Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crying in public (not me this time)

Yesterday was a rare day in that I was downtown on foot. I prefer to do all business by bike, as it limits my frustrations to dealable levels. I will never get used to the pace at which people walk here (too slow!), or the fact that they spread out all over the sidewalk as though they were molecules in a super-cool liquid. So. not. cool.

And in being on foot (which I was because I had more time than journey to make, if you know what I mean), I saw a bunch of things I wouldn't normally see. And I probably grumbled under my breath not just a bit more than normal as my individualism trumped my love of my fellow human and my fellow human would not just get out of the way so I could walk at a normal pace down the sidewalk.

And then I realized it was me, and not them, so I slowed down and moved to a pedestrian street (Huerfanos), where I noted that despite inflation, it still only costs 300 pesos (less than 50 cents) to get your shoes shined, which I have never done. And I also noted that the strange cold-in-the-morning, warm-in-the-afternoon weather means you will see people walking side by side who look like they are dressed for totally different weather, which reminds me of the David Sedaris short piece called "can of worms" if I'm not mistaken, which has to do with some nematodes which were found in a desert, and which he hears about while sitting in a diner waiting for his dessert to arrive, which he then eats not point-first, and loses an opportunity to wish for something. Which has everything to do with how distractable I am right now (ooh! shiny!), and nothing to do with the point at hand.

Which is that yesterday I saw a high-school aged kid crying. I could see from far away, his eyes were red, his lips dry and wet at the same time, and he was leaning into a pole and talking animatedly but quietly, painfully to his galpal. I craned my neck to see if she was crying, too, imagining a teenage breakup, a pregnancy scare, whatever things could make a young couple take time out on a busy pedestrian street to cry publicly in a place where people don't cry. She was dry-eyed though, and only somewhat sympathetic.

And then I thought about that. People don't cry here. I mean, of course they do. Everyone cries sometimes. But the number of times I've seen someone lose grip on their emotions in public seems disproportionately low. Chileans seem to have a much beter control of their emotions, or a much thicker veneer than I remember seeing in the United States. Which is why seeing a teenage boy crying on the street me dio tanta pena (made me feel so sad).

And then I kept walking, because that's what you do in these situations. Hope he's doing better today, or at least found someone to give him a big hug.


Annje said...

Thank goodness it's not me this time either. Item number 452 on the list of reasons I cannot be mistaken for a chilean... iron-grip on emotions. Mine is never very firm. I was sobbing so hard one lonely Sunday on Huerfanos that some dad with his two young kids actually asked if there was something he could do... uh, make me less pathetic.

That and I am a speed walker everywhere I go.

Anonymous said...

I've definitely been there.

Germans are also notoriously stoic in public and I remember once I saw a woman on a bench in the middle of hundreds on people walking by and she was sobbing. Her shoulders were shaking and she was fisting kleenex. The image was so different that what I normally consider "German" that it has stuck with me.

lydia said...

i've often thought about the cry in public thigns. i remember one of my very first blogposts about chile was about the time i cried in public. i was REALLY sick and turned in a practically blank final test because i couldn't concentrate at all. anyway i got in the micro in tears and noticed when a high school boy sat down next to me. when i eventually looked up, he was looking at me concerned and the bus was about empty, he had obviously noticed i felt bad and must've wanted human presence or something. i thought it was really cute and verrrry much not what i would've expected from a random chilean

The Refined Hedonist said...

You know, I never really thought about that aspect of my culture. Growing up, I always wondered why my mom was so stoic about things. I was born here, but am more Canadian than Chilean, truth be told. When I got older and decided that the whole stoic thing didn't work for me, I actually sat my mom down and told her I needed her to be more demonstrative. These days, when we hang up the phone, she knows not to hang up before she says I love you. Yes, it's cheesey, but somedays, that's all you need.

Ironically, I have memories of being very little, having been naughty and earned myself a spanking. My dad was never much of a disciplinarian, he'd take me outside afterward and cry with me. I guess he was ok with crying in public if he thought it would make me feel better?

I wonder now though, if Chileans in general have always been this stoic, or if there was a certain amount of control learned during Chile's darker period, when being overly emotional would get you noticed and that was something to be avoided?

Candice said...

Awww, messy break up? That is sad to witness.

Eileen said...

I think it's interesting to see that we all feel that Chileans are strangely (or moreso than their US counterparts) stoic. I know I'm very a flor de piel (sensitive), but hearing from other people that they also find it curious is somehow edifying. I find particularly interesting Hedonist's comments because it seems like she's Chilean, but also North American, so I guess she can see it from both sides. I often wonder how crazy we seem to the average Chilean for not just being able to keep a stiff upper lip all the time.

And yes, I suspect heavily this has to do with historical events and the like, plus other related tidbits. And I happen to think it's not particularly healthy, but that may just be me.

mellafe said...

I'm thinking of differences there might appear between my generation and my granfather's, for example, and I can say we've always been stoic. We're taught not to show things, la ropa sucia se lava en casa, that sort of thing. You just don't make a scene in public and parents tell that to their kids when they're about to throw a tantrum (I know I was told many, many times that it would embarrass me if I kept on crying).

I don't know why, but I think it's always been that way, for one reason or another. I wouldn't say it was for historical events... it's just how we're built.

I wouldn't be able to comment on the youngsters, though. I have an 18 year old cousin and she's the youngest person I usually hang out with, so I don't know how the kids are behaving like these days. :)

(Sorry for all the back-postings. I'm catching up on your blog just now).