My wife Jacque once worked with a woman who would frequently extol the virtues of how much of a “manly-man” her husband was. He was the quintessential hunter/leviathan-pickup-driver/beers-with-the-boys/did-not-believe-in-cooking-if-it-didn’t-consist-of-slapping-animal-meat-onto-a-grill kind of guy. I say that past tense, though he likely still is.
I believe she found great attraction in his predilection for all things rough and noisy and strong and tough and all adjectives that personify male hormones at their peak production from the masculine gonad factory. She likes her male archetypes unambiguous, with anything weak, fragile, and sensitive completely distilled out to leave a shot of testosterone that will put hairs on the copious hairs on your porterhouse pectorals.
Something tells me this manly man’s man’s man of a manly man has emblazoned on his resumé in lion’s bold face type Never cried a day in my life. It brings to mind a couple of lines from the song Leave the Biker by Fountains of Wayne:
And I wonder if he ever has cried
cuz his kitten got run over and died
In this society with its vestiges of heralding sabre-tooth tiger clubbing prowess, there is still a tendency to equate the outward emotional display of sadness with weakness. There’s still the male coaches’ inspiration via emasculation taunt of cry like a girl, while ironically I’ve met many females of whom you couldn’t pull tears from with a Bigfoot Monster Truck.
If we want to look at where non-aggressive displays of “negative” emotions are concerned in the arm wrestling between who’s tough and who’s weak, I put my money on the one whose mascara is running. There are no Herculean feats of strength demonstrated in the suppression of one’s sadness. There is only a demonstration that raw emotions are a scary monster that will consume us alive, rampaging through the skyscrapers of our psyche leaving only a quivering mass of destruction.
I am aware that this post appears to be chiding the “tough guys”, but I am addressing any of the emotionally stunted promontories of stoicism, resolute in their vows to not show weakness. This applies to those on both sides of the gender aisle. When we squash our sadness down into a tight, tiny ball and swallow it in hopes that it will surreptitiously make its exit through our descending colon eventually, we rob ourselves of the opportunity for rich self-examination and personal growth. Our unabated expression of grief and despondency is the irrigation of our mental wounds; it allows us to flush the infections that are born from the illusions of victimhood and guilt. To attempt to disavow our sadness is to deny an aspect of ourselves, cutting off the psychic blood flow to that part of our identity, causing a rich and valid part of who we are to inevitably necrotize.
Be strong, the stoic says upon experiencing the onslaught of the urge to cry. I say if we are truly strong, we will let the water flow and come face-to-face with that emotion that can feel so overwhelming. Strength is demonstrated through displaying our certainty that we will not drown.