Preeti Chhibber describes “a few ways to handle leaky tear glands while surrounded by a bunch of strangers,” depending on the book that causes the crying. One example:
I finished Beautiful Ruins on a bus ride from Philadelphia to New York, sitting next to a girl I didn’t know. And you know what? It was gorgeous and I loved it and when I started crying there was a slight moment of panic, but then I thought “No! This is what it’s all about. Let it go. Who cares what this girl – oh, she’s asleep.” So I quietly sobbed and the one time she woke up, we had an unspoken agreement to not react to one another at all. It was glorious.
Pro Tip: There is no key takeaway, just cry however you want. The book’s worth it, the author did this to you, so just accept it and hope that no one instagrams you.
Relatedly, Sadie Stein shares a frightful childhood experience reading the Hans Christian Andersen tale, “The Little Match Girl”:
I was, to put it mildly, traumatized by the story. It haunted me. In the years since, I have learned that this is not an uncommon reaction; no fewer than two of my adult friends have revealed that, from time to time, “The Little Match Girl” intrudes on their thoughts and casts them into the doldrums. But as a seven-year-old, I was wholly unable to deal with my emotions. For days after hearing the story, I was quiet and withdrawn, my thoughts with the poor, cold match girl and her pathetic wares. My teacher, Mrs. Romer, noticed, and asked if everything was okay. I said yes, but one day, thinking of the tiny frozen body on the streets of wintry Copenhagen during a math lesson, I burst into uncontrollable sobs.
The fallout was humiliating. Mrs. Romer asked me to eat lunch with her privately so we could discuss what was bothering me; who knows what trauma she thought to uncover. I was too embarrassed to admit the actual source of my anguish—I knew it to be wildly babyish, as well as irrational—so I quickly concocted a lame story about my brother having the flu. I guess the implication was that I was afraid for his life; in any case, it was unconvincing enough that she called my parents.