Read it and weep – An Irishwoman’s Diary on tearjerkers

“Other tear-triggers include children singing Christmas hymns, and Olympic highlights set to music – and I’m not even a sports fan.” Photograph: iStock

“Other tear-triggers include children singing Christmas hymns, and Olympic highlights set to music – and I’m not even a sports fan.” Photograph: iStock

 

I first realised I had a problem when the evening news made me cry. No, it wasn’t a global disaster or a local tragedy. It was a report about Westlife visiting a children’s hospital. I blubbed like a baby. That was so long ago that they were still legitimately being called a boy band. Since then, I’ve grown to accept my incontinent tear-ducts. It doesn’t take much to trigger them. I still can’t read Seamus Heaney’s Mid-term Break without tearing up. The “four-foot box, a foot for every year” line gets me every time.

Years ago, the children would shove The Selfish Giant into my hands for devilment. I never got through a bedtime reading of the Oscar Wilde story without breaking down at the bit where the giant dies. And don’t even mention The Little Match Girl. The poor barefoot child froze to death. Who wouldn’t cry at that? And how is that a cosy, reassuring bedtime story for a five-year-old?

But it’s not just books. The Champ movie launched my crying career in style, at the age of 10. I was completely undone by the young boy urging his dead father to wake up.

Now, I’m no criminal psychologist, but you definitely have psychopathic tendencies if you don’t cry at that three-minute clip of little blond TJ realising the Champ is dead. It’s so sad that it has been used by scientists to evoke emotion in test subjects during psychology experiments.

Schindler’s List unravelled me so much that I had to wait for everyone to leave the cinema before I could pull myself together. And I don’t even fight the tears anymore when I rewatch The Shawshank Redemption. That’s understandable, you might say, until you hear that I cried in the cinema the other week during the movie featuring Dora the Explorer. I know, it’s a chronic problem.

It’s also very embarrassing on a professional level.

As a reporter I covered dozens of funerals and some were very tragic. I was able to steel myself for those. It was the other funerals of people who had lived very long and happy lives that took me by surprise. The sight of a crying relative following the coffin down the church aisle was always enough to start me caterwauling, while fanning the tears away with my notebook. I was so distraught once that it was presumed I was part of the funeral party and I was invited back to the house. I had never met the dead person, nor the family, before.

Other tear-triggers include: children singing Christmas hymns; Olympic highlights set to music – and I’m not even a sports fan; that rousing, climactic bit of Riverdance where you can hear the dancers’ shoes hammering the floor; the Barry’s Tea Christmas ad with the train set; beached whales flopping helplessly on the sand.

I could go on but I’m welling up here.

If you are a similarly lachrymose individual, don’t weep. We are in good company. Actor Javier Bardem falls apart when he watches TV reports of people coming home for Christmas.

Fellow thespian Colin Firth was overcome by Dumbo in the cinema and looked over to see tears flowing down the faces of three skinheads seated near him.

Julianne Moore, whose on-screen crying has set me off many times, once had to leave the cinema during Gone with the Wind to compose herself. And Marley and Me made Dakota Fanning sob so uncontrollably on a quiet night flight that the noise woke up the man beside her.

Singer George Ezra has a theory that you cry more while watching something on an airplane.

He told the Table Manners podcast he bawled his eyes out on a US flight while watching an innocuous programme about a foster family getting a treehouse.

On another occasion, he made an ill-advised decision to watch Up on a flight. The flight attendant arrived at his seat just after the film’s moving opening montage and he had to tearfully gulp out his food order. Let’s just hope he never watches Toy Story 3 before a gig.

Now excuse me while I find a tissue. I’m still thinking of that scene in The Champ and there’s something in my eye.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

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