As a child I think we all are taught to believe that our parents are borderline superhuman. They have an omnipotent and omnipresent dominion over the world as you know it. They both have their reigns of vulnerabilities that they are “allowed” based on gender norms but even those seem never to hint at any fallibility in who they are (e.g. mothers crying and fathers getting angry). There are rare occurrences where that is challenged.
I remember the first time that I saw my father figure, Vega, at the time cry. I was 7 years old and he was leaving us to move to Florida so that he can start up a life there that we would follow him into. As he hugged my mom and me at the airport he was crying. It wasn’t just a subtle cry but an uncontrollable cry similar to the one I would do when my mom would get in that ass for me lying or being the rambunctious little demon she claims me to be (I dispute this wholeheartedly). I had never seen him release so much emotion and appear so vulnerable. For the first time I was able to feel like he was scared, unsure, and hurting.
That was one of two times I ever saw him cry in my life. After that I had seen other men cry but I never had the reverence for them as I did for Vega and they never represented that male figure in my life the way he did. Also their cries never seem to be as free and revealing as his was in that moment. They seemed like they were being fought at every step. Almost a betrayal of the tear ducts from what the mind really wanted to happen. I had many deaths in my life preceding and succeeding this time I saw Vega cry but even then I never saw this type of cry.
About two years ago I went to a conference in which we broke out into small groups. In these groups we worked through this exercise that brought us to an end in which we admitted something that we wish we could do but just felt like we couldn’t. People throughout the room shared their various end results to this exercise. I was in a group with three men, one white latino, myself mixed race latino, and a black man from the US. We all had the same end result, “I just wish that I could cry and it would be okay.” It was a stunning revelation for me and made me reflect on that event that grips such a strong place on my childhood memory, Vega crying. I wondered, how often did he really want to cry in that same way but never did? How often do all men feel that way? Why are we so afraid to cry?
The answer of gender roles, toxic masculinity, and patriarchy are obvious answers here. Men are not allowed to be their full true selves in a society that puts them in a box of acceptable expressions of emotion completely ignoring the uniqueness of who they are and the spectrum of masculine and feminine energy that lives inside all of us. This is why male acceptance of third world feminist/womanist revolutionary theory and action is so vital. We have a stake in this to. Our freedom to be our full selves is at stake with our complicit or overt uplifting of the system of patriarchy and our overt or passive refusal to making dismantling such a system a priority.
I look back and I wish that my parents and the community that raised me would have expressed more vulnerability to me. Wished that they showed me that they were not perfect and admitted that to me. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so much pressure to be so perfect all the time. The pressure to live up to all the gender roles they laid out for me and the denial of self at times to fulfill the “successful man” archetype needed to receive the praise and love of peers who buy into a white-patriarchal-capitalist-imperialist system.
In those critiques I realize the community that raised me did they best they could with the subset of information they had. They put me in a position to become who I am and be able to work through some of the deconditioning necessary to be my true self. Helped me attain the access to the means to create a world I want to live in. For that I am grateful.