News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 1/1/98
Great articles, and perfectly timed for some events in my life. A couple of things came up for me. The first was an incident with my kids a few years ago. I was driving and my son (then 4) and daughter (then 7) were in the back. I overheard them talking about crying. My son commented, "Dad doesn't cry", to which my daughter replied, "That's because when Dad wants to cry, he gets angry instead". It was a real eye opener for me, both because of their awareness of it and my daughter's frightening assessment - do we substitute anger for crying? Sometimes.
From: email@example.com (Ken Dow);
Sent at Sun, 4 Jan 1998 12:07:17 -0800;
Re:"Men Stay Silent & Male Anger"
The other thing I wanted to let you know was that I started taking traditional Okinawan karate a few years back, along with my two children. We started mainly for fitness and as something we could learn together. We are all still doing it (as is my wife), and I believe one of its many benefits is providing a sanctioned environment to consider and work with our aggressive selves. As I tell my friends, the alternatives I see are denying aggressiveness (bad idea) or letting it get worked out in public (worse idea).
Thanks for the link on Scripting News to this excerpt from Camus.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brad Cahoon);
Sent at Sun, 4 Jan 1998 13:12:48 -0500;
"Neither Victims nor Executioners"
I empathize with the feelings and ideas you've expressed in the recent DaveNets about gender and violence. I think it's true that our culture tends to limit our ability to recognize the violence of women.
I really liked your pointer to Camus in this context, because it's a reminder that resistance to violence is a larger issue than trying to adjust our distorted perceptions of male and female behavior. He argues that the ultimate issue is whether or not human reason and decency can prevail over the forces that oppose them.
It might be easy to dismiss Camus' message as an artifact of the Cold War, but what he's saying is more important now than ever. He calls on each of us to make a personal commitment to resisting all forms of violence -- especially the violence of systems of thought and language that require the demonization of others. Trying to live out this resistance requires us to question the habits that shape our perceptions of the sexes as well as the ideologies of power politics.
The Artist as a Witness of Freedom is another Camus essay on the web that addresses some of the same questions.
I¹m impressed with your recent series of article, comments and letters on men. I¹ve thought about writing on other issues that you¹ve commented on but this one strikes so close to home I can¹t help but opening my big mouth.
From: email@example.com (Paul Tyler);
Sent at Sun, 4 Jan 98 11:53:46 -0500;
Anyone who lives by the stereotypes our society provides is asking for trouble. Women discovered that being daddy¹s little girl and their guy¹s sex object wasn¹t too fulfulling, to say the least. The same applies for men. As men, we pay a high price for being cut off from our emotions and from subsequently stuffing more of them as we live our lives out. It takes a lot of energy to hold it all in, leaving us with less flexibility and intelligence, making us prey to isolation, fear and depression.
Not enough has been said about the nature of fear in men. Remember we're the warriors, for the most part or at least, we¹ve had the training. Social conditioning begins it preparation soon after birth. Remember during the Vietnam war how we used to say that society had done most of the work of preparing soldiers to do their duty and that the military just honed and focused them with a few months of extra training? It still goes on.
Young males are dissuaded from feeling fear and pain which is completely different from being without fear or pain. Essentially, we are told our bodies and minds are lying to us. This is just one step in the making of a warrior. Another takes place when we learn an exclusive aggressive competition. What many of us take away from the lesson is not a healthy competitive spirit (i.e., it's just a game and we have to live, work and cooperate with each other afterwards) but a notion that there are only two poles: dominance and submission.
Instead of finding a middle way, a win-win, we just fear losing. We always have to come out on top. Above all, we fear failure. These fears drive us. If we don¹t exorcise them, they show up not only in sports or warfare, but in business and our personal lives. Remember all the talk about business is warfare and the popularity of Sun Tzu, etc.? Our whole economy is built around it. Remember Arnold Schwartzenegger in Conan, "...what is a warrior¹s greatest pleasure. To drive our enemies before us and hear the lamentations of their women." How different is this from the business model of, say, Microsoft or most other Fortune 500 companies, in the end.
