A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Driven To Tears

Originally published: 1 August 2005

I've had an interesting relationship with tears over the years.

I was brought up to believe that there was no shame in a man crying, which was a comforting thought since I cried a helluva lot as a kid. Not for attention - I've never been one to seek attention through tears.

For pain - I was hit a lot and although I could withstand a couple of jacks without bawling I always broke down on the big beatings, I'm sad to say.

The personal beatings - the ones in which humiliation was part of the beating, for whatever reason.

Being a sensitive child I was never able to cope with humiliation, and somehow the corners of my eyes always managed to spring a leak in moments of red-faced disgrace.

Once I got to high school I almost stopped crying altogether, but when I got to drama school we were made to open up and delve deep and find emotion and of course it did the trick - for the first year I did nothing but howl like a child, while everyone around me did the same.

But once I came to terms with the bullshit of all that I started hardening again, and for the remainder of my student years - and well into my adult life - I hardly cried at all.

Which made the other night odd.

It was when Tashi was on her week-long getaway a couple of weeks back. I was sitting in the lounge eating supper and watching The Amazing Race - it was an episode in which they found themselves in old slave quarters in Senegal and later outside the Berlin Wall in Germany.

And I started weeping like a baby - uncontrollably. My emotion was triggered by imagining the horror of a person who's had their life, freedom and dignity taken away from them and who has been shipped off to foreign lands to be no more than a pet animal for their owner - the tragedy of the cruelty of man just really hit home.

I started laughing at myself then - a grown man sitting blubbing through sprayed bits of pizza, leaking snot and tears at an alarming rate and heaving with sobs and laughter alternatively.

That Bloody Dog knows a good thing when she spots one and the sight of Mad Dad blubbing away in front of the telly was practically an open invitation to sink her fangs into his knee with all haste in an attempt to rip the cap off.

I wondered how many millions such a scenario would be worth to America's Funniest Home Videos, and that triggered more paroxyms of mirth, more pizza bits getting sprayed and a tearing sound from the knees of my jeans.

It was particularly funny because although I do feel plenty of emotion I tend to keep it guarded for 99 percent of the time - on that night it was impossible to keep myself in check.

Later in the week - after Tashi had arrived home - we were watching Lost, and the same thing happened. I can't remember what set me off but there was something that wound me up again and Tashi looked on in amazement.


I had to explain about my earlier incident in the week and I told her I had no idea what was causing it. I suspect it was something to do with the Directed Pressure Point Technique therapy I am undergoing for my back - the oke told me emotions would be unlocked, as years of suppressed feelings emerge with the unlocking of various parts of the body over time.

Sounds like mumbo-jumbo, I know, but it makes sense when he explains it. My version is highly simplified.

Tashi was thrilled, of course, as women generally seem to be when men cry.

Then - this weekend, as a matter of fact - we were watching the movie Million Dollar Baby, and there is a scene in it in which Clint Eastwood says something harsh to Hilary Swank, and her head drops and her lip starts to tremble. He asks her: "You're not going to cry, are you?"

Yet another huge difference between men and women was highlighted - women love men to cry, but men absolutely hate it when women cry.

I think it's because when a woman decides to have a good cry there's nothing a man can say or do that can get her to stop crying, and since we hate seeing our women in distress it makes it particularly uncomfortable.

I'm not talking about legitimate crying here - if your girlfriend's family was wiped out in a freak boating accident, or if your wife failed her driving exam you could have nothing but true, genuine sympathy for them.

But women don't only cry as a result of pain or anguish - they cry for infinite numbers of reasons, from heartbreak to unfaithful friends to bad news to manipulation.

I had a girlfriend who cried because her best friend's mother's dog died - what's an oke supposed to do in a situation like that? Tell her everything will be OK? It won't be - that Pig is going to be regaling you with tales of her little Pookums for the next thousand years.

In years gone by I would try my hardest to get the tears to stop, by offering rational and logical thoughts as arguments. But I came to realise that sometimes women don't want rational or logical arguments - they just want to cry. They want to be allowed to cry.

Still doesn't help the bloke, though, when the crying starts roughly 20 minutes before a major rugby match. Then you have to get into Crisis Mode - 20 minutes is a woefully inadequate amount of time to not only stop the tears but get the reason for them out into the open (a case of 20 Questions And More, that one) and resolve everything nicely - while not appearing as though you're interested in the damn rugby at all.

That's the rub. Full marks to the oke who consoles the chick, still watches his rugby and gets a shag later that night. Either you're Don Bloody Juan or she's Lobotomy Girl or you resorted to the lowest of the low tricks to curb the tears and watch the game - you promised you'd watch How To Make An American Quilt with her. Or The Bodyguard. Or anything involving Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton. Maybe even Touched By An Angel.

Shame - no, that's nasty and I don't mean it. It's horrible, massively generalised, sexist, stereotyped nonsense. I'm so embarrassed. How could I have got it so wrong?

Steel Magnolias - that's the one you're after.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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