As a young boy I was used to the phrase “big boys don’t cry”, it was supposed to be a motivation for me to hold back my tears when I felt it necessary to let it rain. And then I got older and became a “big boy” and then the phrase changed to “strong men don’t cry”.
The show of emotions among men has long been seen as a sign of weakness, from the early civilizations of Egypt and Greece to the Romans and the Persians even to the Chinese and Aztec empires of old, the man has been trained and taught to be stoic and emotionless. In the African society where I live it is almost a taboo for a man to cry and in some African cultures it is even abominable to be seen playing and laughing with your children or wife. So children grow up feeling unloved by their fathers and struggle to understand why. So it becomes absolutely impossible for him to show love because he never saw it shown, he never saw his dad express a positive emotion so he can’t comprehend the need to express it.
To say that the African society is male centric is just stating the obvious, across the plains of Africa are many cultures that have transition rituals into manhood. Teenage boys most of the time have to go through these rites of passage to be seen as men in the particular culture in question. The requirements vary from circumcision to living apart from your family for a while. It goes from the mundane to the scary and dangerous. All tailored to turn the mind into a vault from which emotions cannot leak out consciously or unconsciously.
There is an absolute human type, the masculine…
Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands,
such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones…He believes he apprehends objectivity.
Simone de Beauvoir
The result of these indoctrinations are both positive and negative but does not take into consideration the fragile psyche of some of these boys who in the name of transition become unhinged for life.
But today my focus is not on the vast psychological disadvantages of gender stereotyping but on the one flaw that is largely unnoticed when these boys become men; their inability to have appropriate emotional responses and have proper emotional connections.
At some time in history it might have been necessary to teach a boy that crying is not a masculine past time, but in the affairs of today, the ability of an individual to own his emotions and express them freely and appropriately gives him an edge in life. Ever wonder why the rate of hypertension and strokes are spiking among Africans, or why the African male has a shorter life span than that of the woman?
The stereotype that a crying man is a woman or less of a man has made a lot of men learn to bottle up their emotions , positive emotions at that and have no problems manifesting the negative ones. So a man that will find it difficult to laugh with his wife, who wants to appear serious all the time so that he can maintain a semblance of authority, has no qualms in beating the wife or the child into oblivion because he has to be the man. His inability to express his positive emotions gives the “dark side” a lot of playing ground.
In movie terms since his dark energy has no good energy to balance it out, the dark runs wild because there is no counterbalanced effect of the good energy.
I know psychologists will have a beautiful name to give this malady, but in a way it is not more than a systematically cultivated emotional apathy.
Today the savvy man finds a way to let out these emotions, even though some women may also term him emotional, but all the same he finds a way to rejuvenate himself and be human.
To feel is to be human, to agree that you feel makes you even more human and to express that feeling put you on top of the species.
As a man you have to liberate yourself from the same shackles that held your father down, I am not talking of economic chains or political ones but of emotional restrictions that have made us servant to our negative emotions.
I am learning everyday on how to express how I feel, to play and laugh and roll on the floor. I don’t want my kids to ever question my love for them or my wife to think I cant share in her pain. I want to be able to cry with my family when the time calls for it and laugh when it’s necessary. I don’t want my kids to keep difficulties and challenges from me because I look unapproachable.
I may sound selfish, but that’s just me I don’t want to cry in the rain anymore, I want the people I love to see me express my feelings and own those feelings. I know its a long tortuous journey, but moving is better than stagnation.