4 min read

The Art of Sadness

Everyone knows a healthy baby cries.

We came out of the womb in tears. Gasping for breath and begging to be held by someone—anyone. It’s the first time they’ve inhaled air in their lungs, doctors would say. Crying is normal, and when we don’t the mother panics. The room will hold their breaths for the first shriek. Everyone knows a healthy baby cries.

But somewhere over the years, a healthy adult doesn’t.

One wild night, glasses drowned in Grey Goose littered the club table. Lasers were blinding me, the music was deafening. I had a few glasses of vodka-orange and had felt nothing. But alcohol lies dormant until it hits you when you least expect it. I saw the colorful light show from the DJ booth and then suddenly the tiled walls of a bathroom the second after. There I was sitting down on the sink in front of my best friend, my legs swaying back and forth when I felt a pang in my chest.

Sometimes alcohol makes you cry for absolutely no reason.

My friend wiped my eyes with his thumbs. “You can’t get sad, you’re Jasmine!”

Of course not, I thought. Of course I shouldn’t be sad.

“You’re always so happy. You’re Jasmine, you’re not supposed to cry like this!”

But I cried anyway. Not because I was hurt, or because I was afraid of something in particular, but mainly because I felt like it. It’s a way for the body to be at peace.

So when another friend stumbled in with his fists balled up and his glasses stained with teardrops and shame, I knew that more than anything, his body needed to purge itself. The three of us sat on the steps of the bathroom corridor; my eyes now dry but still bloodshot. Our crying friend spilling out his heart over a breakup.

And while my friend tried to console this crying mess of a man with the same rhetoric he gave to me, I sat there and just held him. I said nothing as I felt him shiver in my arms, screaming and thrashing like a child.

“Don’t,” I told my friend mid-speech. “Let him cry.”

There’s an intimate game I used to play with my friends. 20 questions, do you know it? I’d ask someone 20 questions about themselves, and they’d ask me 20 in return. In between inquiries about their past relationships and their deepest darkest secrets, I’d ask, “when was the last time you cried?”

A long time ago, some would say. Sometimes the boys would tell me they don’t ever cry. It’s a sign of resilience, they think.

Sadness is a lost art. We inhale happiness through a filter and call people out for their negativity. Debbie downers, we’d call them. Buzzkills. Pessimists. Depressed. You’d look prettier with a smile. Lighten up, cheer up, what’s wrong with you?

But we bring to the table what we can, whether it is a smile, a frown, or a little negative energy. 

The reason why we’re so afraid to reach out during our darkest moments is because someone will force us towards the light when all we want is someone to hold us in the dark. We need to feel alright for feeling the way we do. In a world of positive vibes only we forget that sadness comes naturally to us all. 

So what happens when an emotion so raw and intrinsic is seen as a virus?

We become robots. A shell of a person that used to feel, but doesn’t anymore. Not here, not now. Not when everyone’s watching. Maybe later at home. Maybe never. 

We’re expected to wear a constant mask of a smile and sprinkle glitter on ourselves so we can sparkle even in the dark.  We put up a front of contentment for the sake of everyone else. That’s what everyone expects; that we answer every how are you’s with good and greats. Never bad, never terrible. Because happiness should be our default setting, and anything less renders us as terrible company.

But when a newborn cries, the room exhales a sigh of relief. The nurse wraps the baby in a soft pink cloth and gives it to the proud mother to cradle.

Even since birth, crying in pain has been a mark of strength—

Of being human.