Amolik, my four-year-old nephew came charging towards my mother after playing outside, screaming at the top of his voice. I turned my head to see his cute little visage drenched with tears as he had fallen and scraped his knee. As he came into the kitchen, my brother, who I was chatting with, put his hands on his shoulder. I thought he was about to say something consoling, something soothing, to calm the injured boy, but I was startled by what came out from my brother’s mouth. “Big boys don’t cry,” he told him sternly.
Since time immemorial, this is the most infamously advertised motto of men – ‘Boy’s don’t cry’. Their masculinity suffers a jolt when any prestigious member from their pack sheds a drop of tear. The simple logic on which their very existence thrives is – ‘The lesser you weep, the more your testosterone count’. When a boy is caught crying in a dull corner, his honour, power, authority and confidence are shattered like a million shards of glass. His whole existence is floating on that one drop of emotion!
Men portray themselves as the ‘lion’ of the pride, but to all my so-called ‘kings’ of the family, it is a well-known fact that even a lion weeps his heart out when his paw is pricked. It’s a terrible myth that boys are biologically designed to not cry. I’ve seen my stoic male friends controlling their emotions.
They never ‘allow’ themselves to cry. Instead, they joke about the temperature rising in the classroom or quickly fan their eyes to prevent bliss from flowing. It is sad, rather portentous to allow such mechanical methods to prevail in society. If we don’t let our boys cry tears, they’ll cry bullets. We are humming a lullaby that is nurturing nothing but an anger epidemic.
Right from our childhood, we are given specific messages at home, that our emotions are shameful and our vulnerability is a pernicious parasite to our masculinity. It has made such a strong influence in a male-oriented society that if you ask a wounded nine-year-old old if he’s hurt, he’ll respond with a fake and proud promise, “No, no! I am a boy. I don’t feel pain.” However, the crave for empathy peeps out obscurely through his closed gloomy eyes and the pain is clear as his fists are tightly closed. This is not the end of him crying, but the beginning of the screams of a suppressed future. We feel proud that our boy is able to bubble up his emotions with sheer perfection, only to create a dormant volcano of anger for the future.
Men are not aggressive by nature, it’s just a failed attempt to channelise the outburst of the long and suppressed emotional distress. The wild, stoic temperament of a male homo sapien is just an aftermath of the lack of resiliency to bounce back after hardship. It’s as if we are telling our boys to hit the brake and pedal at the same time. Don’t be needy. Don’t cry. Be quiet. Man up. Shake it off. These are some of the stern words that I remember from my childhood.
Humans thrive on empathy and engagement. Make your sons feel included. Don’t make them feel bad about their feelings. Do not boo them away for their emotions. Hyper-masculinity and individualism hurt boys in particular.
I don’t cry much, but I would never feel ashamed of embracing my emotional outflow. My call to all my alpha male counterparts is to let such thoughts go. Be emotionally expressive. I am not saying be a drama king. Yet, don’t be too hard on yourself for your feelings. Be kind, compassionate and caring.
A real gentleman is literally a ‘gentle’ – ‘man’. So be a gentleman and always remember – It shouldn’t be about ‘don’t cry’. It should be about ‘don’t make others cry’.