I am a man. I am in my mid-20s. I am also what John Dorian refers to as a “sensy”. “What is a sensy,” you may ask? Well, a “sensy” is a sensitive guy. Don’t get it twisted—I like shooting guns, action movies, metal music, cars, and other manly things just like the next guy…but I have come to discover that I am more in tune with my emotions than most men. The part that sucks about this, is that this is counter to the stereotype that most people have about men.
While I will agree that grit, toughness, and strength can be fine attributes to say that men should possess, I think that our attitude of toughness is skewed. Like most men my age, I look up to Ron Swanson in ways (although he is an entirely fictional character), but I think that this hyper-version of manhood is slowly crippling what true manhood is meant to be.
When we look at heroes in movies, TV shows, and even books, they seem to often be these renegade men, flying solo, without much emotion, fear of death, or caring about anything—and we love it. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite characters are like this. Han Solo (Star Wars), Dr. Grant (Jurassic Park [which is a book and is excellent if you did not know]), Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation), and John McClane (Die Hard) are some of mine, just to name a few. We often like to focus on their grit and independence, and define those characteristics as what “manhood” looks like. We often exclude the fact that every one of the characters that I mentioned have a gooey-inner-center. Han Solo loves Leia, and joins the rebel alliance because of her. Dr. Grant ends up caring for children, because of the kids that he gets stuck with. Ron Swanson falls in love and helps raise his wife’s children. John McClane cares for his daughter, his son, and his ex-wife. Not only this, but at their inner-most core, they are sometimes tortured souls because of their reclusive habits throughout the movies, TV shows, and books.
Contrary to popular belief, men feel complex emotions and feel deeply. In a recent study done by Binghamton University and University College London done on the effect of a break-up after along-term relationship, women have a more difficult time post-break up, but men NEVER FULLY GET OVER THE BREAK UP. Craig Morris, Binghamton University’s research associate said this about the findings—“the man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it ‘sinks in’ that he must ‘start competing’ all over again to replace what he has lost — or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable.”
In another study, it was found that men have more emotions when exposed to emotionally-driven content, but do not show it as much as women. In fact, men reported feeling less emotional, but “their physiological changes showed that in fact they felt emotion more strongly.”
So how do we reconcile this discovery with the belief that men are hardened, rugged individuals, that don’t ever have strong emotions, or GOD FORBID, cry? The truth is, we cannot. So how does this belief of what I can the “hardened complex” continue to exist? Simply put, it’s because we men are afraid to be open and honest with our emotions in a culture that persists in telling men that “real men” don’t cry, it’s "unmanly" to talk about emotions, and feel things deeply—all the while having deeper emotions than we would like to believe.
Sadly, what often happens due to the “hardened complex” is turning these emotions of sorrow, love, or hurt into something like pride or anger. I’m here to change that. I believe that as men, we need to show the world that true manhood has nothing to do with hiding emotions and shoving feelings below the surface. I’m not saying that we need to start crying in public (because I don't know a single person who enjoys that) or put on “Screaming Infidelities” by Dashboard Confessional and cry for 3 hours post-break-up (sadly this is something I have done as a 16 year old boy), but instead gradually begin to open up to our close friends and loved ones. You might be surprised. As you open up, your friends will as well, creating a more healthy environment where sorrows and hurts can be healed; slowly making a world were less violence, anger, and sorrow reign.
Let’s all get one thing straight musical group The Four Seasons—big girls DO cry, and men do too.