Adam Lee Potter: Every man should be allowed to cry
PUBLISHED: 09:29 14 June 2016
Whether it is tears of pride, empathy, sorrow or joy, every man should be allowed to cry
My nine-year-old daughter Dory asked me only the other day, shrill with disapproval: “Daddy, why are you always crying? Mummy never does.”
I had just burst into tears on the phone after a kindly stranger told me that Dory had got through to the semi-final of Dorset’s Got Talent. Tearing up, you’d think I’d been told I had days to live.
The woman clearly thought I’d hit the gin early. “Perhaps,” she said carefully, “I’d best talk to your wife?”
There is no more potent tearjerker than a giddy mix of relieved shock and paternal pride, compounded by the kindness of strangers.
The realisation that my daughter, tiny as she is, had impressed a trio of long-suffering judges by belting out a ballad she’d written herself was more than I could bear.
Indeed, the judges had but one complaint: the percussion-free backing track. Dory pointed the finger at once. “Daddy did that,” she told them, truthfully.
Crying is like an illness with me. My family now won’t even come to the cinema after my Garbo-esque sobbing silenced the Dorchester premiere of Toy Story 3.
Pretty much anything sets off my maudlin nostalgia button: poorly children, sick animals, the opening bars of The Lark Ascending, a whiff of Mitsouko that takes me immediately back to the maternal embrace of 1976, the sweet but tough granny in Billy Elliot or - worst of all - Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
You don’t get any more emasculating than that: unmanned by Petula Clark. When she gets hit by a stray V-1 rocket and Peter O’Toole’s stiff upper lip starts to tremble, I’m lost.
My wife - who only cries in private, fiercely and rarely, and where’s the fun in that? - tolerates these histrionic outbursts even as she mutters that it’s all a little mauve.
When I broke down during The Archers omnibus (poor Helen) at the weekend, she snapped: “Oh, for God’s sake pull yourself together. If you get any girlier than this, you’ll be threading your eyebrows.”
I told her: “Aren’t men supposed to be in touch with their feelings these days?” She replied tersely: “Yes, but you’ve gone and jumped into bed with yours.”
But why are we embarrassed - and women appalled - by men crying? It’s cathartic, purging and ever ready: quicker than a round of golf, healthier than alcohol, safer than medication and cheaper than therapy.
As Charles Dickens put it in Great Expectations: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears. I was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
Our tears may be as aphrodisiacal as John Major’s socks but they are - in moderation - an emancipated badge of male decency.
A man’s tears are not those of a child: we’re not crying from pain or self-pity, but with empathy. You could prise out my fingernails and my eyes wouldn’t so much as water. Just don’t make me watch Marley & Me.
More from Adam…
• Adam Lee-Potter on the stress of moving house - Sixty plus boxes, five sofas, a child and a Labrador - moving still feels as stressful as divorce or bereavement even when your new home is just down the road
• Adam Lee-Potter: Love our county? Then eat and drink its cornucopia of local produce with relish - I am a sucker for a cookbook and our groaning kitchen shelves could give Waterstones a run for its money. From Alexandre Dumas to Tetsuya Wakuda, no cuisine is uncovered. It’s like an illness with me.