my crying.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    I’ am not big on crying, you would see a statue cry before you’ll see me cry even when it is okay and warranted, it is still hard for me to cry. And by chance if those Denzel Washington’s Glory tears of mines do flow I’ll wipe them away and proceed in the “I’ am fine” manner of checking myself and picking myself up. Maybe because vulnerability is a huge hurdle for me or the fact that I just don’t like to give others access into my personal space and see me at my realest especially when they don’t matter to me in the larger scheme of things. But I do agree that crying doesn’t make someone weak or pathetic (unless they turn on the water works as a ploy…yeah I know a few women like that grrr….)so nobody should get teased or be told to “man/women” up if that is how they express themselves, tears are okay and should not be off limits for black men and women, but on the same token people need to understand that just because some rarely cry or don’t express great emotions through tears doesn’t make them heartless, insolent, or ice queens/kings it just different strokes for different folks. As for your dad walking away, I’ am sort of like him for some reason people in tears perplexed me (not when they are crying from being physically hurt) but if they are just crying in the context you mention I just feel awkward especially if you are a non-crier like what should I do pat you on the back, hug you, cry with you, stand there, or what? So don’t take it personally it could be more of the other person feeling like they are useless to you in that moment then them being mean-spirited and just walking away.

  • http://gravatar.com/geenababe geenababe

    When I was younger I use to cry a lot now I don’t cry that much. I believe I cry two times a year. There are sometimes when I feel the tears coming on in werid places and I try my best to stop it. I have never in life cried when I was happy though. I use to be amazes at people who said they were so happy, they started crying. I guess i have never became that happy Lol.

  • Kristi

    I think black women are taught to not cry from birth (back to the whole “Strong Black Woman” meme) . Many of our parents taught us to be strong and tough and not let the world see our weaknesses. Crying and showing that particular emotion makes you weak in thier opinions, so you had better not show it to the world, especially white people. It was taught to protect us, but I think it’s hurt black women a lot. Some of us don’t know how to show emotion. Often seeming cold and unapproachable. Some of us hide our sadness and end up dealing with mental health problems like depression on our own and not seeking help (talking about myself here). And all because we’ve been taught that white girls can “afford” to show raw emotion and be meek, but you can’t black child. You have to be tough. You have to fight anyone who calls you names. If you are bullied, it’s your fault. Why did you let him/her get away with it?

    The statements above are all things I heard growing up from my mother or my aunts growing up. My father was pretty sensitive to my emotional side, but my mom? Everytime I cried about something that wasn’t a serious physical injury she would either be angry or annoyed with me. I learned early on to hide my feelings and suffer in silence. I lived with depression since I was about 14 and I am now in my early thirties and only two years ago got help when I began to consider suicide. The cycle ends with me. I will not teach my black children (if I have children) to cover up sadness and the urge to cry. I will teach them to love themselves and to stand up for themselves. I will teach them to speak up for themselves and others who are mistreated. But that doesn’t mean that I will ever berate them, or make them feel like crap for crying. I know we black women have it tougher than women of other races and we often have to go through a lot of racist, sexist bull**** daily. But you can teach girls how to be resilient and strong without making them ashamed of showing thier emotions.

  • Misha

    I think there needs to be a shift in how we teach girls especially black girls that tears are equivalent to weakness. We have been socialized to believe that there are only a few emotions we’re allowed to show, and when you cry you show a person your weaknes they then have the power to hold that against you which isn’t true. No one can hold anything against you unless you let them.

    But I’m not going to lie, I am more inclined to role my eyes when I see white women crying over the smallest things.

  • Pera

    My older sister has been crying almost every day of her life, and I say almost because a couple monts ago she took some pills to stop crying, the pills worked but she felt sad for not being able to cry. I don’t judge her for it, but sometimes its just anoying and some other times I laugh at her. In the end its her party and she can cry if she wants to.

  • The Other Jess

    Funny, I never considered all that excess crying white women do as anything more than f-a-k-e. As for black womenfor many of us, we didn’t have the luxury to cry. if we fell apart over everything thrown at us we’d be dead by now.or extinct. That’s not being a Stereo typical strong black woman , that’s just being smart and a survivor.

