Much like the person who paces up and down the sidewalk screaming bloody murder into a cellphone, the stranger who cries in public is frequently encountered and damn near impossible to ignore.
It takes a certain level of sad to cry in public. It’s the kind of sad you aren’t in control of anymore; the kind that yeah, could’ve waited until you got home, where you could faceplant into your pillows and sob and sprinkle a word or two into it, like, “why-y-y-y” or “not faiirrr,” and you just cry until your rib cage burns and you feel like you’ve lost ten pounds. The kind of sad that makes you buy a bottle of wine that your shaky hands struggle to open, and when you do open it, you only drink half a glass because you’re even too sad to be self-destructive. That’s the kind of sad you have to be to cry in public – when you’re on your way home to do these things, your private crying behavior, and you can’t get there fast enough.
Of course, as an observer, you feel it is your Good Samaritan duty to step in. Just stop this person, who probably just lost a job or a person or their will to live, from crying. But you don’t want to go about it the wrong way. Consider the following the next time you choose to involve yourself with a stranger crying in public.
Do not stare. Crying in public is not like having food stuck in your teeth. No one needs your staring. The crier knows they are crying. Let crying dogs cry.
Flattery will get you nowhere. Do not tell the crier they are too attractive to be crying. That is the worst thing you can say to someone who is faceplant levels of sad. If the crier cared about what people thought about their looks, they’d avoid crying in public by taking a cab or tucking themselves into a public restroom until the storm passes.
Practice empathy, not sympathy. The crier already feels pretty pathetic, most likely. Don’t give them that condescending smile reserved for people who don’t speak English and disgruntled MTA workers. When they catch you looking at them, bite your lip and look down at the ground as if to say, “I know, man. I was just about to cry, myself. Shit’s bleak.”
Give them something. Everyone likes a present. However, there are only two things you should offer a crier. A tissue or a cigarette. If you choose to hand over a tissue, just hand it to them. Don’t ask them if they want it; they do. You should always give a crier, stranger or not, a tissue. It says, “Hey, you may be crying in public, but you’re still a dignified person. Wipe that snot and shit off your face.”
If you’re a smoker, you can offer them a cigarette. A smoker will appreciate this, and a non-smoker will think, “I know, right?” Because people who don’t smoke know that there are occasions when everyone could use a cigarette, like post coitus or after a large meal.
Start crying, too. You’re pretty sad, yourself. You haven’t cried in a while, and maybe that’s your problem. Just let it out. It’s okay. You’re not too attractive to cry in public. Would you like a cigarette?