This Is What It Sounds Like, When Men Cry

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Last night was the season finale for NBC's The Biggest Loser and it made me think of a conversation I recently had with my sister Angie about the show. Most of our discussion was about how much man-crying has taken place among the male contestants this year. Hence the purpose of this post – when is it appropriate for men to cry? How long can a man cry before crossing that fine line between “in touch with his feelings” and “now you’re making everybody in the room feel awkward?” Are there unwritten rules about a good man-cry that I need to know about?

For those of you who have not been watching The Biggest Loser this season, the contestant were teamed as couples, including a mother-son team, former college football teammates, two brothers, and one contestant and his best friend – a double order of Tony Roma’s barbecued ribs. (Unfortunately, he was kicked off the show after eating his delicious teammate on day two. All of the remaining men on the show cried. Not because they were sad to see him get booted from The Ranch, but because he didn’t share any of the ribs.) When contestants were voted off this season, the remaining teammate generally wept as if their loved one had been sentenced to a slow, painful death at the hands of Prince Humperdink inside his tree-concealed torture chamber.

In fact, one of the contestants, Mark, cried at least fourteen times in every episode. He lost it when he talked about his teammate/brother, Jay. Mark sobbed his way through every elimination ceremony. I am pretty sure that Mark would even cry if Hitler were brought back to life and he had to vote him off. He got teary-eyed when he thought about his wife and family. He wept upon finding out that they were out of SPAM in the house and that Extra sugar-free gum only has five calories. Mark has lost about 120 pounds this season, 87 of which ran down his face in the form of tears. America was not alone in witnessing Mark's displays of emotion. Apparently Mark’s wife has seen him turn on the water works a few times, as witnessed by the following phone conversation from one of the last shows of the season:

Mark: “Honey?”
Wife: “Mark!”
Mark: “….(sniffle)…(sob)…(whimper)...
Wife: “Mark, are you crying again?”
Mark: “…(snort)…(chortle)…(sigh)…
Wife: “Mark, get a hold of yourself!”

Andrea and I ROTFLOL (now that I know what that means, I think) when instead of consoling her emotional husband, Mark’s wife sounded annoyed when she said, “Are you crying AGAIN?” Her tone underscored the point – there are definitely unwritten guidelines surrounding how often a man should cry. Right? I mean, if a man cannot cry after being away from home for four months and losing more weight than a missionary with a Filipino tapeworm, then when can a male shed a tear? What are the man-cry rules?

This is an important topic to me because I cry fairly often, I guess, for a man. Mark’s wife has me feeling insecure about my public displays of emotion. Do I cry too much? Here are the recent times that I have broken down. Is this out of line?

I got slightly choked up twice during General Conference. Once while considering the tremendous influence for the good or bad that my example will have on my children. The other time was during Elder Ballard’s talk about young mothers and I realized (again) how awesome the Normal Mormon Wife is.

-Hearing “O Divine Redeemer” sung at a funeral for a very special member of our ward. (As if the funeral was not touching enough, the ward member who sang the song is a close friend and has the most powerful, moving voice I have ever heard in person. She even nudged out my memorable night listening to Fred Schneider of the B-52's at the Marriott Center, which was the first concert I ever attended. Ah, memories. Rock Lobster!)

-After three straight months of constant, intense back pain and wondering if I would ever get better. (After all, it’s hard to play Guitar Hero and Madden ’08 for extended periods of time with lower back pain.)

-Bearing my testimony to the Young Women during concluding remarks of New Beginnings. I always cry when bearing my testimony to the youth. It's just a given.

-Upon learning that we were expecting our third child, which we were hoping for.

-After realizing that by having a third child, Andrea and I will be outnumbered 3-2 by the kids. During basketball practice we always ran a drill called “3 on 2, 2 on 1”. You always lose when you are the “2” defenders against the “3” offensive players. I hope it is not the same with parenting.

