Strong men also cry

The immortal words of Jeffrey Lebowski give me at least some comfort.

It’s a much-needed sort of comfort, to be honest. At least, with the support of a character from one of the most beloved cult films of all time, I can partially come to terms with what I am: a great, soft blubberer.

Don’t take this to mean that I spend my days and nights weeping without pause; for the most part, I can live a normal life.

But I have triggers.

My partner received an early warning of what was to come mere months into our relationship, when she stumbled into a room to find me inconsolable and awash with tears. This was no dignified, silent crying – rather, this was the kind wherein:

  • The cryer’s face is pulled uncontrollably into a horrific, pantomime expression most commonly associated with very small children.
  • The cryer is struggling not to allow any sounds to escape their body, despite racking sobs, but is completely unable to form words without roaring in sorrow.
  • The cryer knows that they should be in better control of themselves, admonishes themselves internally over their childlike conduct and feels a sense of cringing shame when they are discovered.
  • The cryer is capable only of hiding their face and desperately shoo-ing the interloper away to mitigate said shame.

She was, I recall, genuinely taken aback, even worried. It was an understandable reaction – no sane human being would be behaving in this way unless heartbroken, recently bereaved, or caught in the grip of despair. She needn’t have been concerned. I had simply fallen victim to one of my triggers: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a ‘sad book’.

I’m really not sure how I managed to keep the poor woman around after that, but stay she did. Some years later, I’m revisiting the same territory with her and our son.

You see, it’s not just sad books that will set me off: when I’m holding David, even mawkishly sentimental stories aimed at the very young will make my eyes grow misty.

My vulnerability was quickly exposed when my partner began reading Guess how much I love you to David, as I fed him his last bottle before bed. As the pages turned and her narration followed the ever-increasing spiral of two hares, presumably father and son, trying to quantify their love for one another, I felt the familiar wave of sentimentality rise up to submerge me. Of course, I couldn’t say anything… to do so would have been to invite red-faced, voice-cracking humiliation. I prayed silently that she would fail to notice.

Of course, there was never any hope of such a face-saving outcome; by the time she had finished, I was dripping big, daft tears from my eyeleashes onto David’s pyjamas. Looking up, my partner gaped.

“Seriously?” she asked, wide eyed and shaking her head. “SERIOUSLY?”

I could only bob my head and sob silently in response. Somewhere in my subconscious, a wise-cracking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing 25 year-old was holding his head in his hands, wondering what on earth he had become.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Since I’m in the business of finally, cathartically exposing my grand shame, I might as well give you some of the big ticket trigger items – if nothing else, you’ll enjoy a laugh at some of these howlers.

Perhaps, when David is a little older, he’ll also find the time to express his astonishment at the things which set his old man off. Perhaps he’ll weep alongside me, afflicted by cruel genetics with my irrational peaks of emotion. Frankly, as long as he still speaks to me after he’s seen one of my performances, it’ll be one in the win column.

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