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Tears of endearment

Why do we cry at movies? Maybe it is the movie or the psychological baggage we schlepped in with us. Or is it empathy? Maybe genetics or cultural conditioning. Or were we simply bursting to spill that night because our boss refused to give a week off for Christmas.
This much we know: all of us do it in varying degrees of blubbitude. Some of us are waterfalls, others are Saharas. Most of us fit somewhere in between.
The trigger maybe the moral injustice in Schindler's List, or the way Heath Ledger's throat catches when he confesses those forbidden feelings in Brokeback Mountain, or the final showdown of Rang de Basanti. Or that cheesy Micheal Keaton movie-you know, the one where he's dying of cancer and so on.
Whatever. There we sit, teary-eyed, vulnerable and helpless. And we become as emotionally intertwined with the characters in the movie as we do with real people.The movie reached us. We related to it. It spoke to something inside.
And in our dinner or parking lot discussions, the cultural myths [and facts] tumble out: Women cry more than men. Women go out of their way to find 'chick flicks' cry-athons. Guys cry only if someone squirts Mace at their eyeballs.
Research in this domain concluded that girls and boys do equal amounts of crying until puberty. But as boys take the testosterone highway and women take the estrogen bike path, their responses differ. Women do tend to cry up to four times more than men. Also the emotional kind of crying was discovered to release internal toxins as opposed to the onion-slicing variety.
What really trigger the waterworks is a combination of conflicted emotions. We choke up , essentially, at the fulfillment of social roles, such as a couple pledging a life together at a wedding or, the father dancing with his daughter. But we cry for bittersweet reasons, realising we can never sustain or measure up to , that iconic moment i.e. we strum a mental guitar chord that combines positive, major feelings with sadder minor tones. And the tears flow before we know it.
So we are empathising , we are strumming , and we are philosophising in the flickering chiaroscuro. Bur whatever we are really doing within the ineffable inner machinery we call soul, and whatever the prolactin content in our tears, we are forging a personal bond with a particular movie that we'll never lose. As with love, perhaps it's better not to understand the mystical algebra that connects us to Beaches but to be grateful it adds up to moments like these.
[LAT-WP]

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