Men In Office, Crying

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Doonesbury was my first indication that men should never cry.
It didn’t tell me directly, but rather through a punchline that I didn’t get.  I was reading through the pile of Doonesbury comics at my favorite teacher’s house, and one of the punchlines was, “And who can forget Ed Muskie’s ‘melting snowflakes’?”  Like much of Doonesbury, I didn’t quite get it – I was nine, for Christ’s sake – and I’m not quite sure why I asked about that punchline when so many others flew over my head.
But Mrs. Montlick explained to me that there was a politician called Ed Muskie, and some people were saying some very mean things about his wife, and while he was giving a speech defending her, Muskie broke down and cried.  In front of everyone.  And this was viewed as such an awful thing that he lied and told everyone his tears were just snowflakes from a blizzard, melting on his cheeks.  But no one believed him, and after that he wasn’t fit to run in politics any more.
I thought that was pretty awful.
Then, when I was ten and got lost on the new bus system and got off on the wrong stop, I walked for hours until I finally found a familiar landmark: the diner where my grandmother worked.  I was hysterical at that point, a small boy with snot-wet cheeks, and when I got in the owner was exceptionally kind.  He gave me a free soda, and called my gramma, and explained that everything would be all right, and was so kind and comforting that soon my terror had been reduced to a few sniffles.
Just before Gramma showed up, though, he gave me a serious look.  “A piece of advice, kid.  Never cry.  Men don’t cry.”
I don’t, usually.  I get ridiculously upset, sometimes enough to cut myself, but when I cry it’s often this thin trickle, a leaky toilet.  I do it in private, hugging a pillow; I hate for Gini to see me weep.  I have no problems sharing the emotions with her, but the tears are hard to come by.
Then there’s last night’s speech, where Obama thanked his supporters, and he started to cry:

And I thought, in a sort of terrified wonder: he’s crying.  The President of the United States is crying.
And I don’t know.  I’m sure Presidents have cried before on camera… or maybe they haven’t.  It’s terribly unmasculine, is all.  We all know crying is the sign of a nutcase out of control, it’s what insipid women do when they’re breaking down in the face of hard choices, and you can’t respect a crier.  I know.  I’ve been friends with a lot of very tough women who cry easily, and they all hate it, scrubbing the tears from their face and furious that this happening at work, it makes them look bad, why does their stupid body have to respond this way.
The President is crying.  And why wouldn’t he?  This has to be the most emotional thing of his life.  I mean, when he got elected, that was momentous, but he couldn’t really have had any idea what was at stake until he was in the Captain’s Seat and being brought every insoluable decision for four years straight.  He, more than anyone, knew how much would be lost for him and the people he loved if he had lost.  He, more than anyone, knew how many people believed in him, and how many people didn’t, and to get the mandate that yes, it was narrow, but we sided with you must have been shattering.
Why wouldn’t he cry?
Why wouldn’t that be okay?

1 Comment

  1. Katherine Marie
    Nov 11, 2012

    And that right there is why I like Obama, even though I sometimes disagree with him politically. If nothing else, he seems like he actually cares about America, something I don’t see often in politicians.

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