  • The Other Jess

    Maybe see a doctor for depression question I understand crying a lot, but at least once a day? That’s a little much. and seems like something else going on there.

  • The Other Jess

    oops that was supposed to say to maybe see a doctor for depression?

  • rese

    I’m a cry-er too. I cry when Im happy or sad, angry too. I just learned to accept it.

  • aDORKable

    When I was growing up, I rarely if ever cried in front of people. I would walk away before the person who caused it could see me cry. I would bottle it up until I couldn’t contain it and find a place where I could do it alone and unheard. I could let tears fall and not make a sound and plaster a smile on without any evidence of tears. It got to the point not only did I not cry, I wouldn’t hug or touch anyone, unless it was a show of respect, such as kissing a relatives’ cheek. People had to initiate the hug unless I was trying to help cheer someone up. I had gotten to a point that I desensitized myself when it came to movies and tv, but I could never do that when it came to books. Depression hot at 10 or 11 and was suicidal at 15 but I hid it well.

    Now, however, at 26, I tear up, and I don’t cry unless provoked and it is usually more in anger before it reverts to sadness. It’s one of the reasons I speak to my parents once every few months, especially my father. He criticized me to a point that feel anxiety when he calls. Pushing his thoughts about my future and how things are supposed to be even though I was doing much better than those my age, criticizing my accomplishments, down to my personality to the point that I couldn’t help but cry in anger and then to add insult to injury say that is why no one can tell me anything because I’m “too sensitive”. Anytime, I would try to defend myself, he would get angrier and tell me not to interrupt him or talk back. He only did this when my mother wasn’t around and my mother was the same way, except she at least allowed me to speak, but the second I would talk a bit more firmly and/or of I was right, it would be considered yelling. I would never tear up or cry in front of her because she always called me and considered me weak.

    I tear up over books, movies, television shows, but mostly at bad memories and hurtful things people have said to me that still echo in my mind. I do have spells where I’m closed of and distant, but my husband doesn’t push me and he lets me go through them, and if I do cry, he just holds me until I feel better. There is a difference between crying over a material item and crying over hurt feelings and/or a broken heart.

  • AnnT

    Danielle has written a lot about her depression on this site and a lot of other sites.

  • Nakia

    I, as a Black woman, have never been taught not to cry, come from a long line of criers (on both sides) and have seen many a (strong) black woman cry, openly. Don’t get me started on my girls…we have all cried with, for or in front of each other over everything from break-ups to Trayvon to lay-offs to unexpected fruit arrangements. My best friend and I cry over socio-politics and puppies and everything in between, if warranted (or if we hormonal).

    “Sometimes memories can lead to full-on bawling.” um, yeah. Memories and imaginings. This:” I wasn’t like my black girlfriends who only started crying if they were about to fight someone because they were so full of rage,” I don’t understand. At all. But I haven’t had a fight (only one) since 5th grade and it was HIS fault…

  • Nakia

    Ditto all of this. I’ve cried at work once or twice, too. I cried when a superior tried to take credit for my work.

  • AnnT

    I appreciate your honesty.

  • JN

    I have a hard time crying. It’s like the shame of someone seeing me vulnerable is worse than shedding a tear. The last time I cried was earlier this year was when I broke up from a serious relationship. I allowed myself 3 days to mourn over it and then I moved on. I’m a self-soother.

  • The Other Jess

    oh ok, now i understand.

  • Valentina

    I’ve never had a problem with crying, and never was made to feel like it was ‘wrong’ for me to do so. My family is made up of strong black men and women, and I’ve seen everyone cry before without being made to feel ashamed of it. Maybe it’s a regional thing?

  • justanotheropinion

    Like many, I’ve had a lot of pain, sadness, grief & aloneness over the years. When I was little, I had to hold it in or be admonished “girl, what you crying for?” “Girl, hush up before someone give you something to cry about”. I held it in thru deaths, thru being moved around due to death of a parent at 4, to what I now realize was physical abuse, I cried when I walked out with a 4 & 2 yr old not sure how I would support us but knowing I didn’t have a choice, etc.

    You get tired of holding it in for fear of being considered weak. You get tired of holding it in because you are afraid that others won’t understand or that you will be judged. You just get plain tired.

