If you fail to shed a tear by the end of Boys Don’t Cry, your fellow queers will shame you and beat you with pillows. They will doubt the depth of your sadness. You will be defensive, then chastened, then aroused. They will note your inappropriate enjoyment of pillow battery. They’ll suggest that perhaps you’d be more welcome within another movie night subculture.
You make the mistake more than once. When asked the question, “Did you cry at the end of Cinema Paradiso?”you will reply honestly, “No.” You can not know that before you enter the room, the questioner declared that non-weepers “do not have a soul.” The rest of the film club will eye you with suspicion. You later encounter the coeterie in a coffeeshop, munching muffins and chewing over Louis Malle, hot americanos in hand. Their eyes avoid yours like Woody Allen fans overlooking scandal. Finally, the film clubbers will feign wide-eyed surprise, “Oh. We thought you had other plans.”
Your insistence that the seat of your soul is your long-suffering cinephilic heart, not your desertified eyes, will fall on unhearing ears.
You will not yet learn. You will stand on a buddy’s shoulders and open the sliding door on the second story balcony of the locked university building. Gleefully, you shall lead your comrades into the college lecture hall to watch the group’s first communal Netflix selection: Legends of the Fall .
“Well. That was corny,”you will sigh as the credits roll.
You mistook the nature of the noises to your left. You thought that the soft choking coming from your companions was the result of popcorn gone wild wrong down a windpipe. You yourself frequently choke on popcorn and rarely cry during movies, but it turns out, you are the exception. Exceptionally snobby and heartless, it is decided.
You clinch the impression when you add, “The Beckett on Film Collection would look amazing on this screen.”
Later, you will return to the lecture hall to view Krapp’s Last Tape. Alone. The collegial Netflix pool will shrink by one; its briny waters remain far from your dry pair of eyes.
You will not be invited to see any romantic movie ever again. Not after what happened when you went with friends to The RomCom That Shall Not Be Named. Not only did you not cry. You were loud and critical. In flashbacks of the event, you will visualize stuffing popcorn down your gullet to silence your past self “Shhhhhh, angry teenage me. Be quiet. Quietly grow a more nuanced pre-frontal cortex,” you whisper into the night.
Instead, in the moment, you will go on and on about how the couple in the movie isn’t believable. The script is manipulative and dumb. Your friends take this to mean that you think they are manipulated and dumb, because the movie made them cry. Which is not what you mean. Okay, admit it: It’s sort of what you mean. And that’s more than sort of mean. These friends will not be around when you sort this out.
If you’re lucky, much later in life, you may find yourself in a loving relationship with someone who has never dragged you to a tearjerker. This person understands your desire to watch Downfall in bed. Importantly, they agree that one should never watch movies about Hitler while naked, and obey your command to hunt around the room for something ‘pajama-like’ to wear– though they, as a rule, always recline nude. You will wait a certain amount of time after the movie has ended to cuddle, and will not cuddle before. All the film-watching companions you have alienated over the years do not compare to this partner and the satisfaction of this situation. This person understands that you are not soulless, heartless or pointlessly stoic and cynical. In fact, you are nicer now than you ever have been. Also, you are enjoying an evening rich in darkness, moral complications, emotional quandry and artistic depth.
However, perhaps the weepers of the past will have the last laugh. You are, after all, exactly where they imagined you: Dry-eyed on a Saturday night, sitting up straight, a luger-length away from your lover, watching 3 hours of film about Nazis.