She held the bar at chin-level, shuddering like a seasoned alcoholic suffering from fresh withdrawal. The weight on the other end of the contraption seemed immense to the point of metaphor. It carried the realized burden of her fears and insecurities and every unkind word she had ever spoken against herself. As she slowly looked to her right she saw a woman of comparable size completely outstretched - hanging on to an identical bar with only the tips of her fingers. She knew if she could hold out for only a second more than her opponent she would prevail while the other hurtled down 20 stories, screaming in defeat. "I can do this," she thought. "A stranger looks at me and only sees weakness at first glance. But they are wrong. I am strong." And with that last thought a well of strength arose in her and she felt her shaking arms steady. As she dared to open her eyes and take stock of her opponent, she watched the adversary let loose the bar. And in an instant the challenger disappeared down the side of the building - only leaving behind the shriek of defeat. For the first time in her life, she had won. She could have held on to the bar for an eternity - strengthened only by her pride - but it was no longer called for. And as she released the weight from her grasp she released her self-loathing and savored every last millisecond of plummeting 200 feet. Immunity...
And then I ALMOST shed a tear. I do that a lot. And not just while watching The Biggest Loser. It can happen during The Bachelor, SYTYCD, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Sometimes it will happen when I'm looking at a piece of art...or a screensaver. I mean, what's wrong with me? Am I pregnant?
Like many man-boys, I spent my early puberty perfecting fart jokes in an attempt to ignore the fact that a crazy whirlpool of feelings had taken up permanent residence in my gut. Crying was out of the picture. No way, no how. And after years of not-crying practice it was as if I didn't even remember what it was like to cry. As if the organs it took to kick off the whole affair had become vestigial.
But then I started doing grown-up things: moving 3000 miles away, paying income taxes, trying and failing, trying and failing again, trying and failing again again, abruptly succeeding in ways I didn't expect, watching my wife walk down the aisle. And suddenly, crying seemed more appropriate - even if the mechanics of it had been long lost to some strange, personal forced-evolution.
These days it's very rare that I can bring forth a full-on cry. It more often pops up as a throat lump. And as I get older I actually find that I've started to crave that feeling. It's like a wet rag that wipes the emotional slate clean. And, dude, I get my fix in the absolute weirdest places. Like I find myself pulling up the closing number of the 1979 Bob Fosse autobiographical fantasy film All That Jazz on YouTube just to let the pure imginativeness of it all wash over me and overwhelm my creativity-meter until there's a rock solid lump in my throat. How did that guy come up with such a fantastic, narcissistic freak fest? It's amazing. I've never even seen that movie all the way through, but just the immense idea of the whole thing makes me teary.
Crying is like the perfect expression of all emotions wrapped up into one. At the same time, it can be sad, fearful, happy, hilarious, proud, surprised, scared, in love, out of love, Rock of Love.
Why then can't I just let 'er rip and turn on the water works every week or so to cleanse my palette? Why can't we all just do it whenever we want? I'm sure the world would be a better place if we all had a designated cry time every Sunday at 7 pm.
I suppose it's just that everyone has their hang ups and we're all too damn busy to break down and admit what a mess we are on such a regular schedule. But I imagine that if I continue at my current rate, I'll break the cry-barrier somewhere around the birth of my first child and proceed on that path until I'm nothing but a blithering idiot by his or her college graduation. Which is the perfect age, incidentally, for me to be past embarrassment and onto embarrassing; bestowing upon my progeny a world of their own hang ups about crying.