BASICALLY, it’s never, ever okay to cry in public.
This, until today, has been my view for pretty much all my dry-eyed life.
Sobbing is for annoying children and Americans, I reckoned. Not for Britons reared with Blitz spirit.
In despair it shows a lack of dignity. In delight an absence of decorum. To cry is to turn private grief or happiness into public embarrassment.
I didn’t care if you’d just won an Olympic gold after a life of sacrifice. I didn’t care if you were recalling your pet goldfish dying for The X Factor cameras. And I didn’t care if you’d just seen Gone With The Wind (although, at nearly four hours, I admit I was close to keening, myself).
To me, it was simple: blubbing, like five-a-side, working on a laptop and sex during winter, was best done indoors.
It was a world view established when, as a seven-year-old sitting in a school dining hall, the lass next to me spilled her yoghurt and started howling.
Don’t get me wrong, I understood her devastation – it was a Longley Farm, after all.
But her tears made me feel acutely awkward; that, just by being there, I was intruding on an intensely personal moment of emotional vulnerability which I had no right to experience.
Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have stood up and shouted for the rest of the hall to look at her roar.
Still...you live, you learn. You hope.
And maybe you do.
For here’s what I have learned today: crying in public is actually okay.
Why the change of heart?
Because this morning I decided to write this column about it being a shame a summer of sporting success has actually been a summer of shedding salt water.
But what did I find upon doing a Google search by way of, ahem, research?
An internet bursting with populists, patriots, right-wingers and the plain short-sighted decrying a little cry and demanding more stiff upper lips. Even the horrid Jan Moir – the Daily Mail’s clown-in-chief – had written about it under the subtle headline ‘A Nation Of Cry-Babies’.
And, so, I suddenly realised, if all those cretins are anti-crying, there must be some good in a public blub.
Thus, today I say this: We must all cry in public more often, if only to peeve such people.
Not just at the big things – death, love, relegation – but we should open our hearts and howl in any conceivable situation.
If an Olympic winner can do it on a podium, there’s no reason you can’t break down from good feedback at work. If an X Factor loser can mow, why shouldn’t you have a snivel at the karaoke? And if a movie-buff bawls at Gone With The Wind, out-do them and get teary at the trailers.
Charles Dickens was a fan, as it goes (thanks, Google).
He reckoned a good cry showed you were a rounded individual capable of controlling more base instincts.
Indeed, that stiff upper lip is a concept which only started with the war generations. Agonisingly, experts reckon they became so used to the gut-wrenching devastation of loss, they simply numbed themselves to tears.
It worked for them, and our admiration should be unending.
But for us, for now, there are new challenges to confront: such as annoying the preaching likes of Moir and the online moaners.
Your country needs you. It’s okay to cry. Get nagging.