Big Boys Don’t Cry, Which May Be Why They Die

Paul Schlemmer / (Shutterstock.com)
Paul Schlemmer / (Shutterstock.com)

American women live five years longer than American men, and I suspect it has something to do with the fact that men are expected to swallow their emotions.

Modern gender etiquette traps most men in an impossible double standard where they’re mocked for being pussies if they cry, but if they don’t cry it’s trotted out as evidence that men are coldhearted, unfeeling bastards. It’s not the best place to be. But it probably reached this point because men aren’t likely to cry in public about it. It’s considered unmanly.

I doubt that women suffer any more than men do; it’s that women cry more loudly. And when they do, they get sympathy for it rather than scorn. Women are encouraged to cry, whereas men are all but forbidden from doing it. Although women are 2.5 times more likely to take antidepressants than men are, I don’t see this as proof that women are more depressed. To me, it suggests that for women, you’re not deemed as weak or an embarrassment to your gender if you admit you’re feeling low. If women were truly more depressed than men are, that doesn’t explain why men kill themselves at much higher rates than women do all across the world. Women threaten suicide much more frequently than men do; but it’s men who quietly shut the door and blow their fucking heads off.

Although my father grew up during the Great Depression, risked his life in WWII, and worked 80-hour weeks until colon cancer ate him alive at age 59, I don’t ever remember him crying. Instead, he’d crawl inside a bottle of Scotch—he polished off a full bottle every day. And though I never saw my mother drunk, I never saw her working, either. And she’d burst into tears if the TV reception was fuzzy. She outlived my father by 15 years, too. And she taught me not to cry by laughing in my face whenever I’d do it.

My experience has been that women cry too much and men don’t do it nearly enough. I’ve known many females who are able to get the waterworks flowing at the slightest inconvenience, and I think that many of them do it because it’s effective. Many males are such dumb and easily manipulated donkeys that they’ll give a woman whatever she wants just to stop her from bawling.

If you’re going through substantial emotional agony—a terminal diagnosis, the death of a loved one, or soul-shredding romantic heartbreak—I don’t think it’s unbecoming to cry regardless of your gender. OK, it’s unbecoming for anyone to do it in public. But I think that men have been trained to bite down and eat their emotions to the point where they don’t even cry while alone and nobody’s around to mock them.

Emotional numbness—the default setting for most males less they risk being laughed at—feels far worse than the deepest canyons of depression. It sounds contradictory, but feeling nothing is the worst feeling of all. I’ve gone years only wishing I could cry. But when it finally comes out of me, it’s like a biblical flood. There was a dark, bleak patch in my life when a loved one was dying of cancer and I’d cry so hard, I could actually hear the teardrops falling on my jeans in loud splats. There have been a few stretches where for weeks on end I’d cry so violently, I literally thought it would kill me.

Does it make me a pussy for admitting that? I don’t see it that way. If anything, it makes me braver than most guys allow themselves to be—and definitely braver than society allows them to be. No need to cry for me, though; I’m still learning how to do it myself. TC mark


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