For longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve been a cry baby. Whenever I get frustrated or angry about something, I can’t help myself. The tears prick behind my eyes, a flush of heat radiating throughout my chest, neck and face, and my voice begins to crack. Tears are inevitable, and for a long time, I would get a hiccup like spasm in my guts, rendering me pretty much useless.
I have tried to trace back to the point in time when this phenomenon took effect, but haven’t had much luck. I do believe it stems from two constant themes in my childhood, however. The first was that I was never trusted with my own emotions. My parents hid things from me, sometimes trivial (like why Pee Wee’s Play House was cancelled due to Paul Rubin’s arrest), sometimes major (like my friend drowning in the Gulf of Mexico one summer), because “they didn’t want to upset me.” As though their not telling me was going to keep this information from me for very long. I found out eventually about both, the latter on the first day back at school that fall. And, of course, now months separated from the news, I looked like a fool crying over it, as everyone else had moved on.
Not being trusted with my own emotions really screwed with my head. I began to wonder how bad it must be to endure me when I’m angry, what a monster I must turn into when upset, that no one wants to ever give me bad information. Crying was an easier response, I suppose, one something people knew how to handle. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out that my parents were cowards to keep that kind of important information from me, because life is full of bad news and it’s how they handle it that you remember. Without that, simply pretending that bad things don’t happen or worse yet that it must be kept secret, is downright mean.
The second thing that was pretty common was my father’s inability to deal with anyone being angry with him. This tied into the first component of not being trusted with my own feelings, but did so much more to invalidate them. Whenever one of us would become upset, we would storm off to our room, slam the door and brood, cry or rage about it. Within seconds, he was in the doorway, demanding forgiveness. Without it, he would storm away and sulk until you “got over it.” With it, all would become right with the universe again, and you learned quickly that your feelings weren’t as important as the adults.