Crying for Christmas
published: 26 /
Jamie Rowland in 'Gimme Indie Rock' examines some of the current seasonal music and explains why crying is okay at Christmas
Christmas is here again and, to try to force some festive feeling into my heart, this week I have been listening to Christmas music on my way into work. To be honest, it hasn’t had a particularly notable effect; the Spirit of Christmas has his work cut out for him jollying up the Monday morning commute. One song did catch me off guard the other morning however, but it wasn’t with a desire to wish peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.
The song was She & Him’s cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, from their recently released Christmas album, 'A Very She & Him Christmas'. I was looking out of the train window and not really listening properly – that is, until this lyric came up:
“Through the years, we all shall be together/If the fates allow.”
Immediately, I found myself having to suck in my bottom lip to stop it quivering uncontrollably, and trying to force the tears welling up back down into my cheeks. It was like being punched in the guts with a big, lovely, pillow, stuffed full of soft, downy ennui. I don’t know exactly what it is about this line – something about the idea of lifelong friends and people you can always rely on, and the comfort that idea brings with it just opened the floodgates, and I only just managed to get them shut again.
I don’t really cry that often, but particularly in the last three or four years there have been a fair few films, television programmes, adverts (I know; seriously??) and definitely songs that really hit me square in the tear ducts. That scene at the end of 'Man on the Moon' (Milos Foreman, 1999) during the funeral scene, when the film of Andy Kaufman is playing above his coffin, and him and all the mourners sing ‘This Friendly World’ – that gets me everytime. Bizarrely (and I’m less comfortable admitting this) I can distinctly remember I also cried during the episode of 'EastEnders' when Ricky found out about Bianca’s affair. And I mean really big, bawling, uncontrollable tears. What can I say, it was a moving moment! It took me a long time to believe in love again.
I used to cry a hell of a lot when I was younger. My first three years of secondary school were littered with tears. Any time I thought I might get into trouble, or got into trouble, or someone said something mean, or I got frustrated – whatever the problem, my response would be to cry like the proverbial baby. I’m pretty certain it was thoroughly awkward for the people who, for whatever misguided reason, let me be their friend.
There’s a bit of a stigma against men crying even now, coming on twelve years into the 21st Century (as if that really means anything. People always use the fact that we’re in the 21st Century when they want to point out how backward something is. But then I suppose ever since the first man (or woman - 21st Century, remember?) developed language, it’s been used to say stupid things – why break the habit of 200 or so millenia?)
Anyway, I digress. People think men crying is weird, but that’s not strictly true; people crying is weird. It doesn’t matter what sex they are. If someone is crying in the same room as you, it’s horrible and it’s awkward and you don’t know what to do. So you end up standing around looking awkward and raising your eyebrows at people as if to say “Oh dear!” and then pull a weird grimace to convey to everyone that you’re sympathetic, but “Wow, this is making me feel really uneasy, shall we leave the room?”
Happily, as I say, I rarely cry these days, so I don’t really inflict such awkward social situations myself. That is, of course, unless one of the above media manages to get all their magical ingredients just right (Ricky entering the kitchen and saying everything he needs to by just giving Bianca an icy stare). With music, this could be done with the right combination of notes – movie scores are the best example of this I guess; their role is, after all, to amplify the emotion within a scene. Perhaps the more direct method is through lyrics. This might be through some connection to a memory or feeling; such as with the Christmas classic above and my own nostalgia for the feeling of closeness and love that seems somehow amplified between family and friends during the festive period (seriously, I’m making myself well up). Another good example of this for me is ‘Greetings in Braille’, by the Elected. It’s a beautiful song anyway, but the lyric that always breaks me is:
“And I miss Tara and Melissa, Allen and John/And you’ll never have friends like you did when you were young”
Now, the emotion for me doesn’t really come from the first line so much (I never knew anyone called Tara) but again, the nostalgia I feel for childhood and those very intense formative friendships you have in your early years. And for some reason, when I hear that line it makes me well up pretty much every time. Like a big old Jessie.
But does that actually make me a big old Jessie? I’m more than certain everyone has a special song or film or book that they go to because they know it will put them through the ringer. Crying in our society is generally seen as a sign of weakness, so it’s not something people like to do in public; but you know as well as I do that all that stifled emotion has to come out sometime, and songwriters, film makers and (unfortunately) copywriters all know it too, and they love nothing more than to help us on our way (the recent fuss over John Lewis’ Christmas ad is testament to that). And we love it! There’s nothing more cathartic than a good cry, and especially when it comes from something pleasurable like a beautiful song or a moving story.
For me, I have a few films ('Now, Voyager', 'Rachel Getting Married' or everyone’s favourite, 'It’s a Wonderful Life') and many songs that get me welling up, but the one that has brought the most face-drenching results would have to be ‘Lover, Your Should Have Come Over’ by Jeff Buckley. It always makes me feel a bit emotional, but on one particular occasion, it really pushed me over the edge.
I was walking home at night listening to 'Grace' (I may have had a few drinks, which probably helped) and about halfway through that song my face just suddenly exploded with wetness. It was late, so no one was around, which was fortunate because I don’t think I would have been able to hold back on that occasion. I don’t really remember the circumstances of that night or if there were maybe some tears I was holding back, but whatever it was, Jeff wrenched it out of me, and the power of that emotional release just made me feel so good afterwards; I felt refreshed. For that, Mr Buckley and ‘Lover, You Should Have Come Over’ will always have a special place in my heart.
So here is my gift to you this Christmas: I give you permission to seek out as many tearjerkers as you can; your favourite weepy films, mixtapes given to you by an ex, a song that reminds you of home, or maybe just that fecking John Lewis advert – and cry. Cry your heart out, without shame or fear of judgement. And enjoy it.