Teetering on the precipice of a nervous breakdown is common among any non-lobotomized person. This is why one of the most relatable and heart-rending scenes in John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles is when the heroine of the tale, Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald), is unable to control her emotions while sitting on the ground against a locker in the hallway of her high school during a dance.
Lamenting over myriad problems in her life in that particular instant–including the fact that everyone in her family has forgotten her birthday–Samantha’s chief issue is feeling invisible to the object of her affection, Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). Not only is Jake unattainable because of his looks and social status, but also because he’s dating the chicest girl in school, Caroline Mulford (Haviland Morris), who just so happens to walk by with a gaggle of her friends as Samantha is crying/loathing her existence.
And so it is beautifully delineated that not only is crying in public places extremely resonant, but so is having to force yourself to stop when other people come around in order to “keep up appearances.” Caroline’s disinterested, “Hey, how’s it going?” forces Samantha to casually wipe away her tears and lie, “Fine.” Ironically, it is the existence of other people that makes us cry and their coming around that forces us to stop so as not to look like the emotional wrecks that we truly are.
Samantha’s decision to put on a brave face only occurs because Caroline intervened in her ability to grieve. If humans were permitted to display their sadness without judgment, maybe its suppression wouldn’t result in so much anger in the world. Samantha may have been consoled by winning Jake in the end, but her coping through it might have been far less psychologically taxing had she been permitted the luxury of openly sobbing without shame.