There is very little safety for men. As part of the conditioning, we are trained to be suspicious of others. After all, we have to kill them or they may try to kill you. We're warriors, after all, and we may have to fight them at any time. If we don¹t watch them closely, they may try to pull a fast one. Steal our women, etc. Ironically, our trade off for all this swallowed fear, for all this denial of equity and mutual benefit, is that we have the social sanction to dominate women. Not to work out an equitable and sane and mutually beneficial relationship, but simply to dominate. As if with all this denial of self, we are ready for anything else. The other side of self denial comes when we belittle ourselves in our own minds. This has social sanction, too. We, after all, are the cannon fodder. If we had any conception of our own value we'd hesitate before throwing ourselves on the live grenade, wouldn't we? We'd hesitate before putting ourselves in harm's way at all, unecessarily. Yet if we hesitate at all, we're cowards, at least in our own minds.
I have an anecdote. A few years ago, I made my living doing legal research for a large publishing outfit. I read a case that, unfortunately, dealt with a typical lover's lane murder. The young woman was raped; the young man was made to kneel and shot in the back of the head. The lawyer who checked my work happened to read the same case and commented on it to me in the office. She dwelt solely on the tragedy of the young woman's rape. When I pointed out that the woman was, at least, allowed to live, she was nonplused. She couldn¹t understand that at the very least the young woman with help might be able to lead a decent life whereas the young man was precluded from that option. This societal prejudice was played out in the slanted coverage of the OJ Simpson case or even Princess Di's death. What was important to society as a whole, was the woman involved. The dead men were, for the most part, insigificant, only worthy of mention in passing or as an aside.
Little wonder men are angry. We can't grieve or feel pain, which is exactly what we need to do if we are to heal from the injuries life imposes on us all. Even our anger is manipulated and pointed at others, at an enemy, real or if we can't rationally find one, at one we conjure up from our the depths of own fears.
Hi. I'm Lauren Tamara and I just wanted to say I was really moved by your letter on anger. I feel murder is murder and murders aren't welcome in any healthy society.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Lauren Tamara);
Sent at Sun, 04 Jan 1998 02:25:12 -0800;
I agree with you.
I agree with your frustration about the Bobbit case. It makes me sick that somehow her violation and violence against another person is OK in this sick way. There obviously was a weird and violent relationship there and abuse on both sides. I think society needs to be able to have the strengh to say what they admire in men-inner beliefs as well as professional skills. It is a sign of weakness that we can't seem to honor our male today. So much I could go on about.
I think the government has enough power already and actually I am against government legal executions of any U.S. citizen. I am really glad to see someone posting this opinion on the net.
Quick comments in response to the mail I have received from women. I don't want to quote them for a couple of reasons. I don't want to say anyone in specific is wrong, or to embarass them by disagreeing with them, or appearing to lecture them, on an individual basis. But I wanted to get these responses on the record.
From: email@example.com (Dave Winer);
Sent at Sat, 03 Jan 1998 11:12:18 -0800;
The bottom line is that, mostly, women are not listening. The responses have told me how much harder women have it, how hard it is for them to get heard or stay safe.
I got it. I've been hearing about this all my life. Now it's your turn to listen, to hear what the other side of your defenses sounds like.
Such a hard wall these people have, a whole class of people they are unwilling to hear from. So many excuses not to listen.
One person asked me if it was all women that I felt this way about, or just some. Immediately this brought up feelings of inadequacy for me. I went thru them. Thought about it. My response: only women friends of mine really hear me, and even they seem to have trouble hearing certain things.
One person told me that there are whole bibliographies of accounts of male abuse of women. So where are the bibliographies of female abuse of males? Is that because women don't abuse boys? Get a clue. Men stay silent, that's why there are no bibliographies.
I got quite a few that questioned my masculinity, sanity, emotional fitness, and one wondered if I was ever going to get laid again. So it's clear that women can be vindictive and immature.
Women do have great PR. We are taught that women are sweet and fair. Our fathers, grandfathers and uncles stay silent, so it must be true. I want everyone to know this, at age 42, I first really figured out that it was possible for a woman to be an asshole. See how good the female PR machine is?
I totally identify with the little boys in that inner city program. I hate the gift that the adult women gave me as a child. That's why I say it won't work. The boys will hate the 'do good' women, it will make them angry with women. Will those women be glad to hear about the boys' anger or will they invalidate it? Unless they are gods they will invalidate it.
As a woman there are things you can't understand about men. If you want to solve the problem, teach boys how to have fun with other people, and not hurt them. To do that you need the help and support of men. That means you have to learn to listen to us. We can't help you unless you listen. That comes first. That's what this whole thread has been about.
