Words by: Tahlia Sanders
When men cry their faces relax like a tired fist, spilling its contents onto the hard floor below, its skin ravined from too many hours spent tightly clenched. The contents clatter around you like shiny, hard little marbles and the cacophonous chorus they make as they hit the ground populates the silence. You hadn’t found the silence uncomfortable until now but as the marbles roll away from you into corners and under furniture, dragging their melancholy din along behind them, you wonder why you hadn’t found its absence strange before.
You fall to your knees and clamber towards the shadowy infinity, following the glint of a rolling marble, which is very quickly being dulled by the dust it is gathering. But the man is quicker. He has already swept all the marbles further into the depths. When you ask him later about the particularities of one of the little glass orbs, he just looks at you vaguely.
“Marbles?” He repeats perplexedly, “I don’t play with marbles anymore.”
Is it strange that I sometimes find it quietly satisfying when I see a man cry? Not out of any form of sadism but because I’ve seen him and his peers carrying the patriarchy on their backs and in the soles of their shoes for so long. I’ve seen them hesitantly stitch it into the lining of their clothes and learn to wear it proudly on their badges. I’ve seen them mix it into grey putty and use it to cement their emotions into a non-descript weight they store at the pit of their stomach. I’ve seen them paint one another with insults branded as boyish banter and then swirl their brushes clean in cloudy water and lay them out to dry like nothing ever happened.
Feminists work day and night to chip away at the plaster cast of expectations that women have been cocooned inside for centuries. But no one has taught men how to escape their swaddling with minimal damage to the essential parts. Women are hollowing out their caskets and men are crawling into their vacated premises for warmth.
When I see a man weep, it’s as cathartic for me as I hope it is for him.
A man in my life once remarked to me that men don’t know how to interact with other men. This off-handed comment took place after my observing his participation in a particularly stilted display of machismo and remarking on how out of character it seemed. This spur-of-the moment comment by him was one of the most poignantly accurate things I had ever heard. In my experience, men are able to expose the weeping wounds of their vulnerability a lot more easily to women than to one another.
But I do notice a vast and noticeable change between the conduct of men my own age and those of my father or grandfathers’ generations.
When I see men in their twenties touch one-another with ease of affection it feels like a soaring triumph. When I hear congratulations or consolation or compassion exchanged between two men, their openness seems to be an invitation towards a stronger future for humanity.
When I hear my father or one of his friends take offense at the sensitivity of the boys his generation has reared into adulthood, I know revolutionary change is in our midst. It makes me feel proud.