Crying time for men again

Kevin Cowherd

September 25, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

Students of pop culture will recognize that crying among men is very big these days -- and not just with veteran crybabies like Jerry Lewis and Jimmy Swaggert and that ilk.

The music industry is burgeoning with teary Michael Bolton-esque guys (only with better haircuts) singing about unrequited love.

Hollywood churns out one film after another about weepy yuppie guys ("City Slickers" leaps to mind) getting in touch with their feelings. And on the TV talk shows, you have people like Geraldo Rivera bawling their little eyes out whether the topic is Husbands Who Wear High Heels or Impoverished Kids Who Also Lost Their Bunny Rabbits.

If you remember, men first began crying openly in the late '70s, encouraged by the likes of retro-sob sisters like Alan Alda and Phil Donahue.

It was the era of tweedy, patches-on-the-elbows guys with three-pack-a-day Kleenex habits who weren't afraid to show how sensitive and vulnerable they were.

Sure, they came across as incredible wusses, to the point where you wanted to smack 'em upside the head and yell: "For God's sake, STOP THAT DAMN SNIVELING!"

The thing is, women seemed to go for this teary-eyed stuff, big-time.

So pretty soon you had a lot of guys in robin's-egg-blue leisure suits sobbing on women's shoulders during everything from Ingmar Bergman movies to the hatching of baby chicks.

Of course, after a while all that sobbing made women want to gag.

And what followed was the inevitable backlash against male crying and the spawning of stoic Terminator II types who wouldn't cry if their pet basset hound took a rocket grenade to the head.

Look what happened to Alan Alda's career. One minute he's a big star on "M*A*S*H," with tears welling in his eyes and a trophy case full of Emmy awards, and the next minute he's working a farm equipment show in Des Moines.

It all turned around that fast.

Still, you couldn't blame women for getting fed up with all the blubbering.

After all, it had reached the point where men were breaking down at the sight of rainbows and adorable little beagle puppies, lapsing into uncontrollable crying jags while listening to "Colour My World" by Chicago.

Now, though, male crying is making a big comeback, and the same excesses seem to be taking place. (Look, I saw a guy on a cable cooking show weeping with joy after baking his first loaf of homemade bread.)

Much of this can be attributed to the men's movement, which encourages not just crying, but that hysterical, throw-yourself-on-the-ground wailing that's apparently a prerequisite to discovering the Inner Warrior in each man.

I sat in on a Male Awareness Workshop a couple of years ago and remember it as a tear-fest from the very beginning.

There were about a dozen of us in the room, sitting on folding chairs in a tight semi-circle around the group "activator," a man with a large head named Gene.

The subject that day was something like "How My Father Screwed Up My Life," which was just about guaranteed to produce a river of tears from the get-go.

Sure enough, one by one the men rose with quivering voices to tell horrible tales about strangled relationships with their fathers.

One fellow named Todd told about the time he was 7 and his dad backed the family station wagon over the youngster's new Schwinn bicycle.

Little Todd, as you could imagine, went slightly nuts over this development, wailing as if someone had just chopped off his arm.

"C'mon, nobody died here!" the father said after stepping out of the car and seeing little Todd carry on.

Then, as the two tried to disentangle the bike from the car's rear bumper, it was discovered that Todd's pet frog, which had been resting comfortably in a shoe box next to the bike, had met a horrible fate under one of the car tires.

This, of course, tended to water down the "Nobody died" theory considerably, although in the strictest sense of the word, nobody had died.

But instead of showing remorse for what he'd done and attempting to console his grief-stricken son, little Todd's dad snarled that he "never liked that damn frog anyway" and stomped away.

God almighty. I happened to be in a good mood when the workshop first began -- in fact, initially it was all I could do to keep from whistling in front of these people.

But by the time the session was over, the whole room was sniffling and I was about ready to throw myself in front of a train.

To see your frog all perky and full of life, and then just . . . well, I don't see how you get over something like that.

vTC

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