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Boys do cry

3D water drop on white isolated with clipping path

3D water drop on white isolated with clipping path  

There are some subconscious cues transmitted and received by such people seeking bonding.

My 10-year-old son came to me saying something was bothering him. I asked what was it. He was disturbed and perhaps trying to find the reason. I asked again. And he reacted saying, “You just don’t understand, Baba.” I backed off from any further probing, understanding his need for space.

Hugging him, I told him it was normal to feel disturbed or sad and there was no need to find the reason. He seemed to calm down. I told him if he felt sad it was okay to cry, and that from time to time, we all went through such feelings which drenched us like the waves of the sea but in the end, we came out of it. He sobbed for a bit on my shoulders, and then went to my wife and cried a bit on her shoulders as well. And after about 10 minutes, he was back to his normal happy and active self.

I was reminded about how growing up, we were conditioned to a gender stereotype of “boys don’t cry”; crying was a sign of weakness which could brand the psyche from the pre-teen days. Perhaps recognising my sensitive and emotional nature, I had built a tough exterior as a coping mechanism to protect myself from this supposed weakness. Managing such bottled emotions with no natural outlet perhaps led at times to some cognitive dissidence of adjusting to the artificiality of the new normal of the shifting social norms.

But an interesting outcome of cultivating this persona has been that some of the few people with whom I have had sustained friendships over 25 to 30 years at an emotional level have had similar persona — a sensitive and emotional core with a cultivated tough exterior. Maybe, there are some subconscious cues transmitted and received by such people seeking bonding, which make them click soon and sustain long friendships. But lately, lowering my emotional guard has been a liberating experience — cultivating friendships and nurturing relationships has become more important than maintaining an artificial self-image or sustaining egos. I am no longer conscious of being judged for the communication and expression of my emotions. I wished I had done so earlier and not missed out on the naturalism of life’s experiences.

Coming back to my son, the least I can do is to encourage him to be true to his personality, transcend the social conditioning and grow up being secure about who he is; and tell him that the conventional attributes of toughness, like beauty, are just skin deep. Yes, not just boys, tough men too can cry.

siddpanda@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 6:57:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/boys-do-cry/article31600031.ece

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