Dear Annie: Open floodgates

Dear Annie: I have an embarrassing problem. Whenever I feel an extreme emotion — positive or negative — I cry. Stressed, elated, depressed — the tears start welling up whether I want them to or not, and I pretty much never want them to. Though I don’t mind shedding a few tears, I certainly don’t want to be getting misty-eyed at my desk at work. Every time my manager needs to give me some negative feedback, the stress of the situation washes over me, and I find myself getting choked up before I can stop myself.

It’s been causing some problems in my marriage recently. Whenever my husband and I are in a disagreement and he raises his voice or just takes on a harsh tone, I feel my eyes welling up with tears. I’m not even consciously that upset. It’s just an instant, illogical reaction. Even when I can manage to blink the tears back, my husband still sees them and gets annoyed. He thinks I’m being manipulative or, at best, melodramatic. I’ve told him, “Please just pretend I’m not crying right now.” I don’t want pity. If I could control it, I would. I would prefer to look tough as nails than like a weepy, stereotypical lady. I feel as if my credibility is instantly crushed whenever this happens.

Do you know of any tips I could use to hold back the tears so that I cry only when I really need to? -- Crybaby

Dear Crybaby: I don’t condone bottling emotions up until you burst, but sometimes we need a dam. Many people swear that a pinch does the trick. The next time your boss calls you in for a talk and you feel your chin start to quiver, squeeze the bridge of your nose between your thumb and forefinger for a few seconds.

I’d caution that this is more of a temporary fix, however. You’ll need to work to get to the bottom of the issue. When we’re stressed, we have a harder time containing our emotions. Behavioral therapy, plenty of sleep, meditation and other relaxation techniques would help calm your nerves. And consider a marriage counseling session with your husband to help open the lines of communication.

Dear Annie: I recently received an invitation from my friend to a party to celebrate both her birthday and her retirement. Accompanying the lovely invitation in its envelope was a response card with a small notation on the bottom, which read, “Donation: $60.00.”

Is this the newest form of a party, similar to a man’s stag? Is this common today? (I am a senior citizen!) Also, is a gift expected, too? — Curious in Connecticut

Dear Curious: You’re not out of the loop on modern party etiquette. It is indeed odd that your friend requested a donation of $60 for her birthday/retirement party. Perhaps she’s trying to be more frugal now that she’s retired. Rest assured that you don’t have to bring another gift in addition.

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