‘Ugly crying’ is trending thanks to Wynonna Judd and Joni Mitchell. I’m glad, because I’ve needed to do it too

‘Ugly crying’ is trending thanks to Wynonna Judd and Joni Mitchell. I’m glad, because I’ve needed to do it too

But she was not happy with his behavior.

“I know I was crying most of the time, and I’m not thrilled about that,” Judd said. “Who would be there?

But I, like many others, am so grateful that he did.

Haven’t we been hiding – our uncomfortable and confronting reactions to the messiness of being human – for too long? And isn’t it exhausting, constantly ignoring what we’re going through for the calm of the audience, or for fear of freaking people out if we give up?

Like many people around the world, I suffered losses during the pandemic. My mother passed away in April. I no longer have parents. The mourning was monolithic. But, to my surprise, I struggled a lot to cry. And when I do, it’s mostly full-throttle ugly crying. In public.


It’s not like me. Like most people, I generally like to avoid looking like I’m about to jump into the ocean. I prefer to look calmer on the outside, no matter how confused I feel on the inside. That’s how we get jobs. And partners.

So when my father died 17 years ago, I was able to, for the most part, keep my crying ugly inside. I cried every morning in the shower like clockwork for a year. But, now, between a job and three kids, there have been far fewer opportunities – when the reminders of my loss hit me – to silence my thoughts and reflect on my pain. (Let’s face it, I shower less.)

The other day, while writing an article about Deadline, I got a text from my brother about what we should put on my mom’s headstone. I didn’t have time to talk to my brother, so I texted my husband, “I hate that my mom died!” My mother is dead!” Then I had to get back to work.

Maybe that’s why when I get a chance to think about what it’s like to not have parents, it all spills out.


Like the other day, jogging along the ocean. I saw the waves rolling and I thought: my parents will never see the ocean again. They are not here to witness anything that I will do again. To know if I’m safe. Suddenly I was undone. Still jogging, my chest heaved and I let out a high, prolonged note that I imagine a baboon emits when hit by a dart.

I had nowhere to hide as I ran past couples and young mothers walking past me. I felt like I was jogging naked, so raw and exposed was my pain.

The next day I saw Judd’s video.

I practically pumped the sky. It wasn’t just that she made me feel less alone. It’s that when I saw her ugly-crying, I saw beauty. To see her face shatter in different ways was to see the full spectrum of what it means to be alive: sadness and resignation. Joy and sorrow. It felt like living.


I’ve never seen the ugly scream in this light.

It’s no surprise, given that ugly screaming – especially for women – is so taboo, says Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a gender specialist at the University of Melbourne, and has written about public emotions.

“Women, in particular, know they’re always judged on how they look, so this idea of ​​ugly crying, as opposed to a delicate dabbing of the eyes, you kind of surrender to emotion, it’s a lot more rare [publicly],” she says. “Especially if you know you’re being watched.” Because, she adds, women are also often deemed irrational if they show too much emotion.

“Which means women often dominate. Because there’s this fear, kind of like the ‘Don’t cry at work’ [norm]this fear that it will be part of how I am judged or evaluated.

I hope the next time I cry in public, I can channel Judd, who has come to appreciate her emotion at the Newport Festival.

“I feel like I was meant to be a messenger about the value of life, because of my mom,” she said. “It was like magic – like death and life at the same time.”

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