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I cried for fun at NYC’s first pop-up ‘cry spa’ — then went back to work like it never happened

Asia Grace cries
Asia Grace cries

If crying were a superpower, I’d be saving the world right now.

My nickname would be “Battle Bawler,” or maybe “Honey Boohoo.” I’m a crybaby.

Not a whiner. Not a drama queen or spoiled brat. Just emotional.

I weep at weddings. My eyes water re-watching that episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” when Will’s dad leaves him high and dry.

Asia Grace put her crying skills to the test at Sob Parlour on March 15. Stephen Yang
Asia Grace put her crying skills to the test at Sob Parlour on March 15. Stephen Yang

I fought back tears during America Ferrera’s “It’s literally impossible to be a woman” speech in the “Barbie” movie.

But when I went to Sob Parlour, a pop-up “cry spa” that recently hosted an event on West 71st Street — nada. No tears, no tissues needed, nothing.

At least not initially.

Anthony Villiotti, Sob Parlour’s founder, introduced the concept of cathartic wail sessions in the city in November.

The six tearful fêtes he’s hosted over the past four months have been held at various locations across Manhattan, including community centers, art galleries and office rental sites.

The 31-year-old Upper West Sider explained to The Post that for $20, Gothamites in need of an emotional release can book a 30-minute appointment in a private “cry room,” where they’re welcome to “come sob on your lunch break and then go right back to work.”

Anthony Villiotti launched Sob Parlour in late 2023, hoping to offer tearful NYCers a snazzy space to let their emotions flow. Stephen Yang
Anthony Villiotti launched Sob Parlour in late 2023, hoping to offer tearful NYCers a snazzy space to let their emotions flow. Stephen Yang

But it’s neither group nor individual therapy.

In fact, Villiotti and his team of two staffers ask guests to sign a waiver acknowledging that they won’t be receiving any psychological support or counseling — although Sob Parlour does boast an on-call, licensed therapist who’s able to help if a crying client begins experiencing a mental health crisis.

Instead, his fledgling imprint is simply providing folks with a swank and secure setting for turning on the waterworks.

“New Yorkers are so used to struggling through the daily grind, making lemonade out of lemons — without a safe and healthy space for them to cry it out,” said Villiotti, who doubles as a finance executive for a multinational music company.

“Sob Parlour attendees are usually dealing with grief or loss, stress at work or at home,” he revealed. “But the No. 1 reason people come to us for a cry is heartache after experiencing a bad breakup or unrequited love.”

In fact, it was a shot to the heart that inspired him to create his wellness venue in December 2022.

Getting all choked up while listening to Mariah Carey’s “Whenever You Call” on the StairMaster at Equinox gym, a then-newly jilted Villiotti thought how nice it’d be to end his workout, stop off somewhere for a soothing cry and then move on with his day.

Villiotti and his team offer Sob Parlour visitors a private space and helpful materials for a cathartic cry. Stephen Yang
Villiotti and his team offer Sob Parlour visitors a private space and helpful materials for a cathartic cry. Stephen Yang

Sure, he could have had a mini-breakdown in a bathroom stall or run home to whimper into a couch pillow.

But the millennial wanted a cool, alternative environment that offered him both seclusion and a stylishly unique experience.

“Why not reserve a specific time and place to deliberately cry for its cleansing benefits?” Villiotti reasoned.

Esther, who has sniffled and blubbered at a few of Sob Parlour’s pop-ups near Union Square, tells The Post she always feels “refreshed” after letting loose in its cry room.

“I deal with a lot of stress on my job,” said the 27-year-old, who works in the Financial District but lives in Park Slope. However, the Brooklynite, who chose not to provide her last name for privacy reasons, says she counts herself lucky to have stumbled across a Sob Parlour ad near her office earlier this year.

“I’m not someone who’s going to cry at my desk or in public at a coffee shop,” she explained. “I don’t even like crying at home, because it’s like my peaceful sanctuary. But being in a cry room, with all the amenities, makes me comfortable enough to get it all out in less than a half-hour.”

It costs Villiotti about $1,000 to host his soon-to-be monthly fit fests. From renting out a space to purchasing supplies like personal tissue packs, caffeinated under-eye patches and facial rollers — all goodies each guest is gifted — he’s often covering his overhead out of pocket.

But the innovator says the good he’s doing for others makes the hefty expenses worthwhile. His next sob session is scheduled for March 24.

“In a city where you’re celebrated for presenting as tough, unfazed and resilient all the time,” he said, “it’s nice for people to go somewhere, feel something — good or bad — and express those emotions for the sake of their mental health.”

And Villiotti’s not just crying wolf.

Villiotti uses his own money to host his sob sessions, but says he’s happy to lay out the funds for the greater good of NYC. Stephen Yang
Villiotti uses his own money to host his sob sessions, but says he’s happy to lay out the funds for the greater good of NYC. Stephen Yang

Harvard Medical School spotlighted crying as “an important safety valve, largely because keeping difficult feelings inside — what psychologists call repressive coping — can be bad for our health,” in a 2021 report on the boons of boohooing.

Researchers warned that failing to cry on an as-needed basis could result in a less-resilient immune system, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as an increase in stress, anxiety and depression.

“It is important to allow yourself to cry if you feel like it,” said the experts. “Make sure to take the time and find a safe space to cry if you need to.”

So that’s exactly what I did.

For the first 10 minutes of my visit to Sob Parlour, I found myself too hyperfocused on the fact that I’d just maneuvered through midday, Midtown traffic to huff it to the makeshift wellness space. My mind and tear ducts weren’t able to zone in on the healing task at hand right away.

But after settling down and taking in the cozy scene Villiotti had set in the cry room — which came complete with a comfortable chair, cutesy teardrop-shaped mirrors and pillows, a journal for jotting down my thoughts and printed cards featuring heart-tugging prompts like “imagine a duck in distress” or “think of a time your loved one gave birth” — I began to feel.

I hadn’t begun weeping just yet. But my heart and mind were finally at ease, setting the physiological stage for an outgoing flood.

Villiotti offered to regale me with tear-jerking tracks from any of the 36 music playlists he curated for Sob Parlour participants — including songs from the hip-hop, R&B, pop and rock genres.

The soulful sounds of Whitney Houston, along with a series of tearful thoughts, set the scene for Grace’s midday cry. Stephen Yang
The soulful sounds of Whitney Houston, along with a series of tearful thoughts, set the scene for Grace’s midday cry. Stephen Yang

But I chose to lean on my personal collection of Whitney Houston hits.

After listening to “Why Does It Hurt So Bad,” from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack, twice in a row, I was a puddle.

I groped for tissues, thinking about my rough romantic breakups. I wept remembering my late Uncle Kenny — it would have been his 58th birthday.

When I thought about my current relationship status and the dumpster-fire state of the dating world, I really fell out.

And it felt good. I almost never let myself grieve over past hurts, losses and fears about the future — especially not on a random Thursday when I’m usually up to my eyeballs in work assignments.

I was surprisingly happy to be sad for the moment.

After about 15 minutes, I was done and ready to get back to the salt mines.

Thankfully, Villiotti outfits every cry room with a small recovery section.

I didn’t use the under-eye masks or facial roller to hide any post-sob puffiness around my cheeks. But I did use his mirrors and tissues to retouch my makeup so that no one on the streets could tell I’d just been bawling.

This is New York City, for crying out loud.