    Took me a long time to realize that crying just means you feel. You feel sadness, you feel anger, you feel pain, you feel joy…it means you are human — it’s healthy. It’s ok to cry. Better yet, it is more healthy to cry and let it go than to hold it all in. That’s what us ‘Super Black Women’ are dying of from the inside out.

    I’m now 46 and I’m still holding it in. Except now, it’s out of fear. I’m afraid that if I let go, the flood gates will never close and I’ll remain a a lump on the floor. I’m a work in progress!

    If you feel like crying – cry. If they judge you, let them. If they don’t understand you, so be it. Better to be emotionally healthy than a time bomb ready to go off while your insides eat you up…..

  • justanotheropinion

    Thank you for your honesty. Please, LET IT GO. Cry for all the hurts no one noticed. Cry for all the pain no one thought to ask you about. Cry for all the triumphs you’ve achieved but couldn’t share….just cry.

    Crying is good for your soul. Don’t wait until you are older to struggle with this issue. Holding it all in can and will eat you up inside.

    Let go and Let God….

  • justanotheropinion

    Take time to soothe your soul and mourn the loss. But there is no crime is shedding a few tears. You aren’t vulnerable – you are human. Let it go. Get the release now instead of letting it fester.

  • Q

    Amen to this sister. I’m both glad you sought treatment, and praying you serve as an example to our community. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if our men took this advice too sometimes.

  • http://www.cocoafly.com Cocoa Fly

    I was discouraged from crying as well. When I got older, I would tell people not to mistake my crying for weakness. Holding in those emotions are not healthy. We choose to carry our anger and sadness to be “strong,” when it takes more strength to deal with your feelings. Crying is a way of flushing out pain. Holding in those tears are just toxic to our spirit. Good post Danielle.

  • Cry-Baby

    Wow! I am a cry-baby and my husband is a cry-baby. He cries about everything and when I try to intervene to see what he is crying about, I end up crying too. My mother was a crier and even cried while eating…never understood that one…lol. My aunt and uncles will cry at the bat of an eye…another one that I never understand. Well, at least our tear-ducts work. No shame in crying or laughing; both are good for the soul.

  • SoOverThisIsh

    Love this! Excellent post and I understand where y’all are coming from.

  • keshkesh

    I too am a cryer. When I am talking about something that I feel very passionate about, I cry. Or like the author, I cry about memories. I cannot watch anything sentimental or emotional without crying. I don’t thing that there is anything wrong with crying out in joy, pain, sorrow whatever. I feel sorry for those people who are so totally detached from their feelings that they cannot cry. They are the ones that have “issues”. My advice is to keep being yourself and make sure you have some kleenex on had.

  • http://twitter.com/iminyjo Imani Joseph (@iminyjo)

    Danielle, thank you, thank you, thank you for this! This is me all over. It’s been an absolute curse. When I was young it called me out as the dreaded “cry-baby”. As an adult, it’s singled me out (to friends and family) as being “weak” or unstable or somehow troubled. And maybe that’s true but there have been a lot of times when those tears have been tears of rage and the only thing between me and braining someone with the closest implement to my hand! I cry for lots of reasons, but all anyone ever sees are the tears. I still really hate it, I suspect I always will but thanks for at least telling me I’m not alone.

  • simplyme

    I don’t think how often someone cries has much to do with how much emotion they are actually feeling, but rather how the tend to manifest that emotion. I think the assumption is always that criers are unstable but someone that cries half as much may be just as emotional, loving, passionate, sad, or unstable. Theres probably a genetic factor involved.

  • Natalie

    I’m kind of in the same boat. I’m 16 and just got diagnosed with depression because my teachers and doctor realized that something was wrong. I, too, suffered in silence. I used to cry a lot when I was younger but by the time I got to 7th grade I began crying by myself, usually in the middle of the night so no one could hear me. My parents had no idea that there was something wrong, let alone that I had thoughts of self harm. I’m glad you’re getting the help you need and I’m glad that people are realizing that suppressing emotions/dealing with emotions unhealthily causes nothing but problems.

  • Lady B

    This article makes me want to cry for you not being able to help if you cry. I’m black too & I don’t cry (only on movies & even then I wouldn’t watch a knowingly sad movie even around my family or another human being). I’d hate to be in your position.

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