Are these justified reasons for a man-cry? Some other random times that I find myself choking up:

-During the Olympics after watching a touching athlete profile and learning that he is dedicating his performance to his brother who lost his life in some heroic way, and then overcomes all odds to win the gold.

-Sympathy tears when I see a loved one crying.

-Watching the episode on Survivor when the contestants get “surprise” visits from their loved ones. Always a tear jerker.

-Getting pepper sprayed by riot police after inciting frequent bowling alley brawls, though I am building up some resistance now. (Okay, I made that one up after struggling for a few minutes to find a fourth bullet point. Maybe I don’t cry as much as I thought.)

It is definitely acceptable for men to cry on occasion, especially when the Spirit gets involved. But there is an unwritten line between being a distant, emotionally-detached male who never shows emotion and the annoying, quivering heap of tears known as Mark. Where is that line?

I am appreciative that my sister Angie prompted this topic because there is a lot that we as men will learn from each other’s comments. In fact, I look up to my sister a great deal and cherish my conversations with her. We live on opposite sides of the country and do not get to see each other very often. When I think of my sister...(sniff)…I start to miss…(tears welling)…her so much…(sobbing)…

Does anybody have a tissue?

(On occasion a comment gets posted that deserves to be highlighted or instigates a response from me. In order to help these side conversations not get buried in the usual comments section, I'm going to post about them here.)

-bioman75 - Great to hear that there is another Lakers fan tuning into the blog. I saw the Lakers-Nuggets game on tape and am also giddy about Kobe & Co. Pau Gasol was a man among boys, Odom is always in the right place at the right time. Vujacic consistently nails momentum-changing three pointers. Can you imagine if they had a healthy Andrew Bynum right now? I am tempering my expectations a little for the following reason - when the Lakers play Phoenix or San Antonio, Gasol will not have the open looks he had in Game 1. Kobe may have a hard time penetrating (due to Bowen or Raja Bell) and could easily go 7-23 in a few games. It is going to be tough for anybody to get out of the West. I just pray it is not San Antionio. Check that. Whaaa-n Antonio. I saw more crying in SA-PHX Game 1 by Duncan, Ginobili, Popovich, and Parker than when the Primary runs out of bubbles and Goldfish. Anybody but Whaaa-n Antonio.

-T-Boar - T is my little brother, but we are only separated by 14 months. While he learned a tremendous amount of patience, compassion and brotherly kindness on his mission, he used to freak me out when he got upset as a kid. If I set him off somehow, he would come after me with anything he could get his hands on. On one occasion he chased me around the house swinging a large, heavy, solid brass duck, hence the reference in his comment. If he would have connected with one of the swings, my life would have ended on the spot. I could just see the CSI: Utah scene playing out right now.

Eric Delco: "Horacio, we found this body of a nerdly-looking Mormon young man with a massive head wound. Appears to be blunt force trauma. We located this brass duck covered with blood in the bushes outside of the house and think it could be the murder weapon."
Horacio Cane: "Sounds like somebody was in a really 'fowl' mood."
Eric Delco: "Yeah, H, this kid got messed up pretty bad."
Horacio Cane: "You could say this kid was not"...dramatic pause, removes shades, "a lucky ducky."
Eric Delco: "That's it. I quit. I hate you."

-Andrea - How dare you tell the world how emotional I get when I lose to you at Scrabble! I demand satisfaction! I challenge you to a Sunday night Scrabble showdown after we get the kiddos to bed. Winner takes all. No holds barred. I'll have a box of Kleenex at the ready since I have a feeling you will need it after I bust the word "quizzed"on your head (the second "z" being a blank, of course, since there is only one "z" tile.)

-Mark - Your direct quote was, "Godwin's Law! Godwin's Law! I saw it first! :-)". I have to admit my ignorance in that I had no idea about what Godwin's Law meant until you left your comment. I did some research on on the subject and learned the following, "Developed in January of 2008 by noted author Sir Stanley Q. Godwin, Godwin's Law states that the Normal Mormon Husband blog is unequivocally the funniest blog in the history of the internet. Any person who claims otherwise is a Hitler-loving Nazi-boy."


andrea said...

