I’ve been crying a lot lately. I noticed this when I filled up watching the cynically manipulative John Lewis Christmas ad for the first time.
I appreciate this confession will do my ‘Dear ‘Ard Mancunian’ credentials no good whatsoever, but I have a cathartic urge to write this post because, well, it’s cathartic, innit?
I never used to cry. It was pretty much metaphorically beaten out of us when I was a kid. Crying Boys were those pictures hung on the living room walls of our parents, which became famous for being the only surviving items in mysterious house fires.
Real crying boys were mercilessly bullied at school and so our parents shamed us into not blubbing by way of protecting us from the harsh realities of growing up.
Real men don’t cry. Or eat quiche. Crying was for girls. And wimps.
Gazza changed all that with his trembling bottom lip when he was booked during the 1990 World Cup semi-final against Germany ensuring he would miss the final if England were to triumph (we didn’t).
While the female population of the newspaper where I was working at the time sighed a collective ‘Awww, that’s so sweet’, I despised him for it.
It was as if a finger had been pulled out of the dam of men’s stifled tears, and since then, they have gushed forth like a Niagara Falls of self-pity.
Soon afterwards, I remember a (male) friend talking about Princess Diana’s death through a veil of tears.
‘What the hell?’ I said to him. ‘You didn’t even know her.’
For me, men were only allowed to cry when someone they loved died. I have only ever seen my dad cry four times: the first was when he returned from the vet’s after having to put down our beloved family dog, Sam, at the age of 15; the second was at the funeral of his own father; the third at his mother’s; the last time – last December – at his wife’s, my mother’s.
The latter was one of the only times I had ever cried, too (with the totally forgivable example of bawling when my sons were born). The news of her passing shocked me, but it was a numb shock. No tears involved. But it was the sight of more than 200 mourners at her funeral as I helped my brother’s carry her coffin into the crematorium that overwhelmed my tear ducts. I thought my legs were going to buckle beneath me, such was the strength of my anguish.
All of that, to me, was reasonable enough. Crying when your football team lose, or you slice off the top of your finger carving the Sunday roast, was just self-pity.
And I still feel that way. So why, of late, have I been bursting into tears at what is not even the drop of a hat?
It was kids wot done it.
Although they must never know it, the little buggers reduce me to tears on a far-too-frequent-for-comfort basis.
In the last few days….
I cried in my youngest son’s headmaster’s office when I was told my lad didn’t have dyspraxia, but was a perfectly normal, healthy little boy.
I cried when we watched Wall-E because the little, lost, lonely robot made me think about my children.
I cried when my middle son proudly played a tune on his guitar for the first time.
And, yes, I even cried at that bloody John Lewis ad!
My missus has been a tad concerned at these revelations, and was worried about it being a sign of depression, given the fact I live with the terminal frustration of being out of work while she slogs her guts out to shelter, feed and clothe her family.
But I don’t cry when I’m frustrated. Or physically hurt. Or at any other time, really. The tap only gets turned on when something affects my children, both triumphs and torments.
Am I a wimp? My dad would say so (but, thankfully, he is computer-illiterate, so will never get to read these ramblings – or he might just have a good sob in despair about what his oldest son has been reduced to).
But my friends – at least the fathers of their ilk – all own up to being far more emotional than they were ever brought up to be.
Peter, a pal of 20 years standing, told me: ‘You and me the same mate…. I cry A LOT whenever anyone says anything nice about my boys.
‘My youngest had some problems with his reading and when we had our first parent/teacher session last week and when I sensed his teacher was at last spotting his intelligence rather than judging him by his (terrible but getting better) reading, I started to well up. My wife had to give me a look, which said, just don’t you dare start crying, DON’T YOU DARE!’
Another friend, Ron, admitted: ‘When my eldest got his “most improved player of the year cricket award” I sobbed, literally sobbed!’
And my friend Mark reported: ‘My lad does Cubs and was involved in the Remembrance Parade on Sunday…. I welled up as he walked past. He was just walking!’
So it’s not just me then! That knowledge just makes me want to, well, smile