Sometimes I cry because I see a sappy commercial, other times I cry because I see a picture of my parents and I get a wave on nostalgia where crying seems the only emotion I can muster. I cry when I am laughing, and I cry when I’m sad. I am not ashamed of my emotions, rather I wear them as a badge of honor.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I am the way I am. It could be nature, but then I remember that we of western European descent aren’t exactly known for our demonstrative emotions. So, then I assume it’s nurture, but I grew up with a stoic Dad whom I literally watched bite his lip to not cry at his daughter’s funeral. In the end I assume it’s like most things, it’s a bit of both.
No matter how I came to it, I love that I am confident enough in who I am to cry openly and not worry about what others may think of me. One of the scariest things about what is going on these days is this toxic masculinity which seems to be all encompassing. I’m not sure where it all comes from, and who knows, maybe it’s always been a part of our culture. What I do know is that it is pervasive and is turning yet another generation of young men into “stiff upper lip” people who are afraid to show emotion fearing that they will be judged or ridiculed. Sure, it’s easy to place all the blame on the present political leaders, but in reality all that they have done is expose the ugly reality which has always been lurking underneath; that in our society real men don’t cry and men who showed emotion are weak or, God forbid, feminine.
It’s all over TV, films and in music. On countless sit-com episodes, the big laugh is when the male character cries and everyone laughs at him. The movies are chock full of characters who are considered more manly (read stronger, more appealing, better) by biting their lip and stifling emotion. Conversely the anti-hero is often shown at the end of the climactic scene crying ins a show of defeat and weakness.
Many say that Edwin Muskie’s 1972 presidential run was thwarted because he allegedly cried outside of a paper mill in NH as he defended his wife. I’m not sure which is more sad, the fact that a man showing emotion ended a presidential run, or that Muskie felt he needed to explain that they weren’t tears on his face, rather it was the melting snow. Either way the lesson is clear; don’t cry.
I look forward to the day that crying is considered a healthy expression of emotion. That anyone when feeling sad, upset or emotional is able to express his emotions without a risk of judgment or ridicule. We don’t laugh at someone who rolls his ankle and limps off the field, do we? How amazing would it be of we could treat mental health with the same dignity and compassion with which we treat physical health.
In today’s emotional and intense world we need more of this. We need create a culture where young men feel comfortable embracing their ability to show emotion and be vulnerable. We need to have a space for them to share and to care without running the risk of being ostracized or bullied for being “soft”.
We need to make it ok for them to cry.
Like I do.