Please Don't Cry

Jenny Diski

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 wrong doing, 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 watching him smile sympathetically at Murray's tears and then go 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. They on-screen crying jag was 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.


  • 9 July 2012 at 2:01pm
    toddwooster says:
    " 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."

    Records to break? Maybe for Federer, but Murray is barely in the record books, if at all. The 'next thing' for Murray is to win a Slam and thereby not only enter into history but also reach a level of personal satisfaction with his own achievements.

    So why can't it be that the guy was upset at having lost? Christ, he's not out there playing for others; why does his crying suddenly transform his reticence and lack of concern for public opinion into a desire for public adoration? Your well analogy, beyond being absurd, makes the assumption that he was crying for having let the public down, when it seems clear to me, with his comments about his box and the positive benefits of public support, that most of all he wanted to win it for himself. Reacting to a loss doesn't mean he was compromising his integrity or acquiescing to the demands of others.

    I didn't enjoy the sugar-coating response of the commentators any more than you did, but I'm not going to blame that on Murray. And the banker analogy? Talk about pandering for public adoration.

    And what is this?: 'but it’s a miserable response to take the emotional high ground because someone has done better than you.' You can't mean Murray was taking the moral high ground by crying, can you? I must be misreading that.

  • 9 July 2012 at 2:51pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    I'm not a Federer fan either and it was a little hard to take watching his bland, semi-smiling expression, with a casual tidy-up of his hair as Murray stumbled through his words. Seeing Lendl's face also told a story - did he ever break down after losing to Becker or whoever? Federer's little speech was as routine and buttoned-down as it could be (did he say thank you to the sponsors, or don't they do that at Wimbledon?) Murray will probably get a speech writer to add to his "team" so that the words come out with a Federer-like glibness. I wonder if Sharapova has ever broken down and wept after losing - somehow I can't imagine that happening - little Ms Perfect spoiling her make-up with some spontaneous tears - might lose her a contract.
    I can feel some empathy with Murray, if only because he is not the smart, perfectly-groomed and drilled down to the last er .. backhand tennis-player that Federer has become. He's not perfect, and that makes him a figure that I can sympathise with.

  • 9 July 2012 at 10:55pm
    philip proust says:
    Jenni Diski's Imperial stiff upper lip has long outlived the sunny days of Empire it seems. She claims to be not especially stoical but then produces a school anecdote showing the lengths she was prepared to go to remain in Britannia mode, thereby demonstrating her superiority to the blubbering Murray. There is no thought in 'Please Don't Cry' that the attitude to the emotions she prescribes might be damaging to those who have been subjected to it. Though Jenni Diski implies that her crying aversion is a self-creation, the reader could reasonably guess that it emanates from a parental culture with its roots in the Victorian era.

  • 11 July 2012 at 8:32am
    christineHankinson says:
    I think Diski is a breath of fresh air. The current fashion for sentimentality is unhealthy and such whipped up euphoria can flip to its dark side. She knows this, we all know this. Each year Wimbledon hype resembles a gladiatorial conquest. I didn't know he cried. I didn't watch. Oh dear.

  • 11 July 2012 at 10:23am
    philip proust says:
    I cannot recall much damage being done by men - or women - who cried in public. The 'dark' 'sentimentality' is more likely to be associated with those - rather prominent in the twentieth century - who were nostalgic for the days when men were taught to be so tough they totally suppressed their sensitive side.

  • 11 July 2012 at 9:33pm
    Braking Quandary says:
    Maybe I'm getting too cynical in my old age but I was thinking "I bet he cries" well before the end of the match, simply because that is what his image-moulders would have been begging him to do. His tears fell like drops of dodgy advice: for one thing, the scene shouted, "This is all about me!" when it really, really wasn't.

    I've nothing against men and women who cry in public. It was fine to watch Cadell Evans blinking back the tears at the end of the Tour de France last year. But then, he'd WON it at his nth time of trying over 3,000km of racing and Lord knows how many mountain climbs. After all, what will Murray do when he does win Wimbledon - sing an aria?

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