Big Boys Don’t Cry

As a child I learned; men don’t cry. Men don’t show their feelings. Indeed it was extremely rare to see my Dad, or Mum for that matter, show affection to one another or to their kids with the exception of the very young. Which is not to say our parents didn’t love us, they did, without a doubt. It just wasn’t shown in a soppy outward display of affection, the hugs may have few and far between but there were hugs and there was care, consolation, ointment and Elastoplast for cuts and bruises earned in the everyday business of growing up. Stoicism and coping was the prevailing Scots/Irish attitude, so by and large, the norm was; men, big boys, didn’t cry. I guess I carried this through my formative years though it never seemed to be in my mind as a conscious thought. Apart from the normal everyday immature childhood tears I just didn’t cry. Many years later, now a grown man, married with all its concomitant responsibilities, and paying off a mortgage, I was working as an N.H.S. nurse caring for profoundly mentally handicapped children and young adults in Redruth. I was also entertaining as a musician in pubs sometimes three or more times in a week at nights to make ends meet. One night however I came home from a gig, just as I had been doing for years, having had a sufficiency of ale, and then, as I was manoeuvring the car into the garage, suddenly and without any warning something came over me. I felt a terrible overwhelming sadness and a lump came into my throat. I began to cry, softly at first but then it grew until I was in full flood. I was slumped in my seat, snuffling and sobbing as though my heart would break at the same time as I was wondering what the hell was going on? I sat in my car, parked in the square outside the house where my wife was asleep in our upstairs bedroom and for over five minutes tears poured from my eyes, I was coughing, sobbing loudly, loud enough I thought to be heard in the nearby houses. I wanted to stop but at the same time I didn’t want to stop not that it mattered: I had no choice in the matter. I instinctively knew this was a release of something, tension perhaps, maybe guilt but what, which? This first episode set the scene for successive bouts, sometimes as many as three in a week. I began to sense when it was about to occur and then I’d drive the car fully into the garage, switch off the engine and just let it out. It would usually happen at home but, once or twice, it’d come upon me as I was making my way home and I’d have to find a quiet country lane away from public, and local law enforcement’s view. Almost invariably occurring when coming home late after a gig and having consumed alcohol a pattern emerged. I would be overwhelmed by great hacking sobs, tears would stream down my cheeks, my nose would run and drip down onto my shirt front, I would be coughing up mucus and phlegm and, never having seen a need for tissues in the car before, would have to mop it up with the sleeve of my shirt. I would just sit there powerless, completely consumed, out of self control of this bizarre phenomenon and I didn’t have a clue why it was happening. The crying as a rule usually only occurred whenever I was alone though on some odd occasions there was a witness to this unmanageable crying. I remember it happening a couple of times when my wife was with me and she was obviously deeply concerned and wanting to help and comfort me but I would send her away and sit alone until the outburst had run its course. These episodes would last for ten minutes or so until I was emptied, cried out and I never ever, even to this day, knew why I was crying. I could associate all sorts of vaguely possible reasons with it but in truth I never knew and I still don’t. The occurrences grew less, fewer and further between until they eventually stopped over the course of perhaps a year. The important thing about all these outbursts though was the purged, cleansed and liberated way I’d feel afterwards. It seemed to have relieved some unknown inner conflict, helped me acknowledge some reality or whatever my current situation might be, accept and come to terms with difficult decisions I’d had to make, to understand more of realisations I’d come to, in short it made me feel better about myself and my place in the world. It was because of these strange emotional outbursts that I came to realise, and to firmly believe, that crying is as natural to humans as breathing is. Another time, many years previously, when I was ‘lost in the world’ just wandering the country at will, and was attempting to write songs almost every day, though sadly nothing worth keeping, I came up with a line which stated that crying was only laughing in a different key – a line I still like today. So from my later experiences I learned that crying really is an emotion akin to laughing and it is immensely important to our well-being and mental health. If we deny it then I believe we constrain ourselves by that denial. I believe we should embrace crying as we do all other natural human needs and emotions and rejoice in its abilities to help to heal us, lessen our stress and give vent to our feelings. I believe we should learn to use it as a cleansing and liberating resource.   Mic McCreadie.

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2 thoughts on “Big Boys Don’t Cry”

  1. How very true, Mic. After a recent occurrence, I have needed to “let it out” on several occasions. I really does help. Man-up and cry if you need to. It’s a natural therapy!

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