I've never been good at watching a man cry. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I suck at it. As soon as the tears start to fall, I get all giggly and uncomfortable. It's insulting, really, as it appears I have no sensitivity chip. I do. I just get awkward when men cry. It freaks me out. Like what am I supposed to do when the strong rock that I depend on falls apart? Where do we go from there? Of course, it isn't that serious but let me back track.
I've only seen a handful of men cry. Of course, there are movies and TV. We've all watched a few guys choke up on the big and little screen, and many women find it endearing. They dab at their eyes as they hope for a sensitive man to enter their own lives. I don't do that. Sometimes I give a heart-filled, "Aww," but rarely. It's just weird. My dad. My high school best friend. My ex-boyfriend. That's it. And every single time was weird.
It's best to start with where this odd reaction stems from. My dad. When my parents divorced, my father used to cry. A LOT. More than altogether necessary. My mother cried a lot too, but she was the wronged party, so in my mind it was okay. My dad, on the other hand, cried as a means of manipulation. To make everyone feel bad for him. It didn't come from a genuine place. We'd sit in the driveway, when my father dropped us off after our weekend with him, and he'd cry as if on cue. He'd lament his mistakes in a depth that was too much for a seven, twelve, and fifteen year old to deal with. The first time, we were shocked. The next time, kinda unsure. After that, it was simply inappropriate and ridiculous.
My best friend in high school was Dave. He was a strapping football player, king of the school. In fact, he was voted homecoming king our senior year. He was the proverbial man and represented all that was strong and resilient. Now, being that we were close, I'd seen him upset, pissed, but I'd never seen him cry. Not until our junior year when one of our close friends died in a horrible accident. Dave fell apart on me. I felt ridiculous at first. Just kind of hugged him awkwardly, but then I cried myself, affected by the death and by Dave's emotion.
I was sitting in my now ex-boyfriend's car. It was early on in our relationship and we were still in the "new, getting to know all about each other" phase. On this particular night, we sat in his Jeep as he told me stories about his life. One being how his cousin and best friend was murdered. As he told the story, I heard the crack in his voice. I watched him put his head back for a moment and shield his eyes. I knew what was happening and that same ridiculous feeling slipped over me. I patted his leg. Told him it wasn't his fault. That his cousin was in a better place. I wasn't being entirely helpful, but that was all I could offer. Which is the sad point. I have nothing to give. They cry. I sit there awkwardly, trying to stifle a smile that isn't towards them, but towards my own discomfort.
Even now, when I'm sitting with the guy I'm currently dating. He'll start in on a story from his past, something that evokes emotion and I'll stop him and say, "Are you going to cry?" It's so rude. I know this and yet I can't stop the words from tumbling out. As if I can somehow prepare myself for his strong showcase of sadness, because if I know what's coming, I can get my own self together, put on my own suit of armor. Something that will be better than patting his back and saying, "Um, it'll be ok," while secretly willing him to stop making me feel weird. See, the problem is it isn't about me at all and yet I've made it about me. Back when I sat in my dad's SUV, listening to him apologize for breaking our family up for the millionth time, watching him squeeze tears out his ducts, I started looking at a man's tears as a way to make me feel bad. The tears came to mean something far different than what they actually were. Instead, his tears, coupled with his ability to break every promise he made, created a world of distrust, not a world of comfort and honesty. His tears exhausted me and set every guy that would enter my life up for failure.
But as I write these words, I realize a man's tears aren't that at all. When a man cries in front of a woman, he's saying, "I trust you. I feel comfortable enough with you to let down this barrier," and for me to somehow put myself in front of that is even more awkward and ridiculous. It is unfair for me to take that from them.
That bitch stole my line,