Are you crying AGAIN?

No, really, I think you have found a good balance between manning up and showing your softer side. I think a good man-cry/choking up about once a month or every other month is sufficient.

You forgot to include on your list of recent cries, my latest scrabble winning streak. I'm pretty sure when I won my third game in a row against you that I saw some definite tearage in the corners of your eyes.

5:21 AM
Natalie said...

You know...for all the 'crying' you do...I haven't seen you cry once! Not that I am complaining. David never cries. He gets a little moist in the eye sometimes, but not that often. I think it would make me feel better if he would cry every now and then. Let it out boy...let it out!

6:45 AM
Megan said...

Let Mark be your "guyde"... WWMD? If Mark would cry, don't! :)

6:50 AM
Earl & Vickie said...

Hey, I don't cry!! Getting something in your eye at an awkward moment does NOT count as crying!

7:14 AM
Mark LDS Music said...

Godwin's Law! Godwin's Law! I saw it first!


12:13 PM
Ang said...

You can cry over me all you want. It's very manly to cry over your long lost older sister, no matter the circumstances.

I think it's the amount of crying that's the problem, not the circumstances that prompt the crying. Get a little teary eyed once a month or so? That's a solid, sensitive guy. Sob once a day over MasterCard commercials and your son getting 82% on his spelling test? A bit much. :-)

4:04 PM
jana739 said...

I think my husband maybe teetering on the line between, "in touch" and "are you crying again?" because He cries during most of the things you mentioned (including any and all sporting events) But when he cried over a lady winning a blueberry pie baking contest on the food network, I had to make sure I was not hallucinating.

9:49 PM
Anonymous said...

don't forget, your dad tears up two or three times during every Jazz game!

9:57 PM
Vlazny's said...

So should we be surprised you didn't get teary eyed after we won the stake title? Or did you wait until you got home and it dawned on you how far we've come and that we had achieved the ultimate goal of a mormon husband/father?

5:08 AM
carrie said...

as random, and off main topic as it may be (as crying men make me slightly uncomfortable...i only saw my dad cry twice my whole life...i think a slightly unrealistic representation of male emotion, but my example of norm nonetheless), i just have to point out my appreciation for the Princess Bride reference (which is one of my favorite movies...partly due to the memory of my dad taking me on a daddy/daughter date to see i might cry).

7:56 AM
Sandy said...

I am not married to a big crier...I have seen him get misty eyed a few times over the years, but its always been at appropriate times (childbirth, being called as bishop, etc.). I don't think he's insensitive, he just isn't very watery. He rarely gets a runny nose, even with a cold, either, and can go an entire car trip to CA only going to the bathroom once. Maybe he's just severely dehydrated:)

I don't expect guys to be completely insensitive, but guys who are constantly crying bother me. Like guys who cry bearing their testimony in church about winning a basketball game or having an odd doctor's visit(yes, I've heard it). But that's just me - I can't think of any significant men in my life who were big criers, actually, but they all said "I love you" and "I'm sorry" frequently and would hold hands with their wives in public, so I think it was all good.

9:10 AM
Sandi said...

You should win a prize for getting the Lakers, The Princess Bride and Hitler all in the same post. I see a contest in there somehwere. (I found you from a link on a friend's blog. I don't even know if she knows you. That ought to make you cry. Didn't know you were known far and wide now did you.)

1:45 PM
Carolyn said...

I've been married almost 10 years. I've seen my husband cry, maybe twice. He just doesn't cry. Not at the birth of our children, nothing. The guy is an emotional rock.

6:37 AM
Heather O. said...

Dude. Man up. Nobody cries anymore. That is SOOO, like, 1990.

