Actor, author, and accomplished woodworker Nick Offerman had the best response to a question about emotions in an interview with Men’s Health magazine.
With his classically masculine roles (most notably Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation”), handy skills, outdoorsmanship, and remarkable facial hair, many see Offerman as the very picture of classic manliness.
With that in mind, writer Sean Evans asked Offerman about the last time he cried.
Here’s Offerman’s applause-worthy response in full (emphasis added):
“I went to theatre school. I took two semesters of ballet. I’m the sissy in my family. I cry with pretty great regularity. It’s not entirely accurate to equate me with manliness. I stand for my principals and I work hard and I have good manners but machismo is a double-sided coin. A lot of people think it requires behavior that can quickly veer into misogyny and things I consider indecent. We’ve been sold this weird John Wayne mentality that fistfights and violence are vital to being a man. I’d rather hug than punch. Crying at something that moves you to joy or sadness is just as manly as chopping down a tree or punching out a bad guy. To answer your question, I recently saw Alicia Keys perform live. I’d never seen her before and the sheer golden, heavenly talent issuing from her and her singing instