Should men cry?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 1996, 12:00am

YES It would do them so much good, don't you think? Not that blubbery, sottish snivelling into the pint glass as dawn creeps up over the night's debris and even the karaoke has dwindled into silence. Men usually don't remember those tears and deny their existence later. No - a good, honest-to-God, eye-welling, heart-squeezing bawl. And, speaking of God, isn't it strangely indicative how the two most human words in the whole Bible - Jesus wept - are now used to express manly, fist-thumping exasperation, along with that teeth-clenched expression 'For crying out loud!'.

Men have peculiar notions about their testosterone levels. Hordes of them still think that it isn't manly to be seen bedecked with babies when, as any women can verify, there is no sight guaranteed to set the female heart more quickly a-flutter. (Some years ago, there was a spate of American comedies which made much play with this scenario but, as we all know, such works bear as much relation to real life as Xinhua does to investigative journalism.) It's the same with crying. When Gone With The Wind was being made, Clark Gable had to be frogmarched on set to do the scene where he weeps over the stricken Scarlett. He thought tears rolling down the panstick would detract from his tough-man image, but what producer David O. Selznick had cannily realised was that sobbing would quadruple his popularity, which it duly did. Vivien Leigh, meanwhile, was crying in her dressing-room because she couldn't stand Gable's bad breath, but that's another story.

Paul Gascoigne, unfortunately, increased his popularity during the 1990 World Cup via the most televised lachrymose display the world has ever seen. This only goes to show that crying is not always proof of genteel sensibilities, a fact corroborated by former Australian premier Paul Keating who went through a phase of bursting into tears on every possible public occasion. While I'm obviously all in favour of male emotion, a simple rule-of-thumb worth bearing in mind is that the larger the number of witnesses, the smaller the genuine degree of heartbreak. Keating, and the egregious Robert 'Let's Weep in the Wilderness While Hugging A Tree' Bly, set back the emotional progress of men by several decades since no male worth his salty tears would want to be associated with either.

No, the point is - as it has always been with women - to have a good chemical clearout through the tear-ducts, and you don't need an audience to do that. Everyone feels better after they've had a decent cry. Moreover, men have the advantage of not wearing mascara so there's less mess afterwards. Still, it's rare enough to provoke media comment as Dr Ronald Ding-bong Leung's tears in Legco recently proved. And male sobs can certainly carry worrying force, as Jimmy Lai demonstrated on 60 Minutes upon being asked to contemplate his future in Hong Kong. Perhaps we should all be investing in more hankies.

NO The only reason men cry is because women love it. You do, don't you? You may want your man to look tough and rugged, but the real heart-melter is when you see him at his most vulnerable, tears streaming down his face, hair unruly.

Tears have amazing pulling power. If you doubt the power of tears, look what they did for Paul Gascoigne. Gazza, is, at best, an ugly northern bastard, yet despite these awful hindrances in life, practically every woman in Britain was gagging to get into his shorts.

I am not scared to admit that once, when I was being dumped by a woman, I felt so sorry for myself that a couple of tears squeezed out much against my wishes. Something unbelievable happened. She wanted to go to bed with me. So, we went to bed . . . and then she dumped me. It was an interesting example of instinct gaining a temporary upper hand over reason.

Men are not stupid. It didn't take us long to realise that tears are a very potent weapon when it comes to getting women into bed. So if a man is crying with the sole purpose of seduction, I fully sanction it and wish him luck.

But if he is crying because he feels, God help us, emotional, it is quite different. I read recently about the time Bob Dole asked Jack Kemp to be his running mate. They were in Kemp's house and it went along these lines. 'Bob was in tears and I was in tears and then Jack burst into tears and Bob's wife started crying and soon we were all hugging and crying and weeping and Bob and Jack were crying together and hugging.' I thought to myself: bloody poofs.

It is an essential tool in life to know how to control your emotions. You cannot, for example, become insanely angry every time you feel insanely angry. You have to bottle it and control it. The same applies to things that want to make you cry.

For example, whenever I am forced into a conversation with an American, the full tragedy of the world seems to land on my shoulders and I feel like crying, but I gamely bottle it and continue my deliriously happy discussion about the number of chicken wings it is possible to consume.

There are those who argue crying is like a release valve for your frustration and who further say that you feel better after a good cry. Well you might, but I don't. I like being frustrated. I like having my emotions bottled up. I like being anxious and nervous and wired and jumpy. I enjoy treating people callously, failing to react to their pain, staring through their sorrow. Being a repressed Englishman I am more than qualified to talk about emotional repression and to use a cliche, I believe in the stiff upper lip. Face it, when you are a repressed Englishman, something has to be stiff.

- David Ibison