What is it that makes a real man? That's a question I'm sure most men mull over at some point in their lives. I know in my twenties I went through periods of questioning certain human qualities and their importance in my definition of a real man: integrity, honesty, loyalty, creativity, etc. Now that I'm older, I realize there was something I left off my manly evaluation list: crying. How did I overlook crying as a manly trait? Well, for one thing, most people don't see crying as being very manly. Understandable. But they are idiots. Let me shed some light on my discovery.
It all started about a year and a half ago. I was reading a book called The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a book that is about as manly as it gets. It's the story of a father and son surviving the apocalypse; no room for crying in that concept, is there? But when I reached the end of that book, I was crying like a goddamn idiot. I was balling. All of the things the father did that made his son's survival possible were heart wrenching to me. And I cried my ass off.
I had another teary episode while I was watching the movie The Wrestler. That movie is the story of a man who is defined by his career as a professional wrestler. When his career is potentially over because of a heart attack, the wrestler struggles with who he is and what his purpose in life is. Manly stuff, for sure. There is a scene where the wrestler spends the afternoon with his estranged daughter. After they reconnect, the wrestler finally tells his daughter, "I left you. You never did anything wrong. I used to try to forget about you. I used to try to pretend that you didn't exist, but I can't. You're my girl. You're my little girl. And now, I'm an old broken down piece of meat... and I'm alone. And I deserve to be all alone. I just don't want you to hate me." Oh shit! And it started again. I was crying like a baby.
Now, I find myself crying quite a bit, particularly while watching movies or reading books. There is a book by Alan Zweibel called Clothing Optional. One of the short stories is about Alan questioning his career choice as a writer after a movie he wrote failed critically and financially. When his daughter stood up for him and proudly said, "Fuck 'em!" I cried. I watched a movie recently called Rachel Getting Married. When it was revealed that the main character was the one that accidentally killed her little brother and the pain the entire family felt unfolded over a few scenes, I cried. And when I was reading... well, you get the picture, right? I know you do.
And I know what you are thinking. "Quit being such a wuss!" Well, my friend, allow me to retort by saying, "Suck it!" I'm not really sure what brought on this newfound sensitivity but I'm certain my divorce has something to do with it. And I've decided to embrace my knack for letting the tears fly. There is a scene in the movie Fight Club, the manliest of all manly movies, where the main character realizes that crying allows the tension and stress in his life to pour from him like a sieve. And what is the result of this? He sleeps like a baby. And who doesn't want to sleep better? A good night's sleep is the key to living a successful and productive life. And if you are successful and productive, then you are the true definition of a man. Well, maybe not the true definition of a man, but those are some pretty damn good manly qualities to have.
So if crying like a baby lets you sleep like a baby, then bring it on. I have a full week of things to accomplish ahead of me. And I'm ready for it now. Queue up the next movie. A new book is waiting for me next to a box of tissue on my nightstand. I'm ready for a good cry. Are you man enough to take it?