Over a beer at a bar or some coffee at a small shop, people always lament that “women are emotional creatures and men are more….”
There was a time when I believed that myth. You know the one where men are seen as more logical and less emotional. We often tell one another that being emotional is equal to being effeminate or showing weakness. Throughout my life, however, I have witnessed men be just as emotional as women.
While in the service, I stood several suicide watches over fellow servicemen who threatened to commit suicide after a spouse admitted an infidelity or threatened divorce. I watched men who buried their brothers and sons on the verge of tears and openly refuse to weep. I have seen grown men tear up their homes after a betrayal from a loved one. I have carried several brothers home who were in almost comatose drunk lamenting on why they let that good one go and begging me to help them get her back.
Despite what the rich and famous “relationship experts” tell us about men and women, we menfolk can be just as emotional as women. So what’s the problem? First, off we are raised to believe that it isn’t right for men to be in touch with their emotions. We are raised to think that it is unmanly to be able to express hurt or even cry. I remember my mostly absent father telling me I shouldn’t cry. My mother would always chime in with that sentiment. I remember elders telling me that children should be seen and not heard. When I had my oldest son, I started walking down that path as well until I realized the fallacy of it all.
Growing up I realized that to survive the crack cocaine era of the Bronx, I had to create this facade of the tough guy. I learned how to take a punch to the grill very early. After a few beat downs, I learned how to hold it all in. Yet even after the shoot outs, fights, narrow escapes, and police brutality, many of from that era continue to maintain that facade. So we mask our emotions in bulletproof clothing. Unfortunately, this does more harm than good. Ironically, too many of us who do not come from that era or those environments put up the same facades.
As any athletic Black and Brown male can tell you, locker room talk is not for the faint of heart. In those circles, we tend to ridicule those who find it easy to express their love for a particular lady. We tend to ostracize those who express hurt. The key words being “she played me” instead of “she hurt me.” I have participated in and witnessed brothers questioning the sexuality of those who have no problems expressing themselves. We find those public displays of emotion as showing some kind of weakness. We taunt one another as being girly (whatever that means) for doing such things. Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. Better yet, it is a sign of strength.
Yes it is true that the larger society doesn’t see us as human. We are seen as incapable of human emotions. We are seen as either criminals or bucks. One would imagine that those stereotypes would have left with eradication of chattel slavery but they haven’t. The question we should ask ourselves is when has the greater society seen us as human? Just because someone else doesn’t see us that way doesn’t mean we should be that way with one another. We should be honest and open with our sisters and brothers. We should do this not only for our emotional well being but for our mental health as well. It is unhealthy and downright dangerous for us to keep things to ourselves. It is up to us to create spaces for us to express ourselves since no one else will.
I am grateful that I am encountering more and more brothers who refuse to raise their sons as emotionally mute fighter robots, but we need to do more. I am hopeful because when I greet other men, it is usually with a pound and a hug. With the exception of the Maori, I don’t see other men from other cultures doing that. I urge men to create spaces for us to be honest with one another about how we feel. If I am having a problem with alcohol, I should be able to confide in my friends. I should be able to rely on my circle of brothers for comfort instead of just when it’s time to beat someone down or set up another bashing session. We need parents to stop raising their boys in this overly patriarchal fashion that attempts to create emotionless beings who just live to work and provide forgetting that they should be groomed to be positive contributors to their communities.
So yes, men are emotional. We just have to learn how to express ourselves.