Well, she did it. She introduced tears into the race for the Democratic nomination. They pooled there in her baby blues and even though not a drop escaped her orbs, her voice faltered and she looked so vulnerable and, well, in need of a hug, that all the news shows announced that Hillary Clinton cried Monday in New Hampshire. ABC got a quote from a forty-ish woman who said that show of humanity clinched her decision to vote for Clinton, but that was such a gimme. We women usually stick together when feeling threatened that one of us might be dismissed as "emotional." I want to know what people who don't relate to her by age and gender think. I want to know what I think, too, and I'm her target demographic.
From the clips I've seen, the waterworks started when a female reporter asked her, on air, how she gets up and ready to face the day every morning. The implication seemed to be that it was harder for a woman, a person with feelings, to get her game face on and hit the field than it is for a man. It sounded to me like a between-us-girls,-we-know-things-men- will-never-understand question that is normally right up my alley, albeit irrelevant to a presidential campaign. But the whole exchange left me feeling seasick on dry land. Perhaps I'd feel different if an astute reporter was trying to bring out the general woman's challenge of getting the kids up, dressed, fed and to the bus before going out to do her role as a world leader, but to hear Hillary tell it, it's Chelsea who is bolstering her mom these days. Or perhaps I'd feel less bushwhacked if the quote was overheard while the candidate was talking to her gynie about upping her hormone therapy. But no, Hillary was just sharing how "personal" her campaign is to her. Of course it is, Hillary, if you are saying that the rest of the candidates are killing themselves for the fab salary and cool Secret Service guys. There was an earlier video moment that hasn't been getting as much play when someone asked how Hillary felt about not being as "likeable" as Obama and she used a baby voice to reply, "It hurts my feelings." Wow, two tissue moments and she probably hadn't stopped at the proverbial diner for lunch yet. Get me my Wellbutrin!
Any guy will say that crying in business is worse than breastfeeding or farting. In fact, farting is such a guy thing that it's actually an acceptable tension breaker in some negotiations. But crying seems so, well, girlie in the weak and manipulative sense of the word. What are the rest of the group supposed to do when anyone, male or female, gets all weepy? They freeze, is what they do. All business comes to a halt while the observers struggle to decide what to do next. Should they comfort him or her with an embrace and some "there, theres?" Should they call a recess or bathroom break while the crier composes him/herself and the others gather around the coffee machine to roll their eyes and perhaps giggle a bit (another great tension breaker.) If there's another woman in the group, her genetic coding will force her to get up and run to offer a Kleenex from her own private stash. No matter what, the rhythm of business is rendered spastic and the weepy one's position is undermined for good by the perceived weakness.
Hey, I cry. Just not so much as I did when I was green and inexperienced. I don't cry at work anymore. I tried it once or twice in my youth and, trust me, if it had worked I'd be sobbing constantly. But it didn't work, at least not in the long run. It didn't even work that well in my private life, at least where my husband was concerned. Take the simple example of a marital spat: When I'm frustrated and feeling my position slipping and want the fight over, I cry. When I'm right and willing to go to the mat for my position, I'm so dry-eyed that I can hardly blink without bleeding. If I cry to win, it's because I don't want to play by traditional arguing rules and I'm manipulating for an advantage I haven't earned.
So what does Hillary want? Some people I've surveyed say she's exhausted by the infernal pace of the campaign and she broke down. Broke down? How can she break down before John McCain for God's sake? Not only is he older, he spent years being broken down in a prisoner of war camp! She should be flying on the post-menopausal zest doctors are promising us. She's too damned smart to demonstrate her fatigue like a girl. There are no accidents for the Clintons.
Bill Clinton cried. In fact, he boo-hooed like a baby at funerals and when helpless children moved him. But he didn't cry when he was tired or frustrated or misunderstood. He was a brilliant weeper--no shoulder shaking or hankie pulling. His tears showed how he could empathize with the downtrodden, with those who've experienced a deep loss or with an appropriately patriotic moment in history. He didn't cry because he lost Iowa and was scared to lose New Hampshire. Even during the Lewinsky trial, he was fierce and combative.
So why did Hillary cry? She's a veteran of several campaigns and she participated fully in those, while raising a daughter and working as a lawyer most of the time. She seems like a tough old girl and able to do the reps necessary to make the big muscles. She didn't have a breakdown. If she were tired and lonely and frustrated, she would do what the rest of the women of the world do; she would have wept in the shower, put some Visine in and slipped on her big girl panties. No, I firmly believe she can make it all the way to Super Tuesday and back without asking for so much as a backrub. She's as tough and any guy in the race.
But that's not her political problem today, is it? No, her advisers must have let her know in no uncertain terms that she's losing on humanity. She is so tough that you can imagine her holding a rod and forcing you to write a hundred times on the blackboard that you'll never wet your bed again. She debates like she would just as soon slap you as have to listen to your nonsense. She's not a crier, but she's also not funny, happy or spontaneous--she's not like us. In fact, she scares us a little bit.
She cried for the second most popular reason we women resort to it: She cried to manipulate the voters. She needed to convince people in the 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary that she's not the animus who sent us into therapy. She's not a punishing god. There's not enough time to bake and share those dread cookies that upset her so when Bill was elected. She can't share her diet failures on Oprah or her marriage secrets. She needed something quick and easy to effect a last-ditch image polish to subdue our secret fears that she's a droid and some forehead told her to get all sudsy on us. Yup, that's us women, all right; when we're not being understood and getting our way, we wring our hands and float our eyes and hope someone will take pity on us.
How do I explain this to my voting daughter? She already knows that women traditionally are perceived as more emotional than men, but women traditionally have been powerless in a man's game, too. What I'd advised her to look for was a woman who could play the game as well as a man, and improve on it because of her female qualities of empathy, consensus and quest for peace. And if she failed honestly, we would applaud her for the attempt. But if Hillary used the antiquated tool of the powerless, tears, to manipulate the voters' perception of her, then she has sold her girlfriends down the river for personal gain. She certainly wouldn't be the "real candidate of change" that she's promising, but simply another old pol. Thanks, Hillary, but we'll just go back to grooming our girls to be the First Woman President of the United States we've been praying for. We've been working on it for well over two centuries and we can work a little longer.