Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Crying

I seldom cry. Even at times when I feel I ought to cry, or want to cry, the tears don't come. I can appear totally unemotional when I'm anything but.

Even when I'm deeply upset by something, even when I'm at someone's grave, even when I've been told some dreadful news, my eyes are dry. It's one bit of my male upbringing I just can't shake off.

I envy women who can cry easily when the occasion calls for it, who weep naturally and shamelessly when they've been emotionally shattered by some situation. It's such a basic and necessary human reaction, but one I'm rarely capable of.

People often don't realise just how upset I am about something because the obvious sign, bursting into tears, is absent. Merely saying I'm upset can sound hollow and unconvincing.

I know women sometimes cry for effect when they're not really upset, because they know it gets a reaction, but nonetheless they're fortunate they were never forbidden to cry. Nobody told them they were crybabies or wimps or weaklings. Nobody told them they shouldn't be so emotional or fragile or girly.

It's still the case though that women aren't supposed to cry at work - where it's all too easy to be upset. In the macho culture of the workplace, women who cry are still seen as buckling under pressure, unreliable, not tough enough. They have to cry in private or not at all.

When crying is a response to someone else's misfortune, it also helps you to empathise with their experience, to understand the pain and misery they're going through. If you can't cry, it's harder to feel that empathy - it freezes your emotions and your imagination.

When you think about it, telling half the human race they should never cry is actually a shocking act of cruelty.

29 comments:

Grannymar said...

My father looked on crying as a sign of weakness, therefore I seldom cried when I was young.
When I married I spent most of the first year crying with happiness.

I have become more tearful with age, in a nice way I hope.

Mudflapgypsy said...

I am a big softy. I filled up the other day when I saw my first swallows of the year.

Nick said...

My father saw it as a sign of weakness as well. He was withering when male politicians or public figures cried in public, he thought there was something wrong with them. His loss as well as mine. Grannymar, you cried with happiness for a year after marriage - that's really lovely.

Nick said...

Muddy, that's beautiful, I wish I could do that.

conortje said...

funny I was going to post about crying at some point after reading this article http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2008/04/men_cry_an_average_of_nine_tim.php it seems on average men cry nine times a year. I definitely beat that figure easily but I'm a great big softy :-)

Nick said...

Conor, nine times a year is impressive. For me it's more like two. Good to know you're a big softy. Actually I can be a big softy too (Jenny often calls me a slopbag), it just doesn't show itself in tears.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I come from a family of criers. During the father-daughter dance at my wedding, my dad cried so hard I had to hold him up (he is 6ft4 and the size of a house). With that as a role model, I have never believed it to be un-masculine to cry.

I often feel like a soppy git when I tear-up. From now on I will just be grateful for ability to do so, something I suppose I have taken for granted.

Quickroute said...

I get closer to my inner self and drop my guard or drop the fasade if you like after a few drinks. I have often wanted to cry but couldn't - It's also supposed to be good for you to empty out the pent up suppressed emotions - must go cut some onions pronto!

Nick said...

FG - Good to hear your mighty hunk of a father cried readily! Yes, being able to cry easily is very much taken for granted.

Quickie - Even a few drinks don't loosen the tears in my case. But you're right, crying releases a lot of buried emotion.

red said...

I can't believe you envy women their ability to cry easily. If there was one thing I could change about myself it would be fact that I cry so easily...

Nick said...

Red, even if you do cry too easily, from where I'm standing that's greatly preferable to being too inhibited to cry and express your emotions freely.

Dave Hampton said...

'never do cry...get choked up, but never spills over.

My father and uncle were never ones to lose their temper. They had every other emotion, but I always admired how, no matter how frustrated they were, then never went beyond 'stern'. Despite the notion that it's better for your health to just let the anger out and be done with it, it never seemed to cause them trouble. I'm not sure that it's common to control anger in the same way these days.

Nick said...

