Boys don’t cry, men don’t know how

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I saw Padmavati in theaters recently and noted the most honest exchange in a scene between Sultan Allauddin Khilji and his official writer Amir Khushro. Amir is reciting the letter he wrote on Allaudin’s behalf to Alauddin’s object of obsession, Queen Padmavati. The Sultan is lamenting how he wishes he could put into words what he is feeling as well as Amir.

A man that has conquered and obtained everything he’s desired. Is jealous of the only thing he cannot steal from another man. The emotional tool to express himself.

As in the 13th century or 21st, men still have difficulty expressing their emotion. Because in a culture where males are expected to be strong, showing emotion is considered weak. And we make sure to instill that in our boys at a very young age.

Adolescent boys regularly hear the phrases, “Don’t cry,” “Suck it up,” Stop acting like a girl” and “Be a man.” Sometimes with bad intentions to put them down. Sometimes with good intentions to motivate them.

What happens to a boy that never complained when overwhelmed by situations out of his control? He becomes a man that never learned how to handle a situation he couldn’t control.

Reminds me of what Bell Hooks said in her book, The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love,

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

So what happens to a boy that never complained when overwhelmed by situations out of his control? He becomes a man that never learned how to handle a situation he couldn’t control.

Countless partners bear the heavy load of being the only emotional outlet for their husbands who are unable to react appropriately to a major life stress — such as job loss, financial trouble, death, or divorce. And when the partners aren’t able to provide the support their husbands need, they are met with either the silent treatment or an outburst.

Giving the cold shoulder is familiar because it continues what men are taught — suppress our feelings. Anger is easy because it is a secondary feeling that covers up other feelings that come first — humiliation, hurt, scared, frustration or rejection.

Imagine a scenario where 2 men are rejected. The first man gets angry and lashes out at the party that rejected him. The second man cries. Who do we consider weak in our culture? Who do we consider strong?

The situation does not need to be extreme. Men who never express their emotions don’t learn to process their emotions. They show immaturity. They have trouble developing healthy relationships. They confuse anger with strength. Lifetime of not recognizing their emotions makes them unable to recognize emotions. And now they’re numb.

I hope that we begin to shift our view on what is strength and what is not. Because having someone in your life that has grown emotionally is the strongest support you’ll ever have. And being able to confront your emotions in any situation life throws your way is what makes you strong.

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