Public crying has to pass some pretty stringent tests to get my approval. I don’t think of myself as stoical, nor, certainly, would anyone who knows me; I moan and complain to a gold standard. But I have an aversion to crying in front of strangers, even familiars, and especially those waiting for me to do so – those boxes of tissues that shrinks have, and push forward as a spur to tearing up, for example, make a desert of me. I was once invited to cry in front of the whole school for my wrongdoing, but chose to make my inner cheek bleed in preference.
I can sort of see the point of crying on achievement after enormous effort, and even feel the prick in my own eye. But mine was, apparently, the only dry eye in the country (both countries, Scotland and ‘Britain’) at the tearfulness displayed by Andy Murray on losing a Wimbledon final. Not achieving something after an enormous effort is wretched, of course, but it’s a miserable response to take the emotional high ground because someone has done better than you. I’ve never liked Federer more (which isn’t saying much) than when he smiled sympathetically at Murray’s tears and went on to say that he was very pleased he won and that he (Federer) had played very well to do so. We train children to cope with disappointment and not to cry when they lose, for their own sake, and because they’ll get on with getting better, if that’s possible.
‘It’s not the money, it’s not the fame. It’s history,’ the BBC announced before the final. But it’s only not the money and fame because both Federer and Murray have them both in quantity. Actually, it looks as if the next thing, when there’s nothing left but records to break, isn’t so much history, as a desire for public adoration.
I never did mind Murray being dour, or rather, reticent, as if his affect was any of my business, anyway. I hated the satisfaction of the commentators, all of them everywhere, who breathed great sighs of relief as the tears came and the voice choked. I’ve enjoyed the awkwardness of people having to support someone who appeared not to care whether he was liked or not. Watching the on-screen crying jag was like seeing someone who has known that a well is poisoned, but finally given up and drunk from it, because everyone else in the village does. Those whoops of satisfaction and banalities of ‘Murray hasn’t lost, he’s won the hearts of the people’ are the same kind of sentimental sadism that requires pointless public apologies rather than enforcing serious remedial action from bankers and politicians.