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New Permission for Dudes to Cry

12 Nov

Remember when a guy couldn’t cry?   Not so much any more.  

When the newly re-hired President Obama got all heartfelt and teary with his young Chicago staffers last week, as he thanked them for the incredible job they did, the video of his soggy speech was immediately emailed to all his supporters. In nano-seconds the scene had gone viral, and minutes later, it hit the major TV networks.

Clearly a decision had been made that showing the president wiping tears from his eyes was a fine idea - proof that the guy had feelings after all, and wasn’t as detached and “above it all” as some supposed. 

I was struck by how times have changed.  I’m old enough to remember the 1972 Democratic primary, when Ed Muskie, former Maine governor, U.S. Senator, and front runner, held in high esteem,

" title="Ed Muskie cries before New Hampshire primary in 1972" target="_blank">cried on the stump while defending his wife, who’d been smeared quite nastily (as a drunk who swore a lot). We later discovered this had been generated by Richard Nixon’s Dirty Tricks unit.  The incumbent Nixon much preferred the idea of running against George McGovern. 

Senator Muskie felt he had to protest that he hadn’t been crying – that what people had seen on his cheeks was melting New Hampshire snow.  This was not a good move and it led to even more ridicule, because the guy had obviously been crying.  He’d been brought to tears by helpless outrage at the way his wife was being treated.  Those tears destroyed his hopes for the presidency. The feeling at the time was that any guy who cried could not function as the calm and reasoned Leader of the Free World.  

Now, any experienced weeper will tell you that you can cry and think at the same time – especially when unimpeded by feelings of embarrassment or shame about the weeping.  

And any good shrink would argue that in fact, if you cleanse out your internal emotional gunk with tears on a regular basis, it actually frees you up to think better, more efficiently and more accurately.

But I guess we didn’t know that then.

How intriguing that now, in our post-Oprah world, we are called upon to weep as a badge of our humanity.  (And, as my clever niece, Marjorie Ingall, pointed out on my FB page, it’s not restricted to men.  Remember when Hillary got all emotional? (- also, by the way, in a New Hampshire primary -) and by doing so, kicked her campaign back to life, pulling out an unexpected win over Obama as a result?

And I’m sure the fact that both President Bush’s – both 41 and 43 – were heavy duty weepers helped shift our national disdain for Crying Guys.  George Herbert Walker was guaranteed to lose it at the drop of a hat.  I remember hearing guests at the funeral of his beloved Finance Chair, Alec Courtelis, predict that Barbara would be giving the eulogy, because 41 would be crying too hard. Sure enough, the plucky Mrs. Bush stepped in, just as she evidently always did.  

Either way, it’s a little crazy, all this drama and decision riding on a few tears. But I’m glad we’ve unwound the emotional straight jacket we’d wrapped so tightly around men. That did not serve either gender well at all.

But getting back to President Obama’s tears last week… I liked it that he leaked those tears in appreciation and gratitude for his young, idealistic, talented, hard working staffers.  

But I never had the slightest objection to his detached, thoughtful, uber-rational, big-picture approach to decision making.  I thnk it’s fine that he doesn’t get pushed around by the emotions du jour, swirling around on cable news at any given moment.  

There is nothing unusual about the rational coexisting with the emotional.  It’s called being a balanced human being. How about we all have our cake and eat it too? What do you think?

Take care and be well,


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award