I grew up with women, a whole gaggle of them if you asked me back then because it felt that way. From the moment I emerged from the womb I was surrounded by enough estrogen to choke a horse (imagine that), so I’m no stranger to emotion, to such honest emotion that I’ve been comfortable with it my whole life. As a child and a young man I had no problem expressing that emotion in the most authentic way, through tears. Body shaking, loud as midnight, salty tears streaming down my face, and it was cathartic. But now I’m empty.
Maybe I cried myself out back then. Perhaps I became such a strong person that things didn’t bother or sadden me that deeply anymore. Or maybe I’m just coming up with excuses, none of which are true. Some of the most devastating moments of my life have happened after I came of age, and I’m still a pretty emotional person. So why can’t I cry?
Like right now. I feel numb. Totally numb. That’s where it goes now, not to expressive tears but to internalizing and introspection. But you know what? The tears helped more. Just letting it out made me feel like I was starting anew, that the tears were a sort of baptism, and once I emerged from them I was a new man with renewed hopes and dreams. But this numbness, this absence of that outward sign, it makes me feel like I’m trapped inside myself, that I have absolutely no hope of getting out. That terrifies me.
And I know that it’s all about the value I place on things, that somehow in my mind I got it all twisted up, the idea that men don’t cry. But real men are emotional creatures too, and I don’t seem to subscribe to most those other tenets of the “mature man.” I laugh at all the stereotypes and the expectations, and yet here I am embodying one of the biggest ones, and I can’t seem to stop myself. I mean, it’s not like understanding how counterproductive it is will make my tear ducts open and bring on the waterworks. It takes more.
I remember when I got baptized I felt like a new man, like nothing else in this world would ever stop me from being me, from moving forward instead of backwards, like it was the beginning of real life. But real life is hard, and being dunked under water doesn’t protect me from that any more than crying tears will liberate me from these feelings deep inside of me. It doesn’t stop me from wanting to scream as loudly as I can. And maybe crying, and screaming, and thrashing wildly about will be my salvation, but I think that has to come from a change of thinking more than any outward show.
I just don’t know where to begin.