First of all, ain’t no emotions, bih.
That one sentence could be the end of my piece, but to appease the blogger that is “Jah”, I’ll expound.
“Man the F@#K up!”
“Stop being a B@#$H!”
“Go do some push-ups or something!”
“Punch ’em in the chest; he’ll be ok!”
“He just needs a good ass whooping, that’s all!”
The list goes on, but I think you get the point. These are all statements I’ve heard as a child and teenage boy. They weren’t necessarily heard from family–except the “good ass whooping” one because that was definitely the panacea when I was growing up–but in the streets and in school.
Let me start off by saying that I cried more than anyone I know as a child. If I didn’t get my way, I just cried. I didn’t want to cry, though. I tried to hold it back, but I couldn’t hide it. It was embarrassing because, you know, only girls cry when they don’t get their way. I think I didn’t stop crying until 9th grade. Thereafter, it took me experiencing a close death to get a tear out of this ‘manly man’.
Question: Why do we only associate emotions with tears and sadness/weakness? As you grow and discover a better understanding of relationships, you find that “emotion” means a whole bunch of everything. Being emotional simply represents being open to bravely expressing how you feel, stating what you need, defining how you need to be loved, and passionately loving someone the way they need to be loved (assuming they are emotionally secure enough to tell you how they need to be loved). What’s wrong with any of that?
Let me stop ranting and get to the point:
Let’s not sugarcoat things.
Being an emotional man, according to all the manly men in the world, means you have low testosterone.
Don’t let the homies hear you spilling out your feelings about something only women are allowed to have feelings about. You know, men can care about orphans, victims of sex trafficking, homeless families, etc., but we bett’ not dare shed a tear and exclaim how bad we feel about those things out loud!
It’s just a cultural thing. Not a black/white cultural thing, but a man/woman cultural thing. DON’T BE SOFT. We are all taught directly and subconsciously that “real men don’t cry”, and “keep it to yourself” because “don’t no woman want a man that she’s gotta care for emotionally”. “He’s supposed to be the one she vents to, not vice versa”.
Well that shit doesn’t work!!!
The level of stress an emotion-less man aggregates throughout his life, with no release and firm resistance to being healed, is literally killing us. I understand the importance of mental health, so I make a concerted effort— as of recently (about 6 or 7 years now)—to express myself.
To be honest, if I hadn’t knocked down the barrier of “man the f$@K up”, I would be wife-less. When a man finds THE ONE, his ass is either going to man the F$@k up and tell her how he really feels, or he’s going to be so “manly” that he is unable to express how much he needs her and is afraid to lose her. I made a decision that my manhood is not based upon how I choose to express myself to people who aint got no business judging me in the first place.
So anyway, I got married, and poured out my heart to my wife, in my vows, in front of people who I knew would possibly judge me. Because, admittedly, the vows were gay (happy, not homosexual) as a mug. However, only THE ONE could get me to tackle such a feat. I feel so strongly about being vulnerable with my spouse. I’ve seen the power of our vulnerability and could not imagine how relationships develop and sustain without it. I would absolutely put that at the top of the list of reasons for divorce or strain…even ahead of finances and infidelity. My point is, my emotions don’t haunt me. I accept them as a part of me…an important and powerful part.
So… earlier… I lied.
You’ve caught me.
When I first started talking to you, I said that only death has caused me to cry since 9th grade. That’s a lie.
When I left Mabopane, South Africa, in December of 2009, I left behind children who had literally been thrown in a land fill and rescued by a humanitarian. I got back to America, and the overwhelming feeling of guilt hit me right in the chest (the same chest I should’ve been punched in so I could have MANNED UP in that moment) and I cried…like a baby.
They GAVE ME GIFTS for my birthday and they DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING!!
I also cry when I’m looking at sappy videos on Facebook and hear stories of hope, or the lack thereof, on television. Proudly, that ‘cry baby’ that I was, as a child, is still present. Now listen, I’m still too manly to cry in front of my wife…
(except this one time in premarital counseling)
I know that she isn’t naïve enough to believe I won’t cry in front of her if I have to. I feel confident enough within our union to use her shirt as a napkin if the waterworks are necessary. Nevertheless, that MACHO MAN stuff that’s imbedded in me just won’t let me do it.
I try extremely hard to overcome the falsehood that emotions aren’t okay when on display; but being vulnerable around people who may think I have too much estrogen is just a risk I’m not yet willing to take. Actually, as I reflect on how vulnerable I have been in this conversation with you all, I implore myself to take the advice given to me as a child: the need to “MAN THE F$@K UP!”
By “MANNING THE F$@K UP” I mean that we as men, providers, protectors need to be strong enough to open up and express ourselves to our loved ones, and on public platforms. There’s this balance required for healthy manhood: Knowing to be emotional enough to open our hearts to goodness, as well as practicing emotional groundness and obedience as to not lose our top when other men anger us when they call us out for being [soft]. Like anything else, we have to pick our battles and make an effort to surround ourselves with people who won’t think our feelings are abnormal just because Sammy saw color for the first time in his life, and his family recorded it.
Just me? Cool.
So yeah, that’s our daily struggle: Finding that finite median.
Black Man, You are not weak. You are not soft. You don’t need to do more push-ups. You don’t have low testosterone. You are a human, with a soul and a voice that deserves to be heard by those who are man enough, or woman enough, to listen and embrace you with empathy and reciprocate your emotions.