Real Men Don’t Cry

The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.
Albert Einstein

The words below are among the many that taught me the true power of blogging. I am revisiting them today to set the tone for posts that I intend to write. I have found this to be a useful tool for writing, this short visit to a different time and place. More on this later.

When I was younger I vowed to stop crying. I was 14 and I had decided that men were not supposed to cry. I can remember the events that led to that decision. I was one of those people who didn’t just cry, if I cried it was all encompassing and it just wracked my body.

Not every time, but enough that I felt it in every part of my body. I think that the final moment came as a result of my cousin’s funeral. Typically Jewish funerals have a closed casket, but this one didn’t. I remember seeing my cousin’s body and watching her son cry, he is seven years older than I am and I always looked up to him.

The moment just hit me hard, it rocked my world and I had trouble staying composed. I wasn’t scared, just sad, so sad for my cousin and sad for myself. As my grandfather drove me back to the house for shiva I was crying. He didn’t condemn me or make me feel badly, he tried to make me feel better. But it was enough that he was not crying.

I didn’t understand that his lack of tears was not indicative of a lack of emotion/feeling not to mention that he may have cried, I don’t know. But that day I determined that I was through with tears. And for 21 years I have stayed fairly true to that promise.

I was an idiot.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that I crippled part of myself and stunted my ability to mourn the loss of things and people. I am not an emotional cripple or mental midget, so I didn’t prevent myself from feeling, all I did was make the process of grieving more difficult.

In the last 21 years there have been a few moments where I shed some tears, but there were not many and it happened when I was completely caught in the moment. As soon as I realized that I was crying they began to stop, I learned how to stop myself far too well.

So now I have been consciously working on reversing this, giving myself permission to cry. I don’t want to keep stuffing it back into the cage. I have been known to carry a deep and abiding sadness with me and I think that the lack of tears is part of the reason why.

Some of the women of my past were aware of this and tried to convince me to cry on their shoulders, to let it out. It is not that simple, if it was I could do it on my own. I suspect that some of them were offended that I did not. They took the lack of tears as a lack of trust and I suppose to some extent it was.

But the walls that I built and the towers that maintained their vigil over my mind were not going to be defeated that easily.

I am confident that this is going to change. I think that one of the benefits of maturity and fatherhood is that I see the ability to cry as a sign of strength and not weakness. It still scares me, I haven’t sobbed as an adult, but the day is coming.

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  1. subWOW January 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    This generation may be a bit different. If anything, I sometimes think my boys are too prone to crying. Perhaps there should be a clear distinction for them between crying and whining.

  2. ChopperPapa January 28, 2011 at 7:47 am

    This is an issue that has affected men for years. Our fathers didn’t cry, John Wayne didn’t cry, and our society doesn’t deem that men should cry. Failing to realize that men have emotions whether we try to hide them or not. I can vividly remember the death of my father and walking into the room for the firs time where his open casket was, I hadn’t laid eyes on him in well over 3 months.

    Not only did I cry but I virtually collapsed, surrounded by family I had no reservations, I would have had no reservations if I was surrounded my members of the Hell’s Angels. It shouldn’t take loss to justify mourning and sadness.

    The ability to visibly show our emotions is the sign of true manhood. Failure to do so only points to our immaturity. Great post!

    • Jack January 28, 2011 at 10:52 am

      It takes a lot of work to find that place where you are comfortable, or maybe I should say where I am comfortable like that. I haven’t any problem letting people know if I am happy or sad. It is that visible expression of tears that doesn’t come so easily.

  3. One Wink at a Time January 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I don’t think crying should be suppressed any more than I think laughing should be. It’s a basic human response. It’s cleansing. I cry easily and often (parades, sad movies, the list is embarrassingly long) and it’s how I gauge if something is really, really funny.
    I have a great respect for a man who can cry. I’ve not met many. I only ever saw my father shed tears twice. When I was married, he was to walk me down the aisle when the music started. It did. I began to walk with my arm through his. He didn’t budge. I looked up at him and his face was beat red and he was choking back sobs to the point that his shoulders were heaving up and down. A few tears escaped, he took a huge breath, composed himself and we proceeded down the aisle. To this day I’ve not forgiven myself for doing that to him.
    The second time, he was dying of cancer and the hospice nurse had administered the drug(s) and he was incoherent. Alone in the room I spoke with him as if he could hear me. I combed his hair and told him how handsome he looked. A single tear ran down his cheek and moments later, he stopped breathing.
    (Odd, I feel as if I’ve shared this memory with you before…)
    But yeah. Men are doing themselves a grave disservice by holding all that in. Crying is healthy.

    • Jack January 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

      That must have been quite a moment, to see him cry like that. I think that my kids would be shocked to see me cry. It is not something that I actively try not to do, but it just doesn’t happen.

  4. Seattledad (Luke, I am Your Father) January 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Great post. I don’t often cry, but if the moment is right I will let loose with a few tears. Soon though I stop and feel stupid for doing so. That’s a hard thing for a guy to overcome.

    • Jack January 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      In the years that have passed since i first wrote this post there have been some moments where a few tears were shed. However it has been infrequent and only if I am alone. Too many years of learning how to be tough has made it hard.

  5. Cathy January 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I think aging gives you perspective. I cannot speak to your decision to not cry anymore, but I do not recall instances of tears in myself as a young adult. Sad times, deaths, I just don’t remember crying until the day my mom died. I have never cried so hard in my life and I did so for every day for at least six months. And it wasn’t pleasant. At some point there was too much crying and I think that made the loss worse. With the death of my uncle recently, I’ve cried much less even though one could argue that I was closer to him than my mother. I’ve done it consciously – intentionally pushed down the tears. They didn’t help so I keep them away.

    • Jack January 26, 2011 at 11:21 pm

      I agree that aging gives you perspective that you might not otherwise have. And if things go as we wish we gain the wisdom to know what is appropriate and useful for the situations that life presents us with. It certainly isn’t easy.

  6. Jared Karol January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Thanks for writing this, Jack. I cry often, (just today, in fact) and I agree that it is a sign of strength, weakness. I’m glad you are able to see that too. With tears and smiles, Jared. 🙂

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