I can remember walking out of the exam room and heading straight for the bathroom. I had lost my composure in an exam room in front of a client and needed to regain it. I blame the man in the room. Just a few moments earlier he said goodbye to his longtime companion. Lucy was an old lab with cancer. She had been declining quickly over the past few weeks and it was time to say goodbye. This is a difficult decision that so many pet owners are faced with. As he held her head and whispered “Goodbye sweet girl” I could see tears flowing down his face. This hairy faced, tough guy was crying. That is something you just don’t get used to seeing.
What is it about men crying that touches us deep down to the core? Traditionally men have been the patriarch of the family. As our society changes so do our views on what we consider traditional roles. However, I still take comfort in knowing that my husband is (and my boys will be) a brave protector and provider for our family. Maybe this is why I choke up when I see a man cry.
As a teenager I never really experienced this in my own family. I can remember the one and only time I have seen my own father cry. My grandfather had passed. My father called down the stairs to tell us. It was a “matter of fact” announcement. I’ll never forget it. My dad is the emotionally void type so this announcement was our normal. It wasn’t until I made my way upstairs that I truly understood the tragedy of the situation. Standing there in front of me was my dad crying. This was difficult to watch. We had lost family members over the years but this was different. Dad was crying.
I had not seen another man cry until years later. I was dating Mark, who would later become my husband. We were having dinner at my parents’ house when his mother called to inform him that his uncle had passed. He immediately broke down into tears. I soon followed. I wasn’t close to his uncle but it was hard to see him visibly upset. Mark was officially the second man I had ever seen cry.
This changed quickly when I became a licensed veterinary technician. I have worked in the field for over 20 years. Unfortunately, part of my job is to assist doctors in the euthanasia of family pets. I have learned over the years to mentally disconnect from the situation. This sounds harsh but it serves as my form of self-preservation. Most of the time things go smoothly and I move on with my day knowing that we helped a sick animal cross over the rainbow bridge. Then out of nowhere a male owner, usually with tattoos or some other masculine feature, shows up and sabotages my strategy. We expect women and children to cry but for some reason when a man shows his vulnerability it is a game changer. I cry every time. I am talking ugly crying. You know the kind.
My hope for my boys is to become strong and independent men. However, I still want them to have sensitivity, compassion for others and most of all…. a great sense of humor. I am always so proud of them when they show empathy for others. Not too long ago my oldest son shared a poem with me that his girlfriend had written. The poem made him tear up as he read it. It was a poem honoring him. I was so proud. My rough and tumble son was crying.
And of course I did, too.