Yesterday morning I cried over a book’s ending. I’m talking wet cheeks, sobs that were more like gasps for breath, and needing to blow my nose. Crying ugly, as it’s aptly called.
While that sinks in, let me assert that I consider myself fairly open online, particularly in this forum. Here among my fellow WU writers, I’m fairly confident that most of you are unsurprised by my admission. And I consider myself pretty comfortable with my masculinity. And yet…
Boys Don’t Cry
I almost chickened out on this post. I started it yesterday, and then set it aside. But as such things often go for me, once the idea bored its way into my brain, it could only be purged by writing. As I explored my discomfort, it started to seem silly. I mean, we talk about crying all of the time. Heck, you can hardly find an online thread about This Is Us without someone mentioning all of the tissues that show is selling. And yet talking about my own tears over a story is unsettling. Why is that?
I guess it’s partly the whole macho thing. I saw one study that concluded that women cry a bit over twice as often as men (around 4 occurrences per month for females versus 1.5/month for males). And there seems to be some debate about how much the disparity can be attributed to nature versus nurture. Is it physiological (since the mere presence of female tears has been shown to correlate with a measured reduction in male aggression and sexual arousal)? Or is it our upbringing (I clearly recall a junior high gym teacher who routinely told any male who shed a tear to, “Suck it up, Sally”)?
I suspect it’s a combination, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s that the older I get, the more often I cry. I’m also certain that when I first met my wife, we would’ve compared fairly well with the stats I cite above (her being moved to tears about twice as often as I was). I actually used to tease her that a good commercial could make her cry.
These days I give her a real run for the money.
Maybe it’s simply that I spend less time in the company of men. Maybe I just don’t give a damn if anyone calls me Sally anymore (after all, I’ve come to know as many or more admirable women as men). But I think there’s something else at work, as well.
Since I started writing, I actually seek out the kinds of experiences that move me to tears.
The Tears of Writerly Success
It’s a not-so-hidden secret that many (if not most) of us count hearing that a reader was moved to tears as a success. I know I do. Although it’s not something we go around high-fiving over or bragging about, my recent experience made me wonder. Do I really seek to make people cry? [Read more…]