1:45 PM
Anonymous said...

If a man's bottom lip ever quivers or he does the "stutter breathing" because he is crying so hard that he can't take a breath or talk...he has gone waaaayyyy over the line and can be deemed an official sissy liver (like that one time you tried to explain to mom why your younger brother was angrily chasing you with a large brass duck).


2:23 PM
bioman75 said...

Checking if my wife commented on this. (Luckily nothing embrassing...yet.) Actually checking to see if there is a post about the Lakers; I may live in Florida but the Lakers are my team. Just gotta saw I am loving the way they are playing.

6:12 AM
Pappy Yokum said...

Most of the things you listed that you cry about would fall under the "normal" guy-cry category. However, crying over Survivor? You need help, man. ;)

I must say, the pepper spray comment almost made me spray my monitor with my lunch. Too funny!

11:54 AM
Michelle said...

bioman75, that sounds like a challenge! Honestly, few things make my husband cry in my presence (births, deaths, and temple sealings). But it did worry me when he cried in the temple when we got married...and I did not. Boy, was I hoping those were tears of joy!

12:06 PM
The Meesh said...

My eldest brother recently won the man-crying award in my book. It was his 40th birthday and his sweet wifey put together a fabulous surprise birthday party for him. As my brother lives in Denver and I live in the Utah, I made a special 16 hour round trip drive for this special occasion. I arrived right on time excited to surprise my brother along with a household of people I didn't know but whom obviously love my brother. And it was a good thing they did because he decided to be 2 hours late to his own birthday party. Not that he knew about it.

Seems he had decided to pounce on a killer deal on a car and drove a good hour away to get it, plus negotiations, plus paying in cash on a Saturday night with no banks open. Well, by the time he was finally on his way my beloved sister in law was in tears and the impending verbal smack down was forming in my brain. It's fine that I was stuck awkwardly conversing with a whole household of people I didn't know, using the "pick up line" of, "So, how do YOU know my brother." No, no, that's fine. Don't worry about leaving ME waiting. But, as soon as the tears showed up on my sister in law, ooooh buddy, he was gonna hear it from me!

Well, two hours later, in he saunters with 16 year old son in tow. "Surprise!" we all mumble, barely looking up from our taco dip. He spots me in the corner and waves gallantly, gives his wife a hug. He must have seen the fire in both of our eyes and he then proceeds to tell us his story.

Seems the car of choice was owned by a family who's wife and mother had passed away earlier that year and who's lives since then had been a spiral of unfortunate events. "That's sad," we all think to ourselves. Then the kicker... they're LDS and need reactivating. Suddenly my brother is choking up sharing his experience of being led by the Spirit through the car classifieds to find this family who's little girls want to be with their Mommy again and want to go back to Church. Soon the whole room is in tears and the lost 2 hours of our lives spent in awkward conversation are forgotten. "Alright," I think to myself, "I'll only give him a slight verbal lashing for making his wife cry."

4:53 PM
Me said...

What a hoot!
Do you listen to the Jungle? Jim Rome? "... Have a take! Don't suck! or you might get run!" Well buddy.. Rack'em! You are so on it! Even though you are a Lakers fan! (I live in a male dominated house), you brought a tear to my eye!

8:03 PM
J. McQ said...

Hey, second-time reader, first-time commenter, thanks for having me on the show...

Two moments when I questioned my own place on the man-cry spectrum:
1) the day I finished my third college degree (after telling my wife for years it would someday all be worth it). Makes sense so far, right? Except that the thing that triggered the tears was watching the movie preview for Madeline and seeing the poor girl chase her little yellow hat as the wind mercilessly carried it off.
2) the day my plane was cancelled and I couldn't show up for my own dissertation defense. I wanted to cry, in a public place, no less, but found myself unable. I later found that 2 hours of playing the debut album of Boston on Rock Band on the Xbox 360 was what I really needed. Tears, schmears.

5:27 AM