I grew up with a lot of brothers, no sisters. All were older except one, but even my baby brother was bigger and stronger than me. While I was spared from most of their roughhousing that often morphed into knock-down-drag-out fights, I was included in all of the teasing, sarcasm, and insult-sharing. As a consequence, and in order to survive, I learned to be tough and even mastered the insult game myself.
On one particular occasion, I hurled an insult at one of my brothers that cut deeper than I would have expected. While my mother’s normal response to our shenanigans was “Y’all work it out amongst yourselves—just don’t kill each other,” this time she interfered. She sat me down and explained that my words truly wounded my brother and brought him to tears. I was immediately remorseful.
At the same time, I was stunned that an adolescent girl had made a teenaged boy cry. Boys didn’t cry. At least that had been my experience with my dad and the boys in our household, up to that point. I embraced fully the tough-guy gender stereotype. Hearing my mother describe my brother’s emotional vulnerability tugged at my heart and was enlightening.
Since then, I have witnessed all of my brothers shed tears. My dad, too. And my husband. Truth be told, when a man embraces his sensitive side, I think it says a lot of positive things about his emotional health, self-esteem, and character. An authentic man need not hide from his feeling nature.
I have read and observed that Millennial men are inclined to show emotion and perhaps shed tears more comfortably than Boomers. Additionally, the older a Baby Boomer man, the less concerned he is about being caught with a hanky, drying his eyes.
To this I say, Bravo! I hope and believe the world is progressing beyond judging a man for crying. If not, get on board. Male tears should not be perceived as a sign of weakness or lack of masculinity.
Emotional expression is a natural part of communication and enhances our understanding and appreciation of one another. Because there are fundamental differences in how women and men communicate (just read John Gray’s classic book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus), we already start from different places. Why complicate it further by allowing gender stereotypes to limit a person’s natural instinct to express sadness, joy, frustration, disappointment, or whatever emotion through tears?
Ladies, and gentlemen, when a man cries in front of you, receive it with humility and honor, knowing that he has trusted you with his intimate display of vulnerability and intense emotion. Understand also that he trusts himself and will not be bound by cultural conditioning. This life is his party, too, and he can cry if he wants to.
I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.