The Tears of a Man
During a conversation I was having the other day, the subject of my life and the amount of emotional pain I have had to deal with recently was brought up. In a moment that was as shocking as it was sudden, I was asked a question: “Do you cry?”
When the question came, it was like getting hit by the proverbial ton of bricks. It was like that moment in Batman V Superman when Batman asks Superman, “Do you bleed?” If I recall correctly, Superman looks at Batman like he’s crazy and simply flies away. And in that one moment when I was asked that question, I immediately knew how he felt.
Unfortunately, I’m not a fictional character born on a fictional planet with the fictional ability to simply fly away from conversations that make me uncomfortable. So I instead deferred to my all too human ability to call upon the power of my ego to help me through difficult situations: “I guess every now and then if something really bad happens, but for the most part, no. I’m a man,” I added, implying that my manhood somehow acted as a shield against normal human emotions.
“When was the last time you cried,” I was asked in return. Clearly, the person I was having the conversation with failed to notice the awesomeness of my masculinity that was draped around me like a cape. “When I lost my Godmother last November,” I answered, heaving out my chest in an effort to project even more of my “man energy”. “I hardly feel the emotion to cry,” I informed him. “When a tragedy happens, I tend to become a pillar of support to the people around me. I don’t cry so that other people can cry.” I said it with all the authority I could muster, conveying a message of “I am man and I have spoken.”
“Okay.” I breathed a sigh of relief, believing that the conversation was over, that my unwavering masculinity had prevailed. But I underestimated the persistence of the person I was dealing with. “If you did allow yourself to cry, what would you cry about?”
I tensed at the question. I had the urge to shout out, “Did you not see the roadblocks and the stop signs, man? Don’t you realize you’re headed the wrong way down the railroad tracks, past a big ass ‘Do Not Enter’ sign?”
However, once I calmed down a bit I realized I was getting too worked up over one simple question. Granted, I hated the question, but if it caused me that degree of emotion, it was one that I needed to address.
Because after all, I’m a man and I don’t back down from anything.
So, after giving it a bit of thought, I am prepared to list a few things I would “weep” about if I allowed it of myself (because “weeping” sounds so much more masculine than “crying”).
The loss of my parents. I’m sure just about anyone who has lost a parent can relate to the pain inherent in such a loss. I loved my mother. She made countless sacrifices for me throughout my childhood and always, always wanted the best for me. My dad and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I stepped up to take care of him in his last days, and we were able to bond in a way we never did previously. And my Godmother, man, she was my world. She was like a second mother to me. No, she was a second mother to me. She watched me during the time my mother was at work from the time I was three months old. Three months! The only thing about having two mothers though is that you might have to live through losing a mother twice. It breaks my heart when I think about the fact that I will never lay eyes on any of them again.
My children. Although I haven’t had to go through physically losing a child, I have had to go through being rejected by two of my children. Although I deal with it, it hurts tremendously to be rejected by a child that you have done everything in your power to care for. There were times, as a single father, when I went without eating so that they could eat, and for them to turn around and reject me…Man, that hurts.
My special needs children. I know I’ve already addressed my children, but my youngest son and daughter bear special mention. My daughter has a medical condition that impairs her mental capabilities and may shorten her lifespan. I can’t stand the thought that I may actually lose her at some point. My youngest son has a condition that impairs him as well, and although it is nowhere near as severe as my daughter’s condition, it still has the potential to impede him from having a “normal” life. Both of my special needs children are full of smiles and my daughter in particular is full of love and affection, which makes the reality of her situation even more heartbreaking.
I am willing to admit that this has been one of, if not the most difficult blog I have ever written, hence all of the attempts at levity. But it also brought to my awareness that I am like so many other men who are bred to think that emotions are for the weak and that for a man to actually face up to what he is feeling and shed tears over it is the ultimate blasphemy.
I have learned from this project that the way I have been thinking is incorrect. I can admit that I have been wrong. I have felt a sense of relief in the effort of being real just for the time it has taken me to write this, and it is liberating.
I’m not calling for a new order of weak men who live all up in their feelings, so to speak. But what I would like to see is men who are willing to admit, even if it’s just to themselves, what they feel in the deep places of their souls, to maybe do a project like this where they actually search for the feelings that have been bottled up inside for so long.
My wife has mentioned to me before that neither she nor any of my children have ever seen me cry. I never thought there was anything wrong with that. But maybe, maybe by doing that I’ve demonstrated to my children that it’s not safe to reveal what they’re really feeling inside. Maybe I’ve actually shown my children how to hide away their feelings, how not to be real even with themselves, and maybe that’s some of the reason why they’ve been able to so easily reject me.
Maybe in my efforts to be a “man” I forgot to show the people in my life who really matter just how much they mean to me.
I would challenge any man reading this to take a closer look at their own notion of what it means to be a man…and whether or not by adhering to this model they are in fact alienating the very people who mean the most to them.
We’ll talk again.