Real men cry. These are their stories.
There was a time when my kids were little and I was going through a messy divorce when I cried pretty much all the time. But in recent years, I tend more toward anger than sadness when emotions run strong. I know it’s just a cover, but somehow my shell has hardened again.
In an effort to get my tear ducts flowing again, I asked men from all across the country to tell me about the last time they cried. Not surprisingly, some guys didn’t want to talk publicly about bawlin’ their eyes out. But many surprised me by echoing what I felt: They wanted to cry more. They desperately wanted to access the pain and sadness that was stuck somewhere between the heart and the eyes. Others (the lucky ones, and quite often the toughest ones) told me they had no trouble crying. They were in touch with themselves.
Many of us grow up being told—by our dads, our older brothers, our coaches—that we shouldn’t cry, and that if we do we certainly shouldn’t admit to it. That’s bullshit, obviously, and the sooner we get that idea out of our heads, the better off we’ll be—and the better men we’ll be.
What follows is extraordinary, if you ask me. Men (some famous, some not) lay themselves bare for the world to see. Some of their answers made me laugh. Others made me want to cry.
When was the last time you cried? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
“Charlotte’s Web, page 165. ‘I’m done for,’ Charlotte tells Wilbur. Try reading that aloud to your kid and not crying.”
Jonathan Eig, author
“I cried while watching Aliens the other night. Sigourney Weaver does that to me.”
Thomas Patrick Naughton, project coordinator
“The day I got out of jail.”
Tim Donaghy, former NBA referee who was convicted of betting on games
“I’m pretty good at repressing my emotions. Actually, I’m kind of in favor of repression. It gets a bad rap. But back to the question. It was probably at my niece’s bat mitzvah. It was at this suburban Jersey country club, and I was dancing with my three-year-old son. I was carrying him, and he had his head pressed against my shoulder, and I felt such gratitude that I wept.”
A.J. Jacobs, author
“I had a baby this year. So I’ve cried more this year than in the past ten together. I’m guessing a month ago. Anything in a movie or TV show about a baby will do it. Sometimes just holding my son will do it. It causes me to think about all the tiny, little, seemingly inconsequential decisions that led to his birth; they now seem super-important. And I think about dead family members and friends who never met him. And I just think how incredible it is that he’s so lacking in fear or guile. I keep saying he’s a good person, and I know that’s ridiculous, but it just feels true. I cannot imagine my four-month-old growing up and committing genocide. Though if he does, I hope he’s the best genocidist he can possibly be.”
Joel Stein, journalist
“In the locker room with our seniors after last year’s bowl game.”
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern head football coach. (NU lost in overtime to Auburn.)
“About ten minutes ago.”
Ron Cowie, photographer
“The last time I cried was the night after my brother first molested me. I was 10. He was 16. I’m 33 now. We still haven’t talked about it.”
“I cry all the time. My mother had a big impact on my life when I was young, because I had a lot of respect for her. Her father died at an early age, and she had a lot of brothers and sisters, and her mom couldn’t take care of all of them. So she and two other younger siblings went to the orphanage for a few years. One time when I was about 14, I decided I was going to run away from home. I’m getting all my stuff together, and then my mother gets up and she comes downstairs. She says, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m leaving. I got to go. I’m running away.’ And she said, ‘Well, let me fix you a sandwich.’ And I decided maybe I wouldn’t go.”
Dave Cowens, NBA Hall of Famer
“The last time I really drained my ducts was when I walked into my home to see an oak box resting on my bookcase. Delivered that day, it holds the ashes of my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Ulee, who my wife and I had to euthanize a few weeks prior, a month shy of his twelvth birthday. Ulee taught me how to love without expectation and prepared me for fatherhood in a way that I could never have appreciated beforehand. Holding him while the sedative took his last breath was hardest thing I’ve done. I cried for three days until dry, provoked at every turn and action by a decade of memories: his leash hanging from the hook by the door, the smell he left on his pillow, peeling the plastic bag off the morning newspaper, walking by the enormous vacancy by the back door or passing the park on the way to work. The box brought all of it rushing back in a flood. I cried for several hours. And I’m sure I’m not done.”
Jeffrey O’Brien, journalist
“When I struck out against Dustin Louthan in Bambino League baseball at the age of 13. My dad said, ‘Stop crying. You have to earn your cries.’ I stopped, and I’m waiting until I earn one. I suspect when it comes, it will be big.”
Will Leitch, author
“I want to cry pretty much every time I watch my network these days. Rick Sanchez? Really?”
Anonymous, CNN employee