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I Know Now Why You Cry, But It Is Something I Can Never Do

Throughout 1994’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, the main character is presented with two opposing ideas: 1) That we all have a destiny set forth by God, and we must meet that destiny head-on and 2) That life is a box of chocolates, that you never know what you’re gonna get.  The interesting thing is that Forrest Gump is taught good, honest, God-fearing values from his Mama, the one who is actually more of a go-with-the-flow, open-minded free spirit.  But it’s Lieutenant Dan—the strict military man believing in hardcore Fate, in righteous destiny—who openly displays disgust with the Fate-Maker, who feels lost and forsaken for a good portion of the film.


Forrest comes to the conclusion—on that important existential question—that “It’s a bit of both,” meaning maybe we all have a destiny, and maybe we’re also all sort of floating along on a breeze.
I couldn’t agree more with Forrest—and I apply this philosophy to almost all arguments:
Nature versus nurture?  A bit of both.
God versus science?  A bit of both.
Empire Strikes Back versus Return of the Jedi?  A bit of both.
Blondes versus brunettes?  Definitely both.  And redheads, too.


This cheerful, inclusive relativism annoys the crap out of some people, especially friends or family who want answers, or anyone who can’t decipher how liberal or conservative I really am.
There are some things I’m definitely certain are wrong: racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, Communism, Anti-Semitism…and I’m sure there are a few more isms I can’t stand.  Ismism (the need to label everything) is a bitch.  Itiswhatitism (the frequent uttering of possibly the stupidest sentence in any language) is the worst.  But if you present me with two options, and neither option involves the aforementioned isms, imminent death, abuse, heartbreak, or mayonnaise, and I’ll probably say “both.”
But I digress.
The real reason I brought up Forrest Gump has little to do with existentialism or spirituality; rather, it’s the fact that I cry like a girl during two key moments in the film.
More importantly, the statement “cry like a girl” struck me a week ago as I developed blog ideas on the topic of “Gender,” because, as I wrote a little while ago, I am “definitely certain” that sexism is wrong.
Isn’t claiming that females cry a certain way—or more often than males—an inherently sexist idea?  Doesn’t that statement—and similar ones, e.g. “throw like a girl,”—stem from some kind of deep-rooted, stereotypical notion that the so-called “fairer” sex is also, clearly, the “weaker” one?
I’m not a crier at funerals, and I’m good at not choking up during sad goodbyes.  I keep a stiff upper lip.  I keep my chin up.  I joke around.  I fake it.  I block it.  I bottle things up.
Thirty percent of my left lung collapsed once—it felt weird as hell, but no tears came.  I pulled my groin sliding into second back when I was fifteen; didn’t even sniff, played through it, hit a triple in my next at bat.  That same year of high school, I pitched a game in which I gave up six—that’s only one short of seven—home runs to opposing batters.  The only consolation that day was that I hit two home runs myself; we lost, of course, because of my horrendous hurling performance, but did I hang my head in shame and wail?  No.  Tom Hanks once explained in a different movie: there’s no crying in baseball.


But once, I almost started bawling just listening to the Zen-like jingling that plays on the main menu screen of the Nintendo Wii.
The first time I saw the Pixar film, Up, I squirmed all teary-eyed during the early montage of a couple’s life and struggles.  The second time I saw Up, I found entirely new things to heave and sob about, and I really don’t think I made it through much of the movie without wiping my eyes.
I recently reread the novelized Flowers for Algernon, and by the end of it I was a wretched, convulsing mess.
At the end of Shadow of the Colossus, I legit wept.
The last episode of The Wonder Years—at one particular point when they start playing the score from The Natural, and again when Kevin is talking to his dad with Daniel Stern’s wonderfully cheesy voice-over in the background—renders me utterly unmanly.
But that’s the question I’m getting to: what is manly?
Plenty of ladies say they think it shows strength when a man can cry in front of her.
Part of me likes that sentiment; in particular, the part of me that shrivels into a sad ball of snot when I hear Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
But another part of me is man enough to admit that I’m embarrassed to be man enough to cry like a girl at the drop of a hat.  I almost never cry in real life, and I’m fairly tolerant of pain; but when I’m forced to think of real life’s cry-worthy shit by a piece of music, or a work of art, or the written word, I turn into a right sucker.
Am I a nice guy?  Sensitive?  Thoughtful?  Do I like puppies, and cupcakes, and cuddling?
But I also like when, you know, Mel Gibson, in Braveheart, decapitates a motherfucker for being English.  I love American football; in particular, when a linebacker sacks a quarterback and you wonder for a millisecond if someone is about to be decapitated.  And I love Westerns, where Clint Eastwood and John Wayne can shoot your head off from a few hundred yards away.
william wallace
I like movies like First Blood, for God’s sake, about a misunderstood Vietnam veteran using survival tactics, camouflage, and a few sharp sticks to take out an entire police force.
Wait a minute.
Sly bawls at the end of that movie.
Is Stallone girly?
This guy isn’t girly.
But what is girly?
Am I preconditioned by society, by parents, by religion, by history, to believe that pink is for girls, and blue is for boys?
Or, is it possible that pink really is for girls, and blue really is for boys, but the logical, agnostic, mostly scientific feminist in me denies that possibility on principle because of my assumption that gender-based assumptions are generally all wet?
Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Either way, I dare any human to watch My Life with Michael Keaton and not tear up at least a little.  Or see Schindler’s List or The Pianist.  Watch—or read—One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; if you don’t have something in your eyes by the end, you’re probably just a soulless bastard no matter your gender.
What makes you humans cry?
Hmm.  My last sentence makes me wonder: if aliens exist, do they cry?
And if so, like girls?

