Secret Tears & Hidden Fears. That's what "Real Men" are Made Of.
"What are little boys made of? Snips and snails And puppy dog's tails That's what little boys are made of…" ~ Robert Southey (maybe)
"'Real Men' Don't Cry."
Hoarding tears is an essential part of the masculine portfolio. From the time I was little, I had to take countless rainchecks on, allowing the tears that rimmed my eyes to fall. After decades of practice, this has become my forte.
Life happens fast for men. We must keep building our portfolio and defending our manhood from when we are boys.
Society, you made the rules. Being a groomsman at his wedding, I know even from the playbook.
Through the hurt and pain, I learned. Through guilt and shame, I endured. I grew into a man with high walls and thick skin.
You wanted me as tough as nails—a hard man, or as the beer commercials like to say, a "real man." So, that's what I've become—a complete metamorphosis.
You call me a narcissist, a screwup, an egotistical maniac. But it doesn't change that you made me what I am. You turned me into this monster with your insensitivity and ignorance.
What about the impact of culture and tradition, the "sacred" old ways that encourage masculine dominance in bedrooms and boardrooms? Your unwillingness to take responsibility and reevaluate an ineffective system only feeds the ruthless beast of patriarchy.
"Men don't cry." The irony of these words, delivered with random head smacks, ensured that I still couldn't shed those tears even when I was in obvious pain and discomfort.
"Suck it up." Echoes of your voice, cold and riveting, pierced through time and space into my subconscious so that, even in your absence, my skin recoiled in fear.
Gripping flashbacks send shivers down my spine—a zing from the past, adding fuel to the fire. Like "Inception," but instead of a dream within a dream, this is agony within agony.
I remember nights when you yelled in frustration and wished I was never born because I was restless, craving love and comfort. They were brutal and unbearable, but I kept learning and enduring, soaking it up like the pillow into which I allowed my secret tears to flow. Letting them out any other way was a risk I wasn't prepared to take.
Night after night, I grew—hardened as no relief came. Day after day, I became—a man, broken beyond repair. Mastery of my tears ensured reprieve and acceptance in a world where boys endured ridicule for expressing, even having, natural emotions. I was young and impressionable, and you took full advantage.
Now, in those days in the rearview, I don't need a reminder to assert my masculinity or project my ego. I have become capable of stifling my emotions without adult interference or supervision.
Like a notorious one-eyed pirate roaming the raging seas, I hijack tears before they leave their hidden lands, my lacrimal glands.
Who wants to see a grown man cry, anyway?
Age or race doesn't matter when it comes to being a "real man." I have learned the skills required of me. I am well equipped to perform on the biggest stage—society. I am a man—created for the people, by the people.
I am not the enemy. I keep telling you, but you don't listen. Instead, you keep repeating the cycle, pumping toxicity into masculinity from generation to generation. I am a product of your outdated cultural frameworks and skewed societal constructs. Don't you get it?
You gave me the ultimate power and responsibility to provide and protect without proper checks and balances.
You disarmed my vulnerability and armed my masculinity by removing fear from my heart and tears from my eyes.
I am the hunter you created to meet your lofty expectations, literally and figuratively. You handed me the ax, remember? Are you surprised I'm abusing it now?
I'm guilty of atrocity, using my strength to cause mayhem—raping and beating women to a pulp, scarring their souls, and leaving them with nothing but their deep-rooted trauma. I have no tears to cry. I have abandoned them. Perhaps you enjoy creating hashtags and promoting trending topics backed by sinister social media algorithms. But are you willing to humble yourself and ask tough questions?
How was this monster created? Who is responsible for feeding the beast?
You raised me without patience and empathy, and today you are paying a high price for low maintenance—blood and tears. The land is sick because I am sick. Unshed tears bleed behind my eyes. Unexpressed emotions overwhelm my heart. I am tired of carrying this weight on my shoulders. It's killing me.
Will you let me breathe in peace? Please give me a platform to release and exhale without judgment.
Unburden me of this heaviness I've shouldered all my life. Set me free. I can't take being a "real man" anymore—the lies, the secrecy, and the false show of strength.
My ego drains me and denies me the chance to live—unencumbered, unladen with unrealistic expectations and machismo. Enough already! Check the statistics. I'm losing friends and brothers to depression and suicide because you ignore the root of the issues.
We should all be accessible to self-expression, free of stigma. Free to be men who cry.
Our tears, like yours, comprise mostly water. Water is life. Will you let us live?
James Ezimoha is a writer, creator, and social entrepreneur based in Windhoek, Namibia. Find him @TheBiigJay across major social media platforms. He is compassionate, funny…
AUTHOR: JAMES EZIMOHA
EDITOR: KHARA-JADE WARREN