Have the Olympics finally killed off the British stiff upper lip?

Proud to be a nation of cry babies! We cried when they won. We cried when they didn't. Have the Olympics finally killed off the British stiff upper lip

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UPDATED:

07:29 GMT, 20 August 2012


Many Brits failed to hold back tears during an emotional Olympic Games

The end of an era Many Brits failed to hold back tears during an emotional Olympic Games

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National hero: Andy Murray defeats Roger Federer of Switzerland in the Men's Singles Tennis Gold Medal Match of the London Olympic Games

Tests show that crying relieves stress, lowers blood pressure and some studies claim it increases the touchy-feely hormone oxytocin, making everyone who cries nicer to be around.

Crying is a natural human reaction — especially, according to received wisdom, for women. We have always been allowed to shed a few tears, on condition they are hormonally based.

The biological imperative that triggers nurturing in new mothers has the known side-effect of ensuring that every pregnant woman will, at some point in her nine months, become undone by a picture of a kitten on a calendar.

Tears are regarded as a very good thing by the psychology profession. It could be argued that a large part of psychotherapy is about allowing grown-ups to cry in return for money in a socially approved setting. With our new-found passion for weeping, maybe we are all becoming much more emotionally healthy And at no cost.

I, for one, enjoy a good cry. My crying gets done at home, especially if I am tired or annoyed because my husband has stacked the dishwasher wrongly (or some other heinous crime).

But more often, it’s a planned treat — I schedule a deliciously weepy afternoon to myself, with a sob-inducing DVD (Terms Of Endearment or Toy Story 3).

Even those of us who don’t cry all that often have experienced the healing power of tears and that wonderful sense of calm when the storm has passed.

The only place I won’t cry is at work. I went to a strict convent school where, along with all the other girls, I agreed to ‘never let a nun see you cry — because then she’ll know she’s won’. It was the female equivalent of boys’ schools where not crying after your head has been pushed down the toilet has always been part of the great British tradition.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate in their boat after winning the Women's Pair Final

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate in their boat after winning the Women's Pair Final First gold:

There was a sensation when newly appointed president and CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, revealed that she thinks it’s acceptable to cry at work. This comment caused even more of a reaction than the fact she landed the job while heavily pregnant. As women progress further in the workplace, tears have become the final frontier.

I, for one, welcome the fact that women — and men — without my educational hang-ups are getting the go-ahead to sob at work, especially since the alternative of shouting and banging the desk has always been much more upsetting for the onlooker.

Others, of course, disagree. Many see tears as a weakness, something we are supposed to give up as we grow, along with our blankets and milk teeth.

Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, at 90 the last-surviving of the Mitford sisters, is on record as deploring the passing of traditional British reserve — noting that her generation, who after all lived through two world wars, ‘weren’t all sloppy sentimental’.

But these days the old-school attitudes of the Duchess are in the minority and the few remaining dry eyes in England won’t remain so for long. The Paralympic Games are on the horizon and even if you haven’t yet shed a tear yet, prepare to do so.

If, like me, your heart leapt when Oscar Pistorious, known as the Blade Runner, became the first Paralympian to compete in the able-bodied Games, then that was just a glimpse of the tear-jerking heroism we can expect for two weeks from August 29.

Smart investors are probably buying shares in Kleenex tissues and waterproof mascara as we speak — we may even be able to sob our way out of this recession.

That’s because the standard of competition will be phenomenally high. Look out for Lee Pearson, a dressage rider who suffers from a condition called arthrogryposis.

On the ground he needs crutches or a wheelchair to get about — but on horseback he is good enough to compete against able-bodied team dressage gold medallist Carl Hester.

Above all, keep the tissues handy for Martine Wright in the volleyball. Seven years ago, she went out to celebrate the news that London was to host the 2012 Games. The following morning she lost both her legs in the 7/7 bombings. But she has defied the odds to represent Great Britain in the sitting volleyball team.

If she and her colleagues get a medal we’ll be crying in celebration of her courage and determination and for the hope rising from the ashes of terrorist atrocity. All the freedoms we have enjoyed are being joined by a newly minted one — to show emotion publicly and unashamedly.

Darwin would be proud that after 150 years, we’ve learnt how to do it at last.

n Lindsay Nicholson is editor of Good Housekeeping.