Dave - Anger, that's another thing altogether. My father was so terrifyingly bad-tempered I vowed at the age of 10 never ever to get angry the way he did. And I haven't. But I don't think controlling anger is unhealthy in the same way as not crying. Maybe I'm wrong but I see so many people carried away by blistering anger who don't seem to feel any better for it - they just get angry about more and more things.

Nick said...

Conor - Your link was cut short. The last bit should be men_cry_an_average_of_nine_tim.php

Very interesting item. It points out that young boys actually cry MORE than young girls but that's gradually bred out of them. Women cry on average 33 times a year, which seems rather low to me - less than 3 times a month??

Baino said...

I rarely cry unless it's through frustration or anger. I've become a little desensitised to sadness which in itself is very sad. I'm with Grannymar, I think we get more teary as we get older (impact of hormones perhaps) and don't care to much who sees it. As for the office, burst into tears and the bullies back off, I just wish I could do it on demand.

No need for onions boys, just let it go! You really do feel much better afterwards even if you look like rusty poo!

Nick said...

Baino - Just let it go? If only I could. It's like a computer programme I've lost the password to. Can somebody remind me what it is....

conortje said...

sorry - I can never remember how to make a proper link :-)

Nick said...

Con, no probs, I think it's Blogger's fault not yours. Here's a wonderful vision for you: George Bush weeping uncontrollably saying he felt such remorse over starting the Iraq War. Aides handing him tissue after tissue, putting their arms round him etc. The mind boggles....

Matt said...

Tough one Nick. I think I'll go try to have a good cry; I used to find it easier, but in the past few years I can't bring myself to it. What happened, I wonder. Is it because few things surprise me anymore, or have I become too effective at bottling my emotions? Good luck getting the Bushies to admit mistakes or otherwise display maturity or other redeeming qualities...

Nick said...

Matt, that's a shame that you're crying less. Maybe masculine peer pressure is subtly affecting you and building up inhibitions? Perhaps some crying support groups are called for??

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm really weird on the tears thing, Nick. I don't cry immediately, it is like I freeze, my father like yours absolutely forbade crying or if we were caught he would "give us something to cry about".
BUT the emotion lies in wait for me and at completely awkward and embarrassing moments I burst into tears when everyone else is done with them. Like the middle of a restaurant or on a plane, etc.
I cry a lot privately, however. I recommend it, highly therapeutic.
XO
WWW
And I have an award for you over at my blog...

Nick said...

www - That's unusual, delayed crying. Other people must be curious when you suddenly burst into tears for no apparent reason! And I'm no better at private crying than public crying, I'm sorry to say.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

How strange. I remember commenting to this post a few days ago, but Blogger must have deleted it.

Nick said...

Heart, that's mysterious, I don't remember seeing your comment at all. My comments on other people's blogs have sometimes vanished after I okayed them so maybe that's what happened. Let me guess - you're a cryer but not a softy??

heartinsanfrancisco said...

No, actually it's the opposite. I was often told as a child that I would be spanked until I stopped crying, which seemed strange to me even then, but I learned not to cry.

With the exception of my children's graduations and one wedding so far, I tend to do my crying on the inside. I am more likely to cry over sad news stories or movies than over my own life and also envy women who are able to shed cleansing tears easily.

Nick said...

Heart - That's terrible, saying you'd be spanked just for crying. Yes, I'm that way as well - I'll cry sometimes over a tragedy in the news or a film but in my own life the same sort of tragedy leaves me dry-eyed. Odd.

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne said...

I'm very reserved about crying - in my family it was just as frowned on for women as for men. In fact most of us Irish are very reserved about really important emotions - we don't show grief and pain that easily, we try to play it down. Like you Nick, I've stood at graves and not been able to cry.
In the last couple of years I learnt to let it out when really hurt - but I still would be very slow to cry in public.

Nick said...

Geraldine - I didn't realise the Irish were reserved about big emotions, as I only moved to Ireland eight years ago. That surprises me as I know funerals and wakes are really major Irish events. I've never learnt to fully express grief, but maybe one day if I'm hit by a really awful loss it'll all come out....

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