It will happen on a Saturday morning while you are in the middle of grocery shopping, or on a Friday night when you are having a drink after work. Or, if you are me, it will come on a Monday afternoon in the thrift store.
One minute, you will be dancing down the cereal aisle to the Pet Shop Boys and remembering how you and your friend Laura drank Seagram’s 7, danced until you thought you would pass out and took turns kissing a guy who looked exactly like the cute one from A-ha while “West End Girls” played on a stereo in the corner. You will smile to yourself, because that guy was not complaining.
Then the next song begins to play. Maybe it’s the one you slow danced to at prom in your purple satin dress with the enormous hoop skirt and lace fingerless gloves. Or it’s the one that played in your room when your parents were out of town and he stayed over for the first time, and you stayed up all night watching Cinemax and holding on to each other. Or it might be the one you played over and over again, patiently rewinding or picking up the needle and moving it back into the right groove on the record as you lay on the floor and cried away your broken heart into the orange shag carpet.
Or maybe it’s not about a boy at all. Maybe it’s about the girl you promised you would always be best friends with, the one you sang with in the car while you drove around in the dark and chain-smoked and held the world in your hands—the one you haven’t seen in 30 years.
Whatever it is, suddenly you are fighting adolescent tears and feeling like an idiot as you focus on sorting through the jeans at the thrift shop, looking for Levi’s that don’t have too many holes and hoping no one can hear you singing when that one line breaks your heart all over again. You know the one: the Ugly Cry Lyric.
Sing them with me:
1. “Love Song,” The Cure
This song tugged the heartstrings of those who dared to love angry boys crippled by angst and blinded by the swath of floppy black hair they couldn’t keep out of their eyes. Whispered into the multi-pierced ears of prom dates everywhere was that one line.
Ugly Cry Lyric: However far away / I will always love you / However long I stay / I will always love you.
2. “I Melt With You,” Modern English
What was it about this song? Aside from watching early Nicholas Cage seduce Deborah Foreman, that is?
But really, who didn’t want to be the reason he stopped the world, and with whom he melted? This song green-lit relationships with every brooding, quirky outcast with soulful eyes and questionable wardrobes. Spoiler alert: This song was more literal than you think. It was apparently about a couple making love as a nuclear bomb dropped, melting them together.
Ugly Cry Lyric: I’ll stop the world and melt with you.
3. “In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel
You know the movie, but did you know that sales of boom boxes and stalker trench coats went up 20 percent in 1989?
Even so, this is the one that you heard in your head when you were curled up next to him, that made you think of him every time it came on the radio, and after he was gone, made your heart fall in your chest like Super Dave Osborne.
Ugly Cry Lyric: ALL OF THEM, but especially: Love, I don’t like to see so much pain / so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away / I get so tired of working so hard for our survival / I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.
4. “Hold On to the Nights,” Richard Marx
Oh, come on. You know this one. You just don’t want to admit it. OK, fine, let’s pretend you were always faithful, that you didn’t have a moment where you longed to be with someone else and you knew you never could be. At least, not as long as you were with the guy with the floppy black hair.
Ugly Cry Lyric: Well I think that I’ve been true to everybody else but me / And the way I feel about you makes my heart long to be free / Every time I look into your eyes, I’m helplessly aware / That the someone I’ve been searching for is right there.
5. “The Flame,” Cheap Trick
The quintessential ’80s torch song, this one gave you cold comfort in the dark hours when you sat in your car and watched to see what time that guy with the floppy black hair finally came home so you could drive home crying and call your best friend (remember, no cell phones). It wasn’t stalking then, of course. It was Love.
Ugly Cry Lyric: I’m going crazy, I’m losing sleep / I’m in too far, I’m in way too deep over you / I can’t believe you’re gone / You were the first, you’ll be the last.
6. “Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper
She was, indeed, so unusual. Cyndi Lauper was utterly fearless in her appearance, her sexuality and her subject matter. This one makes you cry for anyone you left behind.
Ugly Cry Lyric: If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me / Time after time / If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting / Time after time.
Go ahead. No one’s watching. Here’s my hanky.