My dad was the first man I ever saw cry. The second was my grandpa.
I was in fourth grade when the priest at our church passed away. That was the first time I experienced death, and the first time I saw tears slip down my father’s cheeks. In future years, I would see him cry at funerals, when we buried our guinea pigs in the backyard, and when we held our dog as he slipped over the Rainbow Bridge. Later, I would see him cry out of pride–when he walked my sister down the aisle on her wedding day, when he told his three daughters how proud he was of our independence.
I was in eighth grade when I saw my grandpa cry for the first and only time in my life. My grandma had just passed away. Grandpa and I were standing on his porch, looking out at the street. We were both quiet, processing the hard truth of saying goodbye. Then out of nowhere he started bawling.
At thirteen years old, I was somewhat taken aback. Women, I was used to seeing cry like this. But what do you do when you are the sole witness to the painful tears of someone who society paints as a pillar of protection and strength? What do you do when you’re young and naive and still not quite sure about this thing they call life?
My grandpa opened up to me in that moment more than he would ever open up to me in the sixteen years that I knew him. “I don’t know what to do,” he told me. “I just loved her so much.”
With those two sentences, he unlocked the door to his heart, sharing with me his deepest fear. He made himself vulnerable. And it made me love him more than I thought I could.
A girl standing next to a grown man sobbing, I didn’t know if there was a right or wrong thing to do, so I just hugged him and cried, too.
We live in a world of stereotypes. Men are supposed to be stoic; women are supposed to be emotional. Men are the strong ones; women are the weak ones.
At least that’s what we’ve always been told.
But females are paving a way for ourselves. We are shattering glass ceilings, we are dissolving stereotypes, we are striving for equality. And many men are right there with us in solidarity. Yet much of our fighting is to have the same rights as men.
What about the men in the world? Who is fighting for them to have the same rights as women?
I like my men emotional.
It has taken me 28 years to truly accept that my emotions are not a curse. Twenty-eight years, and I, a woman, finally see that emotions take off my blinders to the world, that they give me empathy and compassion.
When I am sitting on my friend’s couch sobbing because my heart is broken into a thousand pieces, when I am screaming into my best friend’s pillow because I can’t process today let alone tomorrow, when I am a blubbery mess relaying my insecurities over a phone line, when I am blotchy and tear-stained and at my absolute ugliest… I am at my most vulnerable.
Allowing myself to be this way, to ask for help and let others see me in pain, is one of the strongest things I will ever do.
And when a man cries on my shoulder, be it out of joy or anguish, whether friend, family or partner, he is, in that moment, the most beautiful man I know. He is honest, unadulterated and incredibly human. He carries the strength of a hundred men.
I have listened to the sobs of my friend’s brother as he eulogized his father. I have mingled my tears with my best friend’s as we held each other and processed a suicide. I have watched a man swipe a finger under his eye as he married the woman of his dreams, and then later when he held their child in his arms. I have seen tears glisten in the sun as men relayed their survival stories following Hurricane Joaquin. I have shaken strangers’ hands after they told me that my performance on-stage made them well up. I have hugged crying men as I packed up my bags and moved on to my next adventure and others who have cried upon my surprise return. I have heard the wails of dozens of males as they watched their beloved pet take one last breath. I have held an ex’s hand with one of my own and collected his tears with my other as he cried and broke my heart.
And I know that if these are the faces of the next generation of patriarchs, then the future is bright.