Boys don’t cry, or do they?

  • Parminder Kaur, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Apr 04, 2015 12:16 IST

“Stop crying like a girl Rahul, I know you are hurt but boys don’t cry. See, all your friends are laughing at you.” Battling the pain of a bruise and the pressure of holding back tears, the poor child seemed to wonder what was his crime, the accidental tumble or the instinctive emotional outburst thereafter.

I was bemused to witness this dialogue between a child and his mother in the park overlooking my terrace. No, I am not alien to our society’s bigoted diktats for boys and girls but it is unfathomable how a child (irrespective of gender) is supposed to be impervious to getting hurt, physically or emotionally, and then stifle the resultant reaction. Isn’t crying as natural a human reflex as smiling?

Medical science says both men and women have on their upper eyelids glands that produce tears triggered by irritants (dust etc.) or emotions. Then how come boys don’t cry? Are they super humans, or don’t they have emotions or functioning tear glands? Boys don’t cry because we have conditioned them so. Right from birth, a baby whimpers to communicate hunger and pain, or to attract attention. Anti-tear sermonising begins the moment a baby boy graduates from cradle to crèche.

Boys are counselled consistently that crying is not a man thing; and that a tear drop is not merely saline water but acid rain that’ll incinerate their shroud of sturdiness. This conditioning makes most men so insensitive to tears that they see these as a sign of weakness and emotional blackmailing. In all modesty, though tears are a good weapon sometimes, but who stops the big boys from bringing it out? It’ll disarm even women.

What is the taboo that boys don’t even post weepy emoticons on the social media? We women feel gifted to have the liberty of expression. We have dew drops in reserve for a gamut of emotions and occasions. Besides joy and sorrow; we have tears of love, hatred, and anguish; tears for a spoilt dish or a granted wish.

Crying, for us, is not a symbol of frailty but an innate reaction, a beautiful expression (ignore the unpleasant sight of tear-washed eyeliner and mascara), a natural vent for feelings. Repressed emotions lead to physiological and psychological disorders. Imagine living in a room with no doors or windows. You’ll be suffocated. “The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep,” said British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley.

Well, that doesn’t mean we need to raise a generation of maudlin and snivelling grown-ups. But the freedom of expression being a fundamental right, how can we deny anyone the right to cry. Let it be an individual’s choice, if he or she wishes to express oneself through misty eyes, teary trail or full-throttle howling.

Let’s not brand crying as a feminine or masculine character but see it as an inherent human instinct. “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts,” wrote Charles Dickens in “Great Expectations”.

The writer is a Ludhiana-based PR consultant

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