Why it's totally OK that you burst into tears at work
So, in what embarrassing way have you emoted today? Did you yell at your spouse? Did you cry somewhere inappropriate? Has the news of Donald Trump’s ascendancy knocked you so out of alignment you’re unsure what’s going to come out of your mouth from one minute to the next?
I started tearing up this morning on the way to work — the eerie silence on the subway, the way everyone politely looked down at their phones instead of the usual jostling and stage-sighing. It was that post-tragedy NYC, the one where we’re holding ourselves carefully like cups that might spill, and we know that everyone else is too. There’s community in that, an intimate enough community that I cried quietly all the way to midtown.
When I got to work, I ran into the arms of Alice, our parenting editor (we don’t normally begin the days with bear hugs at the SheKnows offices, but today it felt like the only rational greeting). Somewhere between that hug and Clinton’s concession, I managed to cry off all my mascara. (Why was I even wearing mascara? Did I tell myself as I got dressed in the quiet, rainy-day gloom of my apartment that to not put on a smidge of makeup would be the equivalent of admitting defeat?)
When Lena Dunham asked Gloria Steinem about crying, Steinem gave this advice: "A woman who was an executive told me once that she got angry in work situations where she needed to get angry, cried, and just kept talking through it. She had mostly men working for her, so it wasn't so easy to be understood. And she would just say to them, 'I am crying because I'm angry. You may think I'm sad. I am not sad. This is the way I get angry.' And I've always wanted to do that. It's still my goal.” This is intriguing — own the crying, keep going. Sheryl Sandberg endorses this model: “I cry at work,” she admitted in 2013. "I think we are all of us emotional beings and it's OK for us to share that emotion at work.”
Watching Clinton seem to choke up but still concede with the same steely-eyed steadiness she demonstrated at the DNC just a couple of months ago, you’d have to have an uncommonly sturdy armature to not be moved to a few tears. But the content of her speech, the emotional call to arms she issued, her acknowledgment and plea that “this loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it” is exactly the kind of rallying cry we need to wipe our tears and keep moving. Because today, we’re emotional and we’re scared and we’re licking our wounds, but we won’t be doing this forever. As everyone keeps reminding us, and we have to keep reminding each other in the days to come, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
Or, if you prefer, look to one of the best feminist tomes of all time, Harriet the Spy. Harriet’s spy notebook has just been discovered by her classmates, who’ve all turned against her, and she receives a letter from her cherished former nanny, Ole Golly: “If you’re missing me, I want you to know I’m not missing you,” Ole Golly writes. “I never miss anything or anyone because it all becomes a lovely memory. I guard my memories and love them, but I don’t get in them and lie down.” If you end up crying a little at work, it’s not such a big deal. Cry, but keep fighting. Our challenge right now is to feel the feelings, but — tempting as it may be — not to get in them and lie down.