MIDWAY: Boys don’t cry

Boys don’t cry, men do,” is rather a cliché. But when the US psychiatrist, Dr Phil McGrath, repeated the same during CNN’s Larry King Live the other day, two words escaped my lips: How true!

The last time I bid adieu to a dear friend some years ago, the platitude became all too real. I chocked my tears up and so did my pal. A few years since, another friend was being swept away by the West-winds and I again had a lump in my neck. The impregnable socio-cultural walls erected over the years, the lopsided gender roles established across cultures — women cry and men watch while cursing everything under the sun restricting free and natural expression — is unfitting, though typical of this post-modern era.

The chorus of Joseph Arthur’s smash hit “Crying like a man,” goes thus: “Don’t whine/Drink wine/Like turpentine/ Cleaning out your inside in line/From your toes up through your spine/Pretend you’re a conductor/Maestro without music/God without man/Me without you/Holding your hand/Falling like a leaf/Crying like a man.”

Another haunting example of the excesses of puritan gender roles is cleverly depicted in “Boys Don’t Cry,” a Hollywood blockbuster where Teena Brandon (Hillary Swank), claims a male identity by re-christening herself Brandon Teena, who then tries to come to grips with her (his) newfound identity by empathising with the tougher sex, only to succumb to the harsh masculine gender bias. Perhaps more befitting would be former Israeli PM Golda Meir’s take who once said, “Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either”; or that of the celebrated American author Christian Nevell Bovee’s “Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.”

It is a fact that those who are unrestrained in expressing their pathos are the happier lot: not only do they have timely catharsis of harmful emotions but by providing the outlet, they also live more satisfactory and longer lives. I don’t partake my emotions easily either. Maybe, I am a hypocrite like my male friends, including McGrath, who can preach why it’s okay to cry, yet can never let ourselves go for the fear of appearing sissy when we are, let’s face it, utter cowards.