Strong Men Also Cry

By BOB WIRE

I was watching Repo Man last night, thinking about a plate of shrimp, when my cell phone buzzed. I opened it to reveal the photo of a tiny, freshly-minted baby. The message said my friend Eli’s wife had just given birth to a daughter. Nine pounds, thirteen ounces’ worth. That’s a lot of daughter. I snapped the phone shut and went through the house to announce the news to the rest of my family.

Then I went into my bedroom, shut the door, and wept.

I don’t know what it is. Births do that to me, and when it’s a good friend I’ve grown to love and admire since he was a teenager, it just hit me extra hard. The happy tears flowed.

Hell, you should have seen me when my own kids were born. Photos show me proudly cradling the purplish grub, squirming in its blanket, my face slick with snot, tears and joyous slobber.

Are you surprised at my tears, sir? You know what, sometimes your ol’ buddy Bob just has to have himself a good cry. That’s right: strong men also cry.

I know that may come as a shock, because for a lot of you I represent the ultimate fantasy of burly manhood. I mean, who could blame someone like Heidi Meile of KECI if she had a huge crush on me? Or Eden Atwood? Or Mark Heyka?

Anyway, the point is I’m man enough to admit it—while I might be honky tonk tough, crispy and brittle on the outside, my inside is as soft and chewy as the fluffy nougat in a Three Musketeers bar.

Oh, you don’t tear up when your kids give you a homemade Father’s Day Card?LIAR!

I’m just a man, for chrissake, same as you. Unless you’re a woman. Do I not bleed when you run over me with a dump truck? Do I not shed a tear when the Miami Dolphins lose that inevitable game each November that mathematically eliminates them from the post-season? Yes, I do. And then I hurl my Earl Morrall bobblehead at the TV.

Seriously, sometimes a guy just wants to cry. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned shoulder-heaving, gut-wrenching, sinus-rattling, foot-in-the-wolf-trap-wailing, snot-splattering blubberfest. Once it’s going full steam, you could no sooner stop it than keep Adele away from the last bear claw in the box.

It’s a cleansing thing. It’s cathartic. Crying is something that cannot be replaced by target shooting, arm wrestling, dart throwing, wood splitting, disc golf, or any amount of sex. It’s kind of like a sneeze. You know it’s in there, and you won’t be settin’ right ‘til it comes out.

Fortunately, for the enlightened souls among us, a good cry is within easy reach at any given time. It’s been scientifically proven that the two biggest triggers of human memory (and those memories’ attendant emotions) are sound and smell. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen these two heavyweights of the senses magically dredge up something from the memory banks with a single whiff, or with the opening notes of a song. And it hits with the force of a thousand bobbleheads.

Example: I was working in a sign shop a few years back, running a circular saw down a length of plywood. I was alone in that part of the shop, and I’d put a “Best of the 70s” CD on the workbench boombox. A couple of AM radio hits roll by, and I’m kind of nodding my head along without really listening, and then it comes on. “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest. The first few electric piano notes froze me in mid-cut. By the time they were singing “It’s a supernatural delight,” I was bawling like an angry toddler—hunched over, holding my gut with one hand, squeezing the trigger of the still-running saw with the other, spraying fluid out of every hole in my face.

A co-worker ran into the room and hollered, “Damn, Bob, are you cut?”

“Yeah,” I said between sobs. “I’m cut real bad.” I figured I’d rather face the wrath of a false alarm from the fellas than admit I’d been incapacitated by soft rock.

But the effect is undeniable. I can catch a sniff of caramel apples at the fair, and I’m instantly transported to…last year’s fair. Wait, let me think of a better example. Ah, here you go. Any cheap toy or inflatable furniture or whatever that’s made of polyvinyl chloride has a very strong, but not unpleasant smell. When you tear the paper top off the clear plastic bag that holds a two-dollar air mattress, for instance, that vinyl off-gassing can just about knock you on your ass. But it makes you think of the beach, right? Or perhaps that night your druncle crept into your tent when your family was camping at Seeley Lake…

Okay, back to the crying part! I had a very intense, unpleasant, heated discussion with Barb the other night, the subject of which is none of your damn business (although I will confirm your hunch that, as usual, I was the sand in the relationship Vaseline). We’ve learned to talk through these conflicts until we get to the meat of the disagreement, examine it, figure it out, and move on. Which we did. Then we went to bed. But today I’ve been moping around, still feeling wounded from the battle. I needed to cry it out.

The great thing is, I didn’t even REALIZE this as I subconsciously chose Alejandro Escovedo’s “Gravity” from the CD rack and put it in the kitchen boombox. The kids were doing homework in the living room, and I was making dinner. I put some cheesy potatoes in the oven. I washed the lettuce, and started making salad.

Then, about five songs in, “The Last to Know” came on. Shit. I’m crying a little now just thinking about it. It’s one of the most heart-rending songs ever written, and I KNEW it was on that CD. I stood there, chef’s knife poised above a cucumber on the cutting board, openly crying and heaving for all I was worth. Rusty trotted into the kitchen. “Dad, are you okay?” he asked, gently laying a hand on my arm. “Did the Dolphins re-sign Ricky Williams again?”

“No, son, I, uh, I cut myself. I’m cut real bad.” The tears spilled down my face, taking with them the residue of the argument, the hard feelings, the resentment, all the junk that had jammed up behind the dam like so many logs in a river. “I’ll be okay, though. Thanks for checking on me, buddy.”

I gave him a hug. As the song faded out, I marveled at the acute emotional radar my son has developed. One day, I’m sure he’ll know that it’s not only okay for a man to cry, it’s sometimes crucial.

And sometimes sports are not even involved.

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   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Bob Wire is medicated and ready to rock.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.