Andrew Reiner is a writer and educator in Baltimore, MD. He is working on a book about masculinity a chapter on boys/men and crying.
While researching this topic, Andrew read a blog written by my friend Sam Jolman, How to Cry Like a Man. He contacted me to ask me more about a comment I wrote, “Thanks Sam. Good post. I did not cry from age 12 to age 21….that I remember. Was not a pretty site. And I was more like a robot than a man. Much more whole with tears as part of a normal occurrence.”
This episode is about becoming wholehearted and emotionally fit as men,“Embracing the full spectrum of our life”. Andrew’s research documents how most men are given a very “narrow script and rigid notion of unwavering self-reliance”.
Andrew’s writings on men and emotional honesty
You can reach out to Andrew Reiner via email AReiner@towson.edu
Here is my response I wrote back to Andrew about why I didn’t cry for nearly ten years. I hope it’s helpful to you.
I’m going to use voice dictation to provide you an answer to your questions so please forgive punctuation grammar capitalizations etc. My parents divorced when I was 12 years old. I’m the oldest of three.
When my dad left, I remember crying in my room by myself and for some reason it felt pointless, useless, unhelpful and even unproductive. So at that moment in time, I made a decision that it wasn’t going to fix anything by crying. It didn’t make anything better so I better find a way not to cry at all.
Looking back I can see it was simply a coping survival skill. The helplessness, the fear I felt or worry about the future was more than I could handle at age twelve. So not allowing myself to feel those emotions felt like a reasonable better approach.
I remember the feeling of my internal world being like a boiler room with a bunch of valves that you could tighten. Some you could open up to let some steam out and others it wasn’t safe. So the only option was to keep them shut at all times.
So that was my strategy. Crying felt deeply inconvenient unproductive and I would say even feminine. The only crying that I witnessed as a kid was in hysteria or grief or during arguments and rage in my home. I cannot remember a man who I regarded with esteem that I’d ever seen really cry.
When I was 20 or 21 I remember I spent the summer in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California working a fly fishing ranch and the owner became a mentor for me. He wore a cowboy hat made of beaver skin and cowboy boots every day. His name was Hal.
He was tough. He spent his young career as a Marine. If I recall correctly I believe he’d seen combat also he’s now in his late 70s. I remember seeing him cry that summer and I think that was my first introduction to the world of good men who allow room for emotions to surface openly in front of others. Which I now know and understand takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength.
Today at age 44, my understanding of authentic masculinity includes courage and bravery in my emotions. I openly cry when it feels right. I understand that not crying is actually evidence of men being emotionally young and stuck in timid places.
It’s easy to be misunderstood in the world of men because often expression of emotions if they involve tears or expressing positive feelings of love or affection for affirmation can be confused with weakness or more feminine qualities.
In my experience I find like me, most men simply need an invitation by modeling being strong, courageous, full of integrity and affording and permitting room for tears.
I hope that helps get you started. Good luck with your book.