A sincere case for 'cry closets' on college campuses

A sincere case for 'cry closets' on college campuses

CultureApril 30, 2018 By Lindsey Kline

This past week at the University of Utah, a “Cry Closet” was installed by student artist Nemo Miller to accommodate students’ inevitable mental breakdowns during finals week. The moans of annoyance with “pathetic” millennials were almost instantaneous.

Modern universities were mocked as daycares. College students were bashed as snowflake crybabies. They were told they need to “grab life by the balls and manhandle that shit.”

“Way to prepare students for the real world,” one commentator criticized. “Wonder how many prospective employers have cry closets?”

But as someone who several times broke down in tears in a busy campus bathroom, I support cry closets. I want them installed in every lecture hall and library where a student is liable to get hit with a wave of anxiety as they envision their college career going up in flames.

It’s an infinitely better fate than the one I faced — crouched in a dank toilet stall, listening to someone squeeze out a turd as I mourn the death of my GPA and future job prospects.

My crying MO was consistent: I’d be sleep deprived and delirious, staying up all night to ensure an A in Macroeconomic Theory or International Finance or some shit I’d never use again, and with the exam in front of me, I’d hyperventilate. It didn’t look anything like the material I studied, and somehow all those sleepless hours spent behind my textbook and lecture notes don’t translate into the answers I need.

I’d maintain composure long enough to finish the exam, but after… my emotional strength was spent. I’d choke back tears until I could collapse into a vacant stall and sob hysterically, hoping the sounds of my blubbering would be drowned out by the constant stream of urine and farts and flushing toilets.

University of Utah’s “Cry Closet” is a public space designated to being alone and decompressing. It’s outfitted with black felt and stuffed animals, which can comfort students in the midst of their nervous breakdowns.

It comes equipped with rules — knock before entering, limit your weeping to ten minutes, and don’t bother trying to bang in there — the closet only fits one person at a time (although masturbating is still an option).

The closet defies the sad societal misconception that being an adult means suffering in silence when life kicks you in the balls. Unfortunately, that type of emotional repression isn’t healthy.

Studies have proven that crying purges stress hormones from the body. It releases oxytocin and endorphins, which ease both physical and emotional pain. Without even understanding these chemical changes, the vast majority of research participants will report improvements in their mood after crying.

I’d like us to stop pretending that bottling up our misery equates to maturity. We should embrace our blubbering, and the cramped wooden boxes that would give us the privacy to have cathartic release in public.

Cry Closets are not only in the interest of public health, but would also personally be a godsend the next time I’m tempted to have a mental meltdown in a busy bathroom. Trust me, the taste of tears and the smell of dookie don’t complement one another. Long live the Cry Closet.

[cover photo Sydney Sims via Unsplash // body photos Jackie Larson]