Let’s Redefine: Strength, Tears, & Weakness.

I was a cry baby growing up. If someone stole my toy, I would cry. If someone hit me, I would cry. If someone made a joke at my expense, guess what? I would cry. All those tears shed, you’d be surprised how often I didn’t get dehydrated. It was permissible to be a “cry baby” as a child, because you aren’t expected to be strong. You aren’t expected to understand. But as I grew older, crying was seen as something negative. Something weak. When the hell did that flip happen? Where was I to approve of it? Thing is, that wasn’t up to me. For so long, I was told to not be “sensitive.” I was told not to cry. I was told to hold it in. So I did. I held those tears in, because I felt that in order to be strong, I couldn’t show this kind of emotion. In order to be strong, I wasn’t allowed to cry. I’ll say this now because it’s the truth: I wasn’t allowed to cry because I’m a boy. That’s the mindset society calls for in its male-identifying individuals: hidden emotion and shown physical strength. It sucks, I know.

To be honest, I can’t quite recall the last time I cried. Felt tears cascade down my cheeks and drip on to the collar of my shirt. Yet, I don’t feel any stronger having not cried for so long. In fact, I feel broken. Not being able to outwardly express these feelings makes me feel confined within the some invisible box of stoical masculinity that somehow inhibits my strength. At funerals, I wouldn’t cry and to some that may be strength, I guess? “He’s so strong, not letting his emotions get to him.” But I’ll tell you now, that at those moments of sadness and despair, I wanted to cry more than anything in the world, but my body wouldn’t let me. In the one permissible scenario where tears are allowed, more so expected, they didn’t show up. And I am so upset that I couldn’t.

As of today, I will say that I will allow my child to cry. I will allow my friends to cry. I will allow anyone who wants to cry to cry. Crying is a good thing. It isn’t a sign of weakness or submissiveness. It’s strength. To wear your heart on your sleeve for the whole world to see shouldn’t be weakness; it’s bravery. Few people ever dare to do that, so to those that do, I commend you and I strive to be like you. You embody true strength. One that is unbidden and unhidden.

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