One correspondent said "So, I can not agree it is unwise to inform women (and men) early and often about the grim statistics that will not go away by remaining innocent."
But those are not men they're informing. They're children! Boys. They are innocent. Good for you that you, as an adult, want to take steps to protect other children (girls) from domestic violence. But it's not fair to give that to the boys.
I wonder if you understand that the fathers are beating and abusing the boys too? What about their mothers? Are they responsible? You bet they are. Adults are responsible, children are not. You're a smart person, why can't you see this?
Do you only care about the girls? Why don't you care about the boys? If you don't care about the boys, do you mind if we do? Are you willing to learn anything from us? To let us play our role in healing the wounds of past generations?
One more thing, I have a gift that few people have -- I can write passionately and elegantly. It wasn't always true, when I was younger, my feelings came out more awkardly. But that doesn't mean that the pain I felt and the injustice that I saw was any less real. The people on my Mail page may not be as eloquent, the thoughts, beliefs and feelings, may come out in a confusing or shocking way -- but they're still real! These are good people.
So long as there are strong negative consequences for displaying emotional weakness, people will cover it up however they can. We are primates, and primate societies give dominant positions to those who display competence and confidence. Crying doesn't fit the job description. I forget the name of the Presidential candidate that cried during a speech, and lost the election big-time. [It was Edmund Muskie -- DW.].
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (James Plamondon);
Sent at Sat, 3 Jan 1998 10:22:16 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
Note that Clinton (the teariest President ever) feels *our* pain - he cries for us, not for himself. Reagan cried while consoling the relatives of the Challenger crew. These are the exceptions that prove the rule: to be a leader, one must (among other things) never cry over oneself.
The rise of psychotropic drugs such as Prozac and Ritalin - confidence by prescription - is further evidence of the value society places on emotional stability (and conformance). With CEOs, managers, fathers, and every other superior position in our primate society, it's the same.
*Should* society place such negative consequences on the display of emotion? I have no idea. I don't know of a single human society in which the best criers get ahead. (If they did, I'd probably do better than you might think.) The lack of an existence proof is not proof in itself - otherwise nothing new would ever get done - but it makes me reluctant to be the first to start crying in public.
It is worth of note, that you showed deep emotion in front of your brother, not some stranger; and that your girlfriend's friend cried in a car full of her own girl friends. One might well measure one's relationships with others in terms of the amount of emotional weakness one can display to them, without fear of negative consequences. This is perhaps why girlfriends like it so much when you cry privately with them (once or twice) - it demonstrates that you consider them to be especially close.
My father died when I had just started dating the woman who is now my wife, and my crying over his death, in her arms, did much to cement our relationship. Of course, if the recipient of your emotion doesn't *want* to be that close, or if they render negative consequences afterwards, then the relationship is history. And if you do it too much, it displays not confidence in them, but a lack of confidence in oneself, and your flood of tears will send them scurrying for higher ground.
It is also worthy of note, that in my first draft of this response, I described an incident in which I displayed similar emotion in circumstances that worked to my detriment - and that the anecdote has been deleted from the version I've sent to you. You're a great guy, Dave, but we're just not that close. :-)
Before you identify too closely with John Bobbit, learn more about him. It sounds to me as if getting his dick cut off was light punishment... particulary since he also derived from this incident a lucrative career as a porn star.
From: email@example.com (John Perry Barlow);
Sent at Sat, 3 Jan 1998 08:25:34 -0800;
I'm perfectly willing to let the word go out that men who systematically use their dicks as a weapon might have them taken away...
Your fellow man,
Reply: What if someone decided that putting pornography on the net where children could get it was such a crime? BTW, the woman was joking about her friend's dick, not Bobbit's. DW
It's interesting to consider that your observation about men being discouraged from crying implies what might well be considered a social oxymoron in itself -- that crying takes courage, a widely counterintuitive notion with which you clearly agree.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bruce Steinberg);
Sent at Sat, 3 Jan 1998 08:22:05 -0800;
Men Stay Silent
And while I can generally concur with this observation -- and more broadly, that men are often discouraged from expressing feelings or emotions at all -- I'd suggest that such conclusions might be unduly skewed from observing within such specific structured environments as corporate business, politics, and the military, where emotional reserve and suppression is the norm for both sexes.
