As far as I know, I have been female my whole life. I mean, people kept dressing me in skirts and giving me haircuts with names like “pixie,” so I assume that I was female that whole time, even though I wasn’t really thinking about it. There are pictures of a 5 year-old Amy wearing a fluffy blue tutu. Yep. Female.
So, the nurturing that I got (even though my parents were both flaming feminists and only ever called me “princess” in sarcasm) was the kind of nurturing that girls get. Nobody ever called me “sport.” Nobody ever told me to “walk it off” when I got hurt. People expect little girls to be sensitive. People expect us to cry. This follows us into adulthood. When we have a rough time, we call our friends, we cry, we write horrible poetry and sometimes even do that shit in public. It’s not dignified, but we get away with it and nobody calls us pussies because we’re females. We deal with our pain by piling it on the table in front of us and looking through it, piece by piece, usually bringing along a couple of very tolerant and understanding friends.
I know what to do when a female friend calls at 2am, crying about a breakup. Wake up and talk about it until she’s done, sleep be damned. I do not, however, know what to do with male pain. Male pain is like termites: you know it’s there in the wall. You can hear it chomping away, but you can’t just rip off the moulding and get a good look at it because it hides the second light hits it. We women try to come at you guys with both barrels, trying to make you talk. We think we’re telling you that it’s OK to talk to us. We think we’re giving you a green light. You think we’re invading your space, judging you and being weird. We’re just trying to help, and we end up scaring the crap out of you.
We’re trying to help because you’re scaring the crap out of us. We’re watching you handle your pain in a way that is unsettling to us and not completely functional. Not to sound all judgey, but suicide statistics say that your love affair with Jack Daniels isn’t a very effective coping mechanism.
When faced with pain, guys will just hide in their houses, drink, throw themselves into their work, or try to pretend that they’re fine. They’ve been taught that “needing to talk” isn’t very masculine, crying is “weak,” and seeking help is even worse.
The whole thing pisses me off. It pisses me off that there are still women out there who are repulsed by the idea of their man crying. I mean, none of us WANT to see you in pain, but there’s a difference between “this is hard to watch because I care about this person” and “omg, what a fucking pussy.” Of course it’s hard to watch someone you care about be in pain, but that’s also a big neon sign to you that reads, “this is your opportunity to be there for someone who never seems to need help.”
Ladies, if you need your man to be bulletproof so that you get to be Delicate Princess, maybe you should take a closer look at yourselves. It’s not about Delicate Princess and Marlboro Man. It’s about two equal people who hopefully lose their shit at different times, so one can step up when the other needs it. (See? There’s that feminist upbringing. Honestly, you should meet my mom. She’s a bad ass.)
I am tired of watching male friends go through rough times and breakups, only to end up drinking too much, becoming someone else, pretending as though nothing happened, or deciding that all women are evil and must be fucked with. I am tired of this because those male friends are going to date again, and I would hope that they would do so as well-adjusted humans and not as giant balls of crazy-assed baggage. I am also tired of this because, once, someone didn’t date again and opted to just kill himself instead. I know it’s a little dramatic for my brain to fly into “omg, he’s going to kill himself” mode every time someone has walled off some pain, but there it is. My brain goes there every time now, because it didn’t go there the one time that it really needed to. Indulge me.
The wrap-up thesis statement being this: ladies, guys are not going to be able to undo all of that upbringing overnight. Be patient. Just because they’re bigger than you doesn’t mean they don’t want to be held sometimes. Guys, give us a chance to show you that we can handle your feelings. If you need help, call. This is 2010 and no one wants or expects you to be John Wayne.
(I should point out here that, despite any real-life events of the last year, this post isn’t directed at anyone in particular. In fact, the reason for writing it was that it needed to be directed to so many people. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am…I’m just not talking ONLY about you.)