I cry all the time.

Anything can set me off. Used to be bad PMS, a sad movie, or a break up would do the trick. If you sat me down in front of Beaches I was a rainstorm of emotion.

I’ve always been a crier, but my tear-stained bar is so much lower these days. I cry during heartstring-tugging coffee comercials. I run to the office bathroom and burst into tears after a stressful meeting. I disagree with my boyfriend about planning a trip and start sobbing.

First I get a tight, nauseating feeling in my chest. It creeps up my neck, and my skin starts to flush bright pink. My jaw tightens, my lips swell and my eyes prick with tears. Slowly, they fill until one heavy blink breaks the dam and unleashes them down my cheeks. There goes my mascara. There goes my dignity.

Unfortunately for my live-in boyfriend, he is witness to most of my saline meltdowns. He is there for all of my bad days, all of my hormone attacks, and all of the emotional commercial breaks.

The crying—like many traumatic events—comes in stages.

Stage I: I just watched a Folger’s commercial and identified too heavily with the morning roast. Just a few tears have managed to slide down my face. Most of my makeup is still in tact and I look like a depressed starlet with just a lone trail down one cheek. I grab a tissue and dab my eyes to regain composure and laugh at myself. No harm done. I am just such a sap.

Stage II: After a work day from hell, I missed my train, got caught in the rain and ruined my favorite pair of boots. By the time I’ve gotten home and my boyfriend asks me how I’m doing, I’ve burst into tears. My mascara has washed down my face in a river of salt, but I’ve managed to retain some of my heavily-primed eyeshadow. This is what I refer to as having a “good cry.” I just need to wash my face with some cold water and blow my nose. There we go. Okay, now I feel much better.

Stage III: Bad news has compounded my already miserable day, and my tears have turned to sobs. At this point, any trace of makeup has drooled down to my chin. I’ve gotten snotty, and my entire face is one big, wet mess. If I try to talk, it comes out in blubbery, confused nonsense filled with hiccups and snorts. My head and face are covered in saline-flavored mud. The only cure for this kind of trauma is a full box of tissues, a big dose of Advil, a hot bath, and a long nap.

Stage IV: Otherwise known as crisis mode. Let’s say I forgot to eat dinner and accidentally killed a bottle of wine after dinner. The sauvignon blanc has gone to my head and out my tear ducts. One otherwise-mild disagreement with my boyfriend and suddenly I’m reduced to a loud, laborious sobbing fit. It’s like I’ve gotten food poisoning and I’m sick in the head, not the stomach. I gasp for air as the sobs heave out of me. Not only is the makeup gone, but my eyes have swelled into pink, puffy slits and my skull throbs with a sinus infection-level headache. This one might is the doozy, and recovery calls for a sick day.

Which do you think is more frightening—losing control of your emotions, or watching someone else lose control of theirs?

In my case, you’ll have to ask my boyfriend. Like plenty of 30-something-year-old men, he doesn’t cry too often. He didn’t even crack at the end of Toy Story 3! I can count the number of times I’ve seen him tear up on one hand. So it’s no wonder he has no idea how to react when I start weeping.

I’ve given my boyfriend explicit directions for dealing with me when I’m crying. Usually, he has the tendency to look at me like I’m crazy. Which is understandable—when I’m really sobbing, I’m not exactly in a normal state of mine. But my instructions are easy: Get me some tissues and give me a hug.

That’s it!  Don’t try to talk me down. Don’t ask me about my day, tell me to cheer up, offer me a cocktail, or try to turn me on. (Yes, this actually happened. Nothing turns a girl off quite like getting fondled when she’s having a pity party). Just grab me some tissues and give me a hug. One will do. Three would be nice. For bonus points, draw me a hot bath and rub my scalp.

I’m hoping my emotional meltdowns will abate as I grow accustomed to my stressful job and wild hormones. A little maturity goes a long way. Until then, I’m in the market for a better waterproof mascara and a thank you card for my boyfriend.