I ran across a list recently. Another internet list of things women shouldn’t have to justify. And the one that struck me the most was having to apologize for having perfectly normal emotional reactions. I know this phenomenon well, but why do I do this? Emotions are a part of being human regardless of gender, they can be messy and irrational and out of character, but damn it, they’re real.
I think our society treats emotions like a contagious disease and people who wear it on their sleeve are trained to keep their distance. If you’re just walking down a normal city street and run across someone smiling and dancing happily along. What would most people do? Probably avoid eye contact and continue on ahead straight-faced and straight-laced, as if, “Eww, happiness! I might catch it; I’m going to walk around this guy.” Why do we do that?
Similar things happen with the opposite emotions. I know too many people who know that they’re uncomfortable and clueless when it comes to what to do when a person comes to them crying with sadness and looking for consolation. I’ve been there myself. Do you rub their back and say, “There, there, it’s okay.” Maybe it’s all not okay. Maybe they don’t want to be touched. How are you supposed to know what to do with a sad person who can’t use words at the moment? What would you want someone to do for you?
I would really like it if our culture in general were more accepting of a variety of emotions from our friends and from strangers. Ever wonder why in some areas it’s appropriate to smile at someone you pass by and it’s actually kind of rude if you don’t? Whereas other areas it’s weird and invasive to even make eye contact on the street, let alone smile! Can we just appreciate our fellow human beings for how they feel and try to empathize with that? We’ve all felt every emotion to some degree. It’s not impossible to help a friend in need, or share in a stranger’s joy. It’s probably healthy for you to feel some things more deeply than your day-to-day mundanity, and it sure does feel good when you help someone out by being there to support them during their grieving, or join in their celebratory party.
When was the last time you let yourself cry? Or have that omg-I-can’t-breath-I-think-I-just-peed-a-little belly laugh? Or let your anger or frustration out (in a safe, non-destructive way)? How often do you bottle those feelings? I did this for way too long, and it’s really hard to let myself feel sometimes. I sometimes feel childish, or stupid. But the fact is, feelings are valid no matter why you’re feeling them. You should be allowed to feel them among friends or in public without fear of judgement or shame, and have those friends help you in sorting through your perfectly normal human emotions to think rationally, when maybe you can’t.