Wonderful actors supposedly struggle with the skill — supposedly, even Sir Lawrence Olivier couldn’t do it. So why I — a writer not particularly prone to tears who isn’t nearly masochistic enough to have ever wanted to be an actress — can make myself cry is beyond me.
I’m not exactly sure when I discovered that I had this talent. It wasn’t when I wanted a better grade, got pulled over for a ticket or needed to make sure a guy didn’t break up with me right then. The skill is, in fact, utterly useless in those types of situations because it takes a good five minutes of full concentration — minutes that simply don’t exist when, say, you’re watching the cop walk from his car up to yours.
I’ve really only used it as a party trick. And oh, what a party — watch Anna cry! It actually goes over amazingly well with children, especially the already cynical ones who’ve seen all the standard adult tricks (ear wiggling, double jointed finger moving, juggling, etc.) and are hungry for some original ones. “Are you thinking about something very sad?” they always ask, their fascinated faces peering closely at mine and waiting to see when the liquid will start pouring.
The truth is, I don’t think of anything sad. I don’t think of anything at all — beyond the fact that I’m trying to push tears out of my eyes. I’ve told many — usually the ever-inquisitive children — that you simply push the tears out of your eyes using the same muscle that you use to yawn. Start to yawn, and then push tears instead, I always say, unable to explain it any better than that. They yawn and then look at me like I must be leaving something out.
But I’m not. That’s what I do. Maybe I magically accessed the tear-generating muscle somewhere near my esophagus one day and then, through exercise and practice, made it something I can now use easily. Maybe I was meant to have gotten better at it before those times I got pulled over so I really could have gotten out of those tickets. Maybe the writing thing won’t work out and I’ll decide to pursue acting.
Although just the mere thought of that is enough to unleash the real waterworks.