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.