There’s a phrase I’ve been noticing a lot lately: “Man up.” I overheard it at a wedding recently, when the groom (a nurturing, sweet fellow) burst into tears at the sight of his bride. I heard it when a friend of mine said she’d been crying nonstop because her 21-year-old daughter was moving away. It’s a phrase I’m swiftly growing to dislike even though I also think it’s rather humorous.
I recall, 27 years ago, when I brought my first baby to the pediatrician for a shot.
“He took it like a man!” I commented to the doctor, when my infant survived his first encounter with a needle.
“No,” the physician countered. “He took it like a baby.”
And here’s the thing: While some people are tough and strong and don’t weep at commercials, others of us are natural-born crybabies. When I hear Pomp and Circumstance—whether it’s at preschool graduation or college commencement, for instance, I automatically cry. Recently, my son sent me a close-up photo of our family, cropped from a panoramic image made during the graduation ceremony. My hand was covering my mouth and I looked like I was watching a horror flic. But no…I was simply observing my 22-year-old stepping up to get his degree. A happy occasion, for sure. And still, it brought on the tears. At this same son’s elementary school commencement, I was losing it so badly that one of my friends refused to sit next to me. And weddings? A no brainer--just bring a Costco-sized pack of Kleenex.
But hey, whatever happened to “It’s okay to cry”?
Ladies, do we have to man up? When our kids leave for college, or grad school, or take a high school French club trip abroad? Do we have to bury our tears when we send a kindergartner off or drop a three year old at pre-school? Must we scurry away in shame when we burst into tears at weddings, or birthday parties, or at fifth grade awards ceremonies? Must we man up and deny our gentle, loving hearts the outlet of tears?
I say no. How about, instead, we woman up? That means do what women do: tap into our inner strength, but do it with feeling. Cry, but carry on, without feeling ashamed of our emotions. Let's have—as one dear friend reminded me last week--self compassion. Let’s give ourselves a pass –to feel, to mourn, to grieve, and to be sad even at a happy event like a graduation or a wedding. Let’s, as we say in yoga, “be with” our emotions: they are not our enemies.
In fact, next time I see a guy trying to suck it up and deny his inner woman I’m going to turn the tables on him. “Woman up, man!” I’ll advise, “And see how good it feels to let the tears flow.”