I remember when I went to see Toy Story 3 in the cinema. Towards the end, as the film neared its inevitable emotional climax, I felt myself starting to cry.
Of course, I was a teenage guy with a reputation to uphold and so crying went against my very nature.
Now, I have several ‘tells’ that I’m holding back tears. I fiddle with my glasses, I keep swallowing, and I try to avoid any eye contact.
On this occasion, all of those tells were out in force.
And, as the toys (spoiler alert) began to descend into a fiery inferno, knowing the end was near, they all held hands. Sticking together, right at the end.
I heard crying. And it wasn’t me!
I turned to my left to see a grown man, maybe around 30 years old, bawling his eyes out. His children were looking at him oddly. They didn’t understand. How could they?
To them, this was just a film. But to him, and to me, and to most of the audience it was so much more.
Weirdly, seeing this man crying seemed to give me permission. So I started to cry too. And we briefly made eye contact, a little reassurance that we were in it together.
Just as the tears started to calm, Andy says goodbye to his toys and Woody watches his best friend, his partner, drive off into the distance.
I lost it.
The timing was perfect. I was at the age where I’d soon be leaving home for university. I’d be packing my childhood away neatly into a box and moving on with my life.
I know full well why I was in tears that day. But I didn’t know why I was so ashamed to admit it.
Men have tear ducts. Men feel emotions. It only stands to reason that men can cry.
It’s strange, then, that films that reduce men to blubbering wrecks are seen as having some sort of strange power, becoming cult classics.
Field of Dreams, Good Will Hunting, Old Yeller (or pretty much any film involving man’s best friend). These are all renowned for making men cry as if they’re achieving the impossible.
What does that tell you about society?
It tells me that men crying is a rare phenomenon. But it shouldn’t be like that.
Here’s another story.
My partner and I used to live apart from each other. Geographically speaking the distance was minimal. But each and every time we said goodbye, marking the end of a few days together, we’d both start to cry.
It was ridiculous. We both knew it. There was no reason for us to be so upset that we were reduced to tears.
Now when I’m telling you this story. I bet you think me crying is far more ridiculous than my partner crying.
She’s a girl. She’s allowed, right?
Well that’s exactly why I’m sharing these two stories.
I’m a man. I cry. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s okay to let it all out. In fact, you probably should.
In one of their most recognisable songs, The Cure sing:
“I try to laugh about it / Cover it all up with lies / I try and laugh about it / Hiding the tears in my eyes / Because boys don’t cry / Boys don’t cry”
Maybe it’s about time they started.