Forget happiness, the in-crowd is being moved to tears by a new wave of super cool misery clubs, which give visitors (with the help of a pile of chopped onions) the chance to weep away their woes.
The crying game: Trendy new clubs encourage bawling to release stress
Depressingly fun: Burlesque partygoers at new club Loss
Against a backdrop of crashing choral music and candlelight, a group of elaborately costumed young women are dabbing their eyes with a handkerchief, their mascara running to form black rivulets down their cheeks.
It is not difficult to see why they are so distressed: in front of them, a mound of pungent onions is being vigorously and elaborately chopped by a serious-looking young man in a tailcoat, and the fumes are overwhelming.
Even the male guests are wiping away the odd tear.
But then that’s precisely the point. The 300 people in the crowd at this candlelit 17th-century wine vault, tucked away off a busy London thoroughfare, are here to do just that.
They are celebrating – if that is the right word, under the circumstances – the chance to express their more sorrowful side at a new club night called Loss.
Billed as ‘an evening of exquisite misery’, this is where clubbers can go to indulge their inner gloom. The onions are there to help them along a bit, should they struggle to shed their British reserve.
Loss is one of a new breed of crying clubs to arrive in the UK from Japan, where tears have become something of an industry in recent years.
In Tokyo, stressed businessmen can rent rooms by the hour to watch weepy movies or pay £5 a time to attend group cryathons and ‘tear therapy’ meetings.
Crying in public seems to have caught on in the United States, too.
New American website, cryingwhileeating.com allows users to post pictures of themselves weeping into their food alongside a short explanation of the cause of their distress (‘global warming’, ‘always expects the worst and is never disappointed’).
The site already has cult status, receiving thousands of hits in the past few months alone.
It has long been a widely-held belief that crying is therapeutic – and conversely that failure to cry is a danger to our health.
Experimental psychologist Alex Goetz, who founded leading health risk management company General Health Inc, says: "Tears serve an important purpose.
"Emotional tears, shed in moments of intense feeling, carry stress hormones and are a way of getting rid of them. Even if crying embarrasses you, it signals that you’ve reached a level of stress that’s detrimental to your health."
But while it’s one thing indulging in a quiet sniffle with friends, it’s quite another to do so publicly.
After all, crying is usually a rather intense, private experience and us traditionally stiff-upper-lip Brits don’t seem like obvious candidates for group emotion.
Perhaps it is for this reason that at Loss, hosted by the intriguingly-named Last Tuesday Society (a resurrected version of a longestablished Harvard philosophy club), the notion has been turned into something more stylised.
With its flickering candelabra, faded wallpaper and wilting carnations threaded beneath the bars of the wine vaults, the evening has more in common with a burlesque club than a therapy room.
It is a peculiar mixture of opium-soaked 18-century Romanticism combined with a dash of Marlene Dietrich smoky pre-war Berlin.
Crying is optional, though Last Tuesday president Victor Wynd is adamant that the more tears the better.
"I don’t like parties where everyone has fun. I don’t want to dance and be cheerful, I’d much rather sit in a corner and mope as it’s what I’m good at," he says.
"I think the English are rather a melancholic race, but instead of celebrating it we’re constantly trying to force ourselves to be jolly. This evening is meant to be an antidote."
Yet despite the streaked mascara and smudged lipstick, the clubbers still don’t look too depressed. Instead, decadent dandy or kohl-eyed goth seems to be the order of the night, men sporting 1920s waxed moustaches or capes, the women in corsets and bowler hats or jaunty berets.
For most of them, Loss is a chance to break convention and do something a little more unusual.
As a 33-year-old blonde by the name of ‘Bette Davies’ puts it: "It’s actually a battle against greyness and all the conformity we see nowadays, with everyone listening to the same music and wearing the same clothes. This is something a bit different, and that’s why I like it."
Her 36-year-old art director friend, who is sporting artfully streaked mascara and calls herself ‘Cruella’, points out: "It’s all about role-playing. It’s a chance to indulge yourself, switch personality for the evening, bring out a different part of yourself."
Neither has, so far, been inclined to actually cry, both claiming they would feel self-conscious.
Another partygoer, a 32-year-old artist by the name of Henry, disagrees. "It is a stylised evening, but if you wanted to have a proper cry here then I think it would be fine.
"You would certainly get less attention than if you did it in a regular bar, put it that way.
"There’s a melodramatic feel to the evening, so tears work well. The whole point is that you can embrace the more poignant parts of your life if you want."
Certainly, some experts believe shedding tears – whether in private or public – is generally positive, no matter how it’s dressed up.
Along with Alex Goetz, Professor Roger Baker, a consultant clinical psychologist and visiting professor at Bournemouth University, believes crying is the transformation of distress into something tangible, and that the process itself helps to reduce the feeling of trauma.
He says: "Tears externalise and symbolise the psychological hurt in a physical form. The physical process shares similarities with laughter, involving muscular spasms, rapid intake of breath and tears reaching a crescendo and then gradually calming.
"During this process, bodily tension is racked up and then relaxed, giving a feeling of release."
Not everyone, however, agrees with him. Dr Virginia Eatough, a lecturer in psychology at Birkbeck University believes that the perceived benefits of crying are often overstated.
"I find crying clubs a puzzling phenomenon because their purpose isn’t clear," she says.
"People say they feel better after crying but scientific evidence suggests that psychologically this is not the case. For example, stress levels can rise."
The stress levels at Loss do not seem in danger of spiralling out of control, it must be said. By the small hours – post-ceremonial onion- chopping – the primary concern of most of the goodhumoured clubbers seems to be laying their hands on another martini.
If a crying club is good for the body and the soul, it may be merely because it is a fun night out, however much that might horrify the mournful Mr Wynd. And for that reason alone, his evenings of exquisite misery are likely to catch on.
Via Daily Mail