I’ve seen grown men cry, when seeing their daughters in a prom dress and over their father’s gasket: these were public tears, socially-acceptable male tears, tears of pride or grief, the tears men are “allowed” to shed.
But what most women will never tell is that we’ve seen grown men cry over work stress and debt, over bad grades and friends moving, over sad movies and touching ones and over being rejected by a love interest or a group.
Those tears are private tears.The tears many grown men would never admit to shedding. The tears they didn’t want us to see them shed but that we pulled out of them through a gentle back rub and a whispered “let it out…” We don’t talk about those tears, these tears were confided in us in secret because we, as women, are believed to understand tears. So we hide their tears or, when their tears become ours, we tell our women friends and we collectively understand that our men are just as sensitive as we are.
But then we raise our boys, we allow their father to tell them to “man up” and that “big boys don’t cry”. We repeat their refrain if it helps our purposes or we admonish their fathers privately. We know that grown men cry, but we raise our boys to believe they do not and to feel ashamed if they do. We are the confidante to their tears and we jealously guard that role by shaming our boys from crying.
I’ve seen grown men cry, tears, real tears, over a lost T-Shirt or a ruined pair of shoes, because feelings are not always reasonable, because sometimes the wrong thing makes you snap. I’ve seen grown men cry over especially well-written birthday cards from friends and upon receiving good news, because manly cries are not necessarily a tragedy.
I’ve seen grown men cry and I plan on teaching young boys that, I plan to tell them that society is unfair towards them and disconnects their feelings from their gender because it has a skewed sense of what it means to be men, to be strong and to have feelings.
I’ve seen grown men cry, they have cried with me and I have cried with them too, because we can all share in the common pain that is our shared humanity.
I’ve seen grown men cry, and it’s okay.