On the other hand, there are arenas (businesses, in fact, that thrive on implicitly providing cultural role models of both genders for both genders) in which crying and other expressions of emotions by men are not only understood but accepted (and, under the right circumstances, even expected) -- sports and entertainment come immediately to mind.
What Super Bowl is complete without the perfunctory sideline shot of a 270-pound offensive guard on the bench tearfully looking at the clock as his team is ending its season going down 31-17 with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter?
Sixty decades later, historic newsreels still commemorate Lou Gehrig as an immortal ironman icon, nonetheless choking on his words before a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium on the day he retired, facing a fatal disease and saying, "Today, I am the happiest man on the face of the earth."
And was that Tiger Woods I saw sniffling with his dad when he won the Masters?
Countless macho country, R&B, and rock singers have leveled with us in song that "It's Cryin' Time Again" when their old ladies take their sweet lovin' down the road. Equally countless movie tough guys have shed many a tear when someone close and irreplaceable -- male or female -- goes down for the Big Sleep.
Yet no one is calling any of these guys pussies -- not to ourselves, and certainly not to their faces. We understand how they feel, and we understand that if anything, they give us permission to do the same under similar circumstances (and being lesser heroes, maybe under even more lightweight circumstances).
So how come it's not cool to emote at the office, or on the campaign trail, or at boot camp (and again, for either men or women)? I'd suggest that these environments all extol the virtues of abstract rewards (e.g., money), non-sensual payoffs (e.g., promotions), and delayed gratification (e.g., what you'll eventually do with all that money, someday, if you stay with the program). Tap into the emotional zone too early -- cruise an immediate payoff on your own terms and timeline -- and you can easily throw yourself and everyone around you off the track; the program doesn't allow for such uncontrolled excursions.
Offensive tackles, and clutch-hitting infielders, and whiskey-voiced singers, and sad-eyed actors -- all of whom have more balls on their weepiest days than ten of Dilbert's bosses have on their most assertive -- make a living by living out the extremes (and many of the in-betweens) for us, and make it real clear that those feelings and reactions are absolutely okay. Moreover, they tell us (and often model for us) that if we have the ~guts to cry~ (or otherwise act out), we'll either (1) dare to do it on the job, or (2) change jobs.
I've been on both sides of the fence professionally. I graduated in EE and spent four years in corporate/military aerospace. Over a relatively short period, I bailed on engineering and spent the next dozen or so years as an independent creative director in the music business, and then another three or four freelancing in consumer and high-tech advertising, before looping back into another dozen years closely enmeshed in high-tech corporate life.
I've had numerous people who've become familiar with my background say to me that it must really be strange moving from a crazy business like rock and roll to the relatively straight corporate world of computer marketing. I tell them that it's strange all right, but that they've got it backwards: at the risk of sounding facetious, it's the corporate world that's generally crazy, and the entertainment world that's relatively sane.
Understandably, they ask why, and in all seriousness, I tell them it's simple: everybody's crazy, but in show business, people are well paid to acknowledge, explore, and celebrate their insanity, while in corporate business, people are well paid to deny and stuff it.
Which one sounds crazier to you?
Dave, I like what you have to say about male anger. Your discussion of the woman in Texas who is to be executed brings to mind two problems I have with capital punishment, both of which are illustrated wonderfully in movies:
From: JFMBM@aol.com (JFMBM);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 15:11:58 -0800;
1) the need for vengeance. I do not feel that this is a healthy side of punishment. The justice system is just that: an institution to right the wrongs of people toward others. It's not called the vengeance system, although people who support capital punishment often have no shame in expressing their thirst for vengeance via the justice system. They mistake vengeance for justice. Why isn't life in prison good enough? Why do we have to kill the offender? There is no logic that can support killing a killer, other than vengeance. (Logically, if killing is wrong, how can killing the killer be right? It's like punching your kid as you telling him not to hit anybody because hitting is wrong. You've heard all these arguments before.) For a good taste of the vengeance angle, see the movie Dead Man Walking with Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.
2) the inadequate court system. We cannot be sure that the court system is good enough to convict only the truly guilty. If any of your readers doubt that the system makes mistakes, tell them to see the movie The Thin Blue Line, one of the most eye-opening movies I have ever seen, and a truly disturbing portrait Texas. It should hit close to home in this particular case.
