Adam Lee Potter: Every man should be allowed to cry


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Whether it is tears of pride, empathy, sorrow or joy, every man should be allowed to cry

My nine-year-old daughter Dory asked me only the other day, shrill with disapproval: “Daddy, why are you always crying? Mummy never does.”

I had just burst into tears on the phone after a kindly stranger told me that Dory had got through to the semi-final of Dorset’s Got Talent. Tearing up, you’d think I’d been told I had days to live.

The woman clearly thought I’d hit the gin early. “Perhaps,” she said carefully, “I’d best talk to your wife?”

There is no more potent tearjerker than a giddy mix of relieved shock and paternal pride, compounded by the kindness of strangers.

The realisation that my daughter, tiny as she is, had impressed a trio of long-suffering judges by belting out a ballad she’d written herself was more than I could bear.

Indeed, the judges had but one complaint: the percussion-free backing track. Dory pointed the finger at once. “Daddy did that,” she told them, truthfully.

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Crying is like an illness with me. My family now won’t even come to the cinema after my Garbo-esque sobbing silenced the Dorchester premiere of Toy Story 3.

Pretty much anything sets off my maudlin nostalgia button: poorly children, sick animals, the opening bars of The Lark Ascending, a whiff of Mitsouko that takes me immediately back to the maternal embrace of 1976, the sweet but tough granny in Billy Elliot or - worst of all - Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

You don’t get any more emasculating than that: unmanned by Petula Clark. When she gets hit by a stray V-1 rocket and Peter O’Toole’s stiff upper lip starts to tremble, I’m lost.

My wife - who only cries in private, fiercely and rarely, and where’s the fun in that? - tolerates these histrionic outbursts even as she mutters that it’s all a little mauve.

When I broke down during The Archers omnibus (poor Helen) at the weekend, she snapped: “Oh, for God’s sake pull yourself together. If you get any girlier than this, you’ll be threading your eyebrows.”

I told her: “Aren’t men supposed to be in touch with their feelings these days?” She replied tersely: “Yes, but you’ve gone and jumped into bed with yours.”

But why are we embarrassed - and women appalled - by men crying? It’s cathartic, purging and ever ready: quicker than a round of golf, healthier than alcohol, safer than medication and cheaper than therapy.

As Charles Dickens put it in Great Expectations: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears. I was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

Our tears may be as aphrodisiacal as John Major’s socks but they are - in moderation - an emancipated badge of male decency.

A man’s tears are not those of a child: we’re not crying from pain or self-pity, but with empathy. You could prise out my fingernails and my eyes wouldn’t so much as water. Just don’t make me watch Marley & Me.

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