I’ve always sort of prided myself on not getting emotional about things that other people typically get emotional about. I don’t cry at weddings or funerals, I roll my eyes and make Mystery Science Theater comments at movies meant to tug on your heartstrings, and large shows of heartfelt group emotion make me want to sneak off to some corner and smoke a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke.
However, I’ve come to realize that there are four things that make me tear up without fail, and those four things are baby elephants, The Elephant Man, the part in The Sound of Music where Christopher Plummer is singing Edelweiss on stage in front of all the Nazis and his voice catches and Julie Andrews comes out from the wings to help him, and whenever the little boy I used to babysit for would ask me to sing You Are My Sunshine to him before he went to bed.
Baby elephants get me going just because GOD, have you ever SEEN baby elephants? My eyes are getting wet while I’m writing this, and I can’t even help it, because Jesus Christ, baby elephants are the sweetest things on the entire planet. And then they grow up to be grown-up elephants, and grown-up elephants are like the wisest most noble things on the entire planet. One day at lunch, Heather told me the story of these elephants at a Tokyo zoo during WWII, and how the zookeepers had to mercy kill all of the animals because they didn’t want them to run loose in the city during the bombings, but the elephants were smart enough to realize there was poison in their food, so they just quit eating, and starved to death, but were kind to the zookeepers until the very end, and I got so upset while she told me this that I had to stop eating and get lots of napkins for my eyes and take a walk around the block before I went back to the office.
The Elephant Man is totally unrelated to the baby elephants, but I seriously cannot even speak about him and his sad life or I get really angry and upset. My college boyfriend used to think it was funny to say, “I am not an animal!” in a John Merrick voice, but he learned pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be sharing a bed or a meal or a car ride home if he kept that shit up. It only took him a few times for this point to really be drilled home.
I realize that The Sound of Music is a big old gay musical, but it’s also one of my favorite movies of all time, because back when I was 8 years old and the Brown family was on the leading edge of technology with our Betamax, my brother and I would watch one of three movies after school every single day: Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back, or The Sound of Music. As a result, I still remember every single line of dialogue from all of these movies, including the noises the spy droid makes when it lands on the ice planet Hoth, and if you think that knowing something like that and being a 20-something white girl won’t get you laid, you are so, so wrong. Anyway, I am not a musical person at all, really, but The Sound of Music will always have a place in my heart, especially that scene where Christopher Plummer gets all choked up and stops singing and Julie Andrews has got his back, and they’re so in love and brave in the face of the Nazis, and then the whole concert hall starts sing Edelweiss with them, and man, that’s just some heartwringing shit right there.*
The You Are My Sunshine story might seem really lame, but lame is sort of a moot point when you’re talking about what makes you cry. And it wasn’t that I cried because the little boy I babysat for was really cute, or that the way he asked me to sing it was a really cute way, because both of those are true, but it was the actual singing of the song that got me. That’s right: I would tear myself up with my own rendition of You Are My Sunshine. The reason why is a long story that involves true love and heartbreak and misty watercolored memories, but would telling the story make me cry? No. Just singing the song, apparently.
*As a sidenote, another part of this movie made me cry once, the part where Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer realize they’re in love, and sing that song about how somewhere in their youth or childhood, they must have done something good. I was sixteen years old, and suddenly burst into tears while sitting on the couch and shocked my whole family, because that was the first time in my life that I had ever cried at a movie, not counting Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that was really more screaming then crying, because seriously, who takes a four year old to see Raiders of the Lost Ark by telling her it’s about Noah’s Ark? My parents, evidently. Anyway, in my defense, I was sixteen years old and had just discovered that my high school boyfriend had been cheating on me with some girl named Meagan and the whole school knew it including my best friends but not me, and I challenge you not to burst into tears under the same circumstances. That’s a tight spot.