15 responses to “I Know Now Why You Cry, But It Is Something I Can Never Do”

  1. Avatar SusanJBigelow says:

    Crying is such a minefield! It's odd, ever since my hormone balance shifted from male to female, I cry an awful lot more. Almost every other trans woman I know reports exactly the same thing, while female-to-male transsexuals say they cry much less once the testosterone gets up to male levels. Before I could get run over by a Mack truck and have dry eyes, but now I'll see a sad kitten on the internet and lose it!
    I have no idea why this is, and I'm not saying it's the same for everyone. But it's really interesting that it seems to happen this way, and that for some folks there may be a connection to hormone balance.

    • Kail Kail says:

      Interesting indeed!
      I'm quite sure my testosterone levels are manly enough…but wha-happens to those hormones at the end of Children of a Lesser God? Those manly hormones curl up and cry under the sink and only milk and a cookie can save them.

  2. Avatar ebbillings says:

    I also believe hormones play a HUGE part. That's why I started crying while listening to the second half of Abbey Road the other day, but any other day of the week I can sit stone-faced during a tearjerker.
    Additionally, I don't think there should be any shame or implication of sexism in designating attributes to a certain sex, it is what makes us different and should be celebrated. It doesn't mean other sexes don't share those attributes, just that they tend to be more prevalent in a certain sex.

    • Kail Kail says:

      Love the Beatles. There are probably like six or seven Beatles tunes that could lead me to tears. I like Elanor Rigby for that in particular.
      When it comes to shame, I hope I made it clear that I'm not ashamed to cry. Embarrassed a little? Yeah, but only a little. If I'm watching Up with like six other manly dudes, I'm crying and I don't give a shit what they say.
      But I do think it's sexist–or at least belittling to females–when people (even women) say things like "You're such a girl" to the person who is admiring a kitten, or a cute penguin, or crying after a tearjerker.
      I like penguins, and I'm a dude. Why is a vagina a prerequisite for liking cute things? Or for bawling after sad books?
      Obviously, it's not. But some people act like it is, and those sayings and attitudes sure seem sexist to me. There are people who use throwaway sayings like that all the time, one of them addressed by Kfrayz in a blog a few months ago…like "You're such a fag," or "that's so gay."
      I jokingly say "cry like a girl" all the time, but I do it with a bit of hesitance because I myself find it sexist and hypocritical, because I find men just as capable in the crying department, regardless of hormones. I think a lot of men hide their crying or bottle it up–because that is what they've been either biologically designed to do or trained to do by a generally sexist society, or, a bit of both.
      Crying or showing appreciation for soft fluffy things can be made to seem "weak," and there are those of both sexes who would like to designate those as weak attributes more likely to happen amongst what they consider–implicitly or explicitly–the weaker sex.
      I think we should celebrate our differences, definitely! I love our differences. I love women, not men. But I don't find women any weaker than men. In my experience, people who really do believe that girls are born criers and men are born football players, are behaving somewhat sexist because they imply women are inherently weak and men inherently strong.
      Is crying really more prevalent in women? Is pink really for girls? Is it all just hormones? I just don't know.
      Either way, I'm a sucker for a sad (or happy) ending!