Happy New Year!
From: email@example.com (Fen Labalme);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 13:52:16 -0800;
I was proud to see you stick up for men's rights in your recent davenet entitled Male Anger. Male bashing appears to have become politically correct these days. People -- men and women -- will laugh at jokes that degrade men that you wouldn't dare to even imagine in "polite company" if they were about women.
When I lived in Santa Cruz -- a feminist town -- I would enjoy starting a conversation in mixed company with words to the effect "you know, men are more oppressed than women". While I would generally concede at the end of a discussion that the oppressions are different and that both are quite -- perhaps equally -- harmful, I would make several points along the way:
1) To sum up in a word (or two) the oppressions against men and women, one might say that while our society teaches women that they cannot succeed, it denies men of their emotions and feelings. A clear (and stereotyplical -- sorry) example of this occurs when a male/female relationship breaks up: the woman will cry on the shoulders of her girlfriends while the man's friends take him out to get drunk, encouraging him to suppress his feelings. The only emotion that society expects or "allows" a man to express is anger, but as society is also afraid of male anger, that gets suppressed also. And since men indeed have emotions and anger is their only form of expression, well, you get the picture.
2) Men are expected to kill and be killed in wars. Some people have suggested that the denial of emotions mentioned above is a societal "plot" to raise men capable of doing such a horrible thing as taking the life of another human being without remorse.
3) Men have little or no choice in child-bearing. If a woman gets pregnant, she may choose to have an abortion even if the man dearly wants the child. Or, she may choose to have the baby and force the man to pay child support even if the man doesn't want the child nor the responsibility. And, of course, the courts still favor the mother in divorce proceedings.
4) Men are still expected to be the financial provider. While this has changed to some extent as women have moved more into the workplace, there is still a lot of societal pressure against (say) a relationship in which the woman is the breadwinner and the man is the housekeeper.
BTW: did you know that the term "politically correct" originated in the lesbian community, and that to be PC was to be lesbian?
There are many more examples, but I think I will stop here. (For one thing, I have work to get done...)
Finally, here are a couple (of many) resources for more information:
Balance Magazine MenWeb - Men's Voices
Bravo. It was a real transformation for me to go through a month or two when I would start crying at the drop of a hat (in my mid-twenties, after a romantic break-up). I was "feeling something I never thought I would feel". We all need to talk about this, but more important is to let ourselves feel it when we have the opportunity. Sometimes we really are utterly vulnerable, lost and forlorn, and we had better know it rather than hide it from ourselves.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Gilmore);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 13:12:45 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
Barlow was recently lamenting that he couldn't find more than a handful of men who write nonfiction about their own sex lives. That's another side of the coin you're looking at -- men afraid to express their most powerful feelings publicly.
When I was a kid, my father told me not to cry, to pull it together, and that life was rough and that I had to be tough.
From: email@example.com (Philip Suh);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 11:48:06 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
I tried to steel all my feelings up inside of myself.
I was twelve years old when he died, and I remember how surprised I was when I cried at the hospital, and later, at the funeral. Tears were coming, but it was an automatic (and natural!) response--the tears felt disconnected from my feelings, and it was as if my eyes had found a way to short circuit my mind and emotions.
Later I felt bad for not feeling sorry enough that my dad had died.
For years, I didn't cry. I sometimes wished I could, tried to someone up sad thoughts, but no matter how depressed or suicidal I was, the tears would not come.
It was Christmas Eve, my sophomore year of college. I was at the Sony Theatre across from Lincoln Center in New York sitting between my mom and my sister, watching Kurosawa's "Rhapsody in August". It's the story of some Japanese kids who spend the summer with their grandma in the mountains outside of Nagasaki. In the last, beautiful scene, the grandmother thinks it's forty years ago, and runs out to warn her husband that the atomic bomb is coming. It's a delusion--her husband died in the blast forty years before. There's a fierce typhoon, rain and wind bending the bamboo, and grandma is bent too, leaning into the storm. The kids run out of the house looking for her. The grandmother struggles in the storm, and suddenly, a gust of wind blows her umbrella inside out--whoop!--and the noise of the storm stops completely.
A child's song plays.
And at that moment, when I saw that, for some unexplainable reason--I wept. I was shaking, sobbing, for the last ten minutes of the movie and straight out til the end of the credits. Unconsolable, and I think I embarrassed my mom and sister to no end.
