Middle Class Problems: Like flossing and drinking within government guidelines, we just don't cry in public

When Marianne Levy broke down in a café recently everyone pretended not to notice

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The Independent Online

Two hours trying to rock a screaming baby to sleep in a rainstorm had left me feeling a bit fragile. So I staggered to a café to meet some friends, sat down, and burst into tears. Not subtle, droplets-meandering-down-cheeks tears. Not even a cinematic slide-down-a door moan. Nope. These tears were big, ugly, and accompanied by the kind of howls you'd normally associate with labour. Even the baby momentarily stopped screeching to watch.

My back was patted. Tea appeared. The tears dried and I apologised, a lot. Everyone said, "We've all done it!" And later, when I turned it into a funny story, other friends said the same.

At the time I nodded and smiled. But now, I wonder, had they? When? Because I don't think I've ever seen a middle-class person cry in public. Like flossing and drinking within government guidelines, we just don't.

Not to suggest that my friends are liars. But I will say that no one has mentioned my snot-a-thon since. Even at the time, the rest of the café pretended not to notice. Indeed, I wonder if actually they couldn't see me, so strong was the middle-class need to look away.

Which leads me to think that I've probably seen scores of people weeping. Probably, they're on every street corner. But I've blocked them out, blinded myself to their suffering by sheer force of will.

And I'll carry on blocking them, until it happens to one of my nearest and dearest. Whereupon I'll give them a hug, buy them some tea, and never speak of it again.