  3. Jason Jason says:

    Thank you for a) a great piece, b) the Demetri Martin clip, c) the Liberal and Conservative images, and d) It'swhatitism. All vital. All great for a Friday.

    • Kail Kail says:

      Thanks, Jason. If I ever go back in time, I'll be a hippy with a bunch of bumper stickers on a rusty van, and one of those bumper stickers will make no sense to the people of the sixties, but I'm sure some poet or rock groupie would love it: IT is NOT what IT fucking IS.

  4. Avatar WreckedUm says:

    Some songs bring it out in me, mainly ones that remind me of friends and family that have passed away. frequently they are Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphy's songs.
    The last time I cried randomly was when a local radio show was broadcasting from a food drive that they run every year, right around thanksgiving, about a mile from my house. They talked about a family of 4, a father, 2 boys and a girl, under the age of ten, who had come to donate food. What made them so special is that, through the uncertainties of life, they found themselves homeless. They had been shifting from shelters to staying with family members, sometimes being split up, while the father worked to get them back on their feet. They were about to buy a house, just in time for Christmas. They didn't have money for toys for the kids, but the little girl said she was just so happy the family had a place to live, she didn't care, it was the best Christmas ever for her. I was stuck in traffic listening to the radio when I heard all this, and just teared up and cried like a little baby. The thought of kids not having toys at Christmas, even if they were just happy to have a house, hit me really hard. I had already donated some food at the drive, but the Marines were there doing their toys for tots drive, also. There was no way for me to try and get something to that specific family, but I went straight to a Wal-Mart and bought all the latest GI Joe wave I could find and donated them to toys for tots. Kids need toys at Christmas.
    There is one movie moment that makes me tear up just thinking about it. In the first Star Wars, during the Death Star trench battle, when Luke was lining up his shot into the exhaust port, he had no wing men left, Vader and two TIES were bearing down on him, and just as Vader had Luke's X-Wing in his sites, the Millenium Falcon comes swooping in to take out one of the TIES and force the other one to hit Vader and send him spinning out into space. Han tells Luke "You're all clear kid, now let's blow thing and go home". Luke takes the shot and destroys the Death Star.
    I'm getting misty just describing it.

  5. Kail Kail says:

    Ah, Star Wars. Yes. Obviously worthy of tears in many parts. Star Trek: Wrath of Khan can get me choked up, too.
    I listen to a lot of radio on my way to and from work, and hear a lot of sad stories like that which are often heart-wrenching.
    All my pop culture and media examples pale in comparison to real, actual, cry worthy shit happening every day.

  6. Kail Kail says:

    For the record, Braveheart actually makes me cry, too.

  7. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Great piece, Kail. Like you I tear up during Braveheart (The speech pre-Battle of Stirling more than his death, although I bawled during the torture scene the first time I saw it.) and Spock's daeth during Wrath of Khan. What's funny is, I still tear up at both of those even though I've seen each at least 50-75 times. Like Wrecked-Um, I do tear up a bit every time Han saves Luke in the Death Star Trench.
    Your title made me want a T2 reference, I feel cheated. 🙂

    • Kail Kail says:

      Well I figured it was obvious: T2 makes me cry, hence the title.

    • Kail Kail says:

      Yes Braveheart makes me cry at like three different parts: when she gives him the thistle when they're only like seven; when she is looking for him and can't find him; for some reason the scene where he is badass and speaks a bit of Latin gets me (when the French lady talks to him); and I'm a sucker for both the torture scene and the Bruce going for battle at the end. A lot of people understandably can't stand Gibson, but Braveheart is still pretty damn good, and not just about the decapitations.

  8. Avatar disperse says:

    I don’t have an answer and am not going take the time to look it up so I’ll just throw it out there:
    What’s the evolutionary advantage of crying?
    Also: The prologue of Up totally got me too.

  9. Pual Pual says:

    This is great. I, too, have a hard time crying about actual, real-life things. But movies often destroy me, even cheesy ones. Whilst blubbering, sometimes I'll ask myself – what is going on? Why am I crying at a dumb movie? Is it the film or am I releasing pent-up sadness, frustration, etc? Probably a bit of both.
    My college roommate and I both got all weepy eyed at the end of "Glory." We tried to hide our tears, which makes it a funnier memory.

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