I couldn't explain it to them, and I still can't explain it to myself, except that that marked the end of the period of no crying. I still don't cry often, but I do sometimes. It feels great, and I wish I could cry more, and cry with people as well. Too often the tears come when I am alone; being able to share tears with someone is such a wonderful thing.
I read your e-zine to keep track of what is happening in the ecology of software developers. And, I am continually surprised by your deep philosophical discussions. You are a person who is willing to take risks.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jay Maness);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 06:24:45 -0800;
I respect that, and agree with you that it is only in taking risks, in facing what we fear, that we are able to grow.
It is difficult for most men to see and understand that the most important thing in this life is the interaction and social support we can give to and get from those around us, from our family and friends. And, friends are family we make for ourselves.
That social interaction requires the sharing of emotions. Those emotionless drones that men tend to be, because they are trained to be, "lead lives of quiet desperation."
The older I get, the more I realize what is important. I work hard at overcoming this tendancy to be hard, emotionless, competitive for power. As you put it, "Respect," and "We can all be winners."
And, no, your DaveNet did not make me want to unsubscribe. Quite the opposite. This DaveNet I will share with my wife.
What's frequently on my mind is, what do I teach my sons? What do they carry away from me, after they've ignored all the repetitive speeches? What do they learn from me by example?
From: email@example.com (Jim Moy);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 03:37:07 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
I want them to see me cry, when something moves me deeply. I want them to see me "be tough," because some circumstances dictate it. I want them to appreciate the wholeness of feeling deeply, being able to express, use, and act on it, because I think it's more pitiful when men (mostly) can't experience the power and freedom it gives.
And I worry that I'm not worthy of setting these examples.
Interesting thing about crying. I liked it.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cate T. Corcoran);
Sent at Thu, 01 Jan 1998 19:09:54 -0800;
Interesting DaveNet today
My two cents, for what's it worth: I wouldn't think it was a terrible thing if a man broke down crying in front of me. I wouldn't think it terrible if he just cried, either -- never mind 'broke down'. On the other hand, I too would struggle not to suddenly burst into tears in public too. But if I failed, I wouldn't feel terrible shame. So maybe no one should?
Which reminds me of a recent tear-related incident. Very odd. Last January, I went up skiing alone -- I mean, without Mark -- with some friends of my neighbors, people I didn't know very well. In the back of my mind, I worried a little bit about feeling alienated among people I didn't know very well and out of control in a group situation where I wasn't driving and so forth, where I had to be always with the group and do whatever they wanted to do for 50 hours.
So we got up there and all chose our beds. Being one of two singles and having less seniority than the other single, who had procured the cabin for free and driven half of us, I ended up in what happened to be the "worst" spot -- sagging twin beds on the balcony above the living room. Where you'd imagine the kids would sleep, if there were any. Kinda depressing, but no big deal, I said to myself. Problem was, there were no doors so I could hear everything in the house.
We all stayed up pretty late. In the morning, after I think six hours of sleep, I was awoken by the alpha male making breakfast in the kitchen. Can't remember if I asked him to shut up or not right then or there but as I recall the upshot was everyone insisted on waking up about an hour later and going skiing. I was feeling particularly horrible, as though I'd been woken up in the dead of night, maybe because I was used to sleeping until 9, not getting up at 7.
Can't remember if I acted grumpy or cheerful about it. Then, in the parking lot, as we were loading the car, someone must have said something apologetic to me and I burst into tears. Truly strange, no? I think they thought that I was making a horrible big deal out of nothing and trying to manipulate them into some kind of shame, but they were very nice about it and I apologized like a maniac. Actually, I think they thought I was crazy, which is not an unreasonable conclusion.
Our relationship chilled just slightly after that and has remained at the same temperature ever since.
But I say fuck em if they can't deal. So what. Guess I wouldn't be very good in a military situation. Damn freewheeling California upbringing. Honesty and truth and feelings and all that.
I think this applies to many people (more men than women, probably, but certainly not men exclusively). For myself, I've not had anything so serious as anyone die on me, so I've not felt the need to cry (except for the occassional movie tear-jerker). Instead of using my energy in this release, I tend to take a deep breath and step back and try to figure out how to address the problem - you could say this is my optimizing nature? Have a great new year!
