If you throw out panic attacks and onions, I’ve cried four times in the past ten years. The most recent time was the only one in that period anyone’s seen me: I got hit by a car while biking and lost my shit at the blind old Russian guy driving it. One of them’s another story, and the other two were at movies, the names of which I guard like dragon treasure. (Weakness is death.)
Side note: the panic attack thing is pretty broad, but it was an extra-mile situation that would unfairly inflate my cry count. I dropped some legal hallucinogens during my semester abroad in the Netherlands and had a bad trip on one of them. I cried then and a few times over the next couple weeks because my ears kept ringing, which made me think I was hearing things and drugs had made me schizophrenic. (It was just wax.) Don’t mean I’m not a thug. What evidence do I have to support this, you ask?
Here are some of the things I’ve never cried at: girls, death (nonfiction), music, sports, books (fiction and nonfiction), birth, theatre, boys, nature, TV finales, the Holocaust (fiction and alleged nonfiction).
When it comes to crying over big events, my dad and brother are like me. First of all, being a pastor’s kid, you go to a lot of funerals. It’s not that we can’t feel sad, but we got desensitized to the shock part of loss by being around it all the time. That’s all just icing on the prinsesstårta. His side of the family is stoic, Scandinavian, and notoriously blasé towards death. At one of her first Lundquist events, our gallows chitchat horrified a newly married-in aunt: “You guys are, like, the death family! It’s all you ever talk about!” We, of course, laughed in her face.
She wasn’t wrong, though. A few years ago, my cousin died in her early 20s. This didn’t surprise anyone; she and her sister were crack babies that my aunt and uncle had adopted from the inner city, and she had health issues all her life. Most of the family made it up to their tiny upstate New York town to attend the funeral. (I wasn’t there, but have heard the story so many times that detail barely matters.) There to perform the eulogy was the sincere if under-educated town pastor.
Most everyone in town loved my cousin, including the pastor, who decided to express this love with an emotional, climactic eulogy. “I know,” he croaked, “that Annie’s up in heaven now, with the Father, basting in the light of his glory.” Not a typo. “Basting.” Every head in the front row ducked for cover. My family must not be seen laughing, en masse, at a funeral, especially not a relative’s, especially not if that relative was young, especially not if that relative had Down’s syndrome. The guy couldn’t leave well enough alone, though, working himself into a red-faced froth: “She’s basting in heaven! Basting with Christ! Basting with all her lost loved ones! Hallelujah!”
Many drops of lip-blood had already been shed, but my uncle couldn’t resist adding his own punchline: “They’re eating the black ones now?”
So, yeah, we laugh in the face of death. My dad cries at anything fictional with puppy eyes, but little in the real world gets a rise out of us. Fave example: in 2001, more of us cried at the end of Shrek than at the news my cousin was murdered (1-0). The one exception was the wacky sitcom ending to my parents’ marriage. Strap in, y’all.
My brother and I got the news from our mom in May 2005. We were actually pretty happy–we knew they were miserable and hadn’t had common ground in years. Plus, she’d been cutting her hair short and wearing denim jackets for some time, and if we needed help figuring that one out we would’ve spent most of our teen years investigating reports of stains just below our chins.
One evening in June, someone was going to come to our house with divorce papers, and we were to make every effort to be as far outside the blast radius as possible. Our D-Day was supposed to be in the middle of the month, with brief advance notice on the day itself. We went around to our friends and scheduled as many long nights out as possible in the week of the 12th-18th, because that’s mid-June, right? RIGHT?
Wrong! The week came and went, and our dad started getting suspicious. My brother and I were at peak The Kids Are Running WIth A Bad Crowd And I Think They’re On The Pot risk: my brother was headed to Long Hair College with a double Socialism/Bicuriosity major, and I was the age that young white drug dealers/Em & Em fans in DARE videos targeted with free samples of Pot Cigarettes. It was 10 PM! Where were the children?
I couldn’t tell my friends what was up and wouldn’t want to anyway. Divorce is a total buzzkill! Finally, while at my friend Sean’s house the next week, I got the word. We’d only planned out the afternoon, but once I told his family what was going on they agreed to shelter me for the night. They calmed me down as best as they could, and I tackled my toughest acting role yet: lying to my dad on the phone about how much fun I was having (since surpassed by Drunk Guy #4).
But UH-OH! I’ve been going out too much and I’m coming home tonight and that’s final, young man! TROMBONE SOUND!
Sean watched me make the call the way guys watch someone tell them their grandma died. Uh, that sucks, dude, and I have no clue what comes next socially. We got twenty minutes, you up for another round of Mario Kart?
To be clear: this wasn’t funny at all then, but it’s hilarious now. My dad’s timing was pure Shakespearean comedy, and if you slapped a laugh track on footage of Sean and me coming up with increasingly ludicrous lies to save my ass, it’d be the best Friends episode ever.
Same thing happened to my brother. Half an hour later, the three of us were watching TV on the couch, my brother and I tense enough to face a firing squad.
You can figure out how the rest of the night went. The one thing that stands out most in my mind is that we were all visibly emotional–something that had never happened. My brother’s 100% certain we all cried, I’m 100% certain I didn’t, but either way, for the first time, the barriers were down. This night was directly responsible for the height of my weirdness as I adjusted for the next couple years, but without it, I never would have been the almost normal person I am now.
Being raised by two people who see eye-to-eye on literally almost nothing doesn’t lend itself to compromise, but to contradiction. They were and are just two people doing their best to raise kids who don’t suck. Sure, I talk a lot of shit about myself, and I swear too much and believe in things both of them strongly oppose, but I’m a college graduate living on my own at 21. My mom was 24 and my dad just 22 when they got married; 26 and 24 when my brother was born. I can’t imagine making the commitments they made at that age.
Once they did the smart thing and bailed, all of us became much happier, better-adjusted people. Both of them are in loving, committed relationships for the first time in a long time. My brother’s engaged and finally made it out of the Midwest, where the highways out have signs at the borders that read Congrats! Send Money, and I haven’t puked on anyone or taped anything to myself in years. It took some crying, but it was fucking worth it.
What I’m saying is, thanks for getting divorced, Mom and Dad. Anytime I make them look bad, it has nothing to do with how I feel about them now. Like most kids, I was angry and hateful at the ‘rents all the time, and however accurate my reasons were for being that way, those emotions spurred some wack-ass behavior. One of the main reasons for sharing these stories is to recognize all that as childish and let it go.
I didn’t cry writing this, but I know that even though you’re dead for narrative purposes, you both read this thing and might cry reading it. Sorry. Now can we please drop this and get back to making fun of me?