I suppose I first cried as a baby. Babies are experts. But then, what else can they do? As a child, I mostly used other forms of manipulation, like sulking and humor. I wasn’t a cry-baby, I was sensitive. I cried a lot and alone, from ages thirteen to seventeen, mostly over lust-crushes on boys and men. Later, I changed over to crying with sentimental feeling: the sunset, that music, dissatisfaction, solitude, poetry, love. Certainly nobody was qualified to have feelings as deep as mine, except me. Doesn’t everybody feel as deeply? Weltschmerz. When my father died, I cried fast and hard. Then there are the Grown Man crying triggers: that music, the AT&T commercial, mortality, the movie we liked, rereading the kind note from someone now dead or long gone. The choir’s first entrance in a piece of music. Bach. Bacharach. The Carter Family (al-though many of their songs are interchangeable and often in an upbeat major mode, they are piercingly sad and hopeless, or equally happy and hopeful). All fully cry-worthy. I’ve tried crying too much and not at all. I once wept throughout a concert, to the embarrassment and concern of my friends. It was at an eightieth birthday concert of the great Hawai’ian singer Auntie Genoa Keawe, in Honolulu. I cried all the way from New York to Seattle and back, sad and lonely. I still cry, at surprising times, over the absence of my mother. Not pity, just absence. I’ve traveled so much in the past four decades that I’ve become accustomed to different cultures and their crying patterns: from not at all in Germany and Belgium to sometimes in India and Indonesia to all the time in Spain and Italy. I’ve noticed a recent fashion of American men crying more than ever before. I like that. Crying is the perfect purge and for every possible reason. And Opera is a great and Grand reason. At long last, after years of practice, I think I cry Just Right.
How to Cry on Stage:
1. Throw yourself to the floor. While resting forearms and forehead on floor, shudder.
2. With your mouth open in an inverted U shape, grind both fists into both eyes.
3. Cover face with both hands. Slowly shrug one shoulder repeatedly.
4. Cover ears, shake head “No!” Run offstage, accelerating as you near the wings.
5. Sniff, while wiping nose on full length of forearm. Sleeves preferred.
6. Bury head against wall and pound fist weakly.
7. Gaze coldly into middle distance, with right index finger against left cheek. Pointing up, flick imaginary tear away in small, sharp outward motion (like a little windshield wiper). Think, “Never Again.”
How to Start Crying:
1. Pretend that you are already crying: fake crying leads directly to real crying.
2. If you’re a toddler: Run fast and then fall down. Get back up and look around for witnesses. If anyone is watching, cry. If not, start over.
3. Get drunk by yourself in a hotel room and watch The Golden Girls.
4. Linger in the International Arrivals Hall of any airport and notice all the signs, flowers, and balloons that aren’t for you.
5. Relax, and stop thinking so hard: Turn on the waterworks, blubber, sob, whimper, weep, wail.
6. Feel sorry for yourself.
How to Stop Crying:
1. Look in the mirror.
Mark Morris is the artistic director of the Mark Morris Dance Group and Music Ensemble. He is at work on a memoir with the novelist-musician Wesley Stace.