From: bens@MICROSOFT.com (Ben Slivka);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 03:35:45 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
Right on! Personally, I've felt great when I've been able to share my feelings openly. No guilt, no shame, what you see is what you get. What is, is.
From: email@example.com (Jay Cross);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 03:36:18 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
Men Stay Silent brings to mind the old question, "If a man said something in a forest and no woman heard him, would he still be wrong?"
I've cried, and I mean really cried not some media induced tearing up at a movie, three times since I was a kid. Each time the relief was so immediate and tangible that I wished I could cry at will - but I can't.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Caleb);
Sent at Fri, 2 Jan 1998 03:33:21 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
The first time I was 20 and had decided to kill my childhood cat. I'd had her for 14 years. She was slowly dying of a skin disease and I was in college. Since she was an outdoor cat and a real killer that was totally her own cat, I felt I knew that she would want to go now rather then fade away with a skin disease and knocked out on Cortisone. I brought her to the vet and they let me sit in a room with her. I poured her some milk and then just started crying. I cried for half an hour. When they came for her my shirt was completely covered in cat hair wetted with tears. I insisted on holding her myself while they found the vain. She went slack and her eyes glazed over and she was dead.
The second time I was 28 and riding the BART train from San Francisco to Berkeley on my way to work. I was in the middle of a very drawn out break up. In the middle of reading the paper I just started crying without warning. I just sat there and hid behind the paper and cried for 15 minutes. I didn't even feel it coming and yet there I was crying on BART. Of course nobody said a word or even noticed, or let on like they noticed. That was the cruelest part because it was as if my crying didn't exist.
The third and last time I really cried was later that same year in a sunny glade in Golden Gate park in San Francisco. It was the end of the same break up but this time I was with the girl. We were getting along but not in love, at least she wasn't. I just broke down and she had to hold me for 45 minutes. She was supportive and handled it very well. I haven't spoken with her since about a month later when we parted outside our counselors office.
I look forward 'till the next time I really cry hard. The sudden expulsion of all that bottled up shit I keep inside is wonderful.
I feel more comfortable with this essay than with most of your Microsoft essays :-)
From: email@example.com (Robert J. Berger);
Sent at Thu, 1 Jan 1998 19:13:57 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
I agree with most of what you say here. I'm always being cajoled by my wife to express myself more. But then if I say things that she doesn't want to hear, then I get hit with that for the rest of my life! (She'll dredge up something that I said that might have been negative but was meaningful in that old context but is not meaningful in the current one, except to show how unfeeling I am).
So I get reinforced not to say anything cause it causes pain and anguish that is used against me.
This isn't something that happens a lot, but it happens enough not to make me feel great about bringing up negative feelings or thoughts.
I also find that I don't have alot of skills at accessing and expressing my more inner feelings. I experience them, but in a way that I can't easily connect words to express those feelings. There is like a moat between my inner experience of feelings and my verbal processing abilities. So, It takes ALOT of energy to verbally express my inner feelings.
I get the feeling its different for women. I've read that there is significant differences in how we utilize our brains. There is actually more interconectiveness between the hemispheres in women than in men... Maybe that has something to do with it.
But in any case it does probably relate to how we've grown up and what is reinforced or not reinforced by our culture and families.
Thank you for that piece. It really spoke to me. I grew up in a home with four older sisters and my mother. My father died when I was not even 1 and I never really had that socialization. I've learned in later years how to hold back my feelings in public and to be more stoic, as I am expected to be, but I never went as far as most men I know have gone. All through college I had many friends (the female ones) tell me that I was more expressive that most men.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andy J. Williams);
Sent at Thu, 1 Jan 1998 17:48:38 -0800;
Re:Men Stay Silent
And then something happened to me when a relationship went terribly wrong and I locked up. I've not let myself feel anything beyond simple day-to-day emotions for four years now. It's only in the last few months that I've finally taken timid steps out of the shell I built around me to start making myself vulnerable again.
Ah, vulnerability. You see, I think that that is the key. To show emotion, to really feel something, is to make one's self vulnerable. As men, we are taught that this is a bad thing. We must remain in control at all times.
Learning to let go of that control and to go with the flow and trust others and nature is frightening. And it is exactly what we need to do. And we need to learn how to let people around us feel safe enough to become more vulnerable.
I hope the responses you get to your piece do just that for you.
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