Boys Do Cry

Despite the movie titles and song lyrics to the contrary, boys do cry. Some merely shed a few tears every decade or so, but others seem to bawl like babies. And while the majority of iVillage women who shared their opinion on the topic expressed their attraction to men who are not afraid to show their emotions, plenty of iVillagers were quick to put a limit on male tear flow.

Those in favor of men crying went so far as to say that men who aren't afraid to cry are "sexy" and "brave." As iVillager Tabitha puts it, "men who cry are brave because they just let go. So many guys are scared to let the tears flow, and that is truly sad." Men who cry are also perceived as more manly than those who don't. Says iVillager Ursula, "I feel fortunate to have a man in my life who is secure enough in his manhood to show that he is vulnerable and that he is not made of steel.

It's the men who are made of steel that make many women nervous. "Usually, when a man is feeling emotional, the only way he shows it is by being angry," says iVillager Daisy. "I think it's healthy when a man can express his true emotions. I'd rather see a man cry than act out in anger!" iVillager Benji agrees: "I would rather have a man who cries than one who shows his sadness and pain through violence."

Why Men Don't Cry
iVillager Lana is onto something when she says that it's time men started showing their emotions. "In the past, men were forced to hide their emotions, which only caused more stress and anxiety," she explains. Scientific studies back up her theory. Research shows that many of the health problems that plague men -- including a lower average age of death -- are due in part to an inability show emotions or cry.

Generally, boys stop crying in their teen years, when all the "crying is unmanly" lessons dating back to their toddler years finally sink in. Yet while plenty of women feel sorry for men who feel they must hold back their tears, a good number of iVillagers rather like the fact that men don't cry on a regular basis.

Finding a Balance
"I think it's a positive thing for a man to cry, as long as he's crying over appropriate things," explains iVillager Twinlakota. "If he cries because he's insecure, then that's a turn-off. I want a man who is strong and confident, someone who will protect me when needed." iVillager Nancy agrees: "If a man cries at the right time, it's good, but too much sensitivity ruins everything that men stand for."

"A little crying is very touching and demonstrates desirable sensitivity," chimes in iVillager Rene. "But sob like my three-year-old and you can go back to your momma!" Rene adds that she wants her man to be strong for her, so that she can cry when she wants to.

"There's a fine line between what is acceptable to women and what isn't when it comes to men and crying," says Sherry Amatenstein, iVillage Dating Doyenne. "On the one hand, women like it when men are in touch with their emotions and feel comfortable showing their vulnerability. On the other hand, women are raised to want a strong guy. If a man is too sensitive, women get nervous that they'll have to play protector all the time, that they'll be forced to take care of their man."

As iVillager Pam puts it, "there has to be a balance." She doesn't have a problem with men who cry and show their sensitive side, but she doesn't like it when they cross the line and become too sensitive. "Then men are toxic," she says. "They begin to look to you to make all of the decisions and handle the problems and so on. That leads straight to the divorce court."

Clearly, many women are torn between wanting a macho man and wanting their macho man to break down every once in a while. While women want new millennium men to be sensitive, we also want them to be strong and protective, to be there to offer a solid, dry shoulder for us to weep on.

Crying Catch-22
Men pick up on that, says iVillage's expert on all things male, Mr. Answer Man. "When a man and a woman are facing a sad or otherwise painful situation and the woman starts to cry, the man generally feels he must hold back his tears," says Mr. Answer Man. "There just isn't room for both parties to fall apart. One person has to stay strong." A practical and logical approach, sure, but is it fair? Mr. Answer Man says no way. He wouldn't mind being the one who's allowed to shed a few tears once in a while. Based on the responses from some iVillage women on the topic, though, Mr. Answer Man may find himself out in the cold clutching his box of tissues.

"I would think of a man as wimpy if he cried as much as me," says iVillager Allison. "My husband has cried just once in our seven years together. I didn't think any less of him, I was actually touched that he was crying over me, but a lot of weeping would probably make me want to slap him back into reality!"

According to Amatenstein, women need not worry that their men will become sobbers with a little encouragement in the crying department. "Let your man know it's okay to cry sometimes, that you'll still think of him as a strong, tough guy," she advises. "This will give him a healthful release and allow the two of you to get closer."

If your man refuses to cry, don't worry, she adds. People handle and show their emotions in different ways. Just because he's not letting the tears flow on the outside doesn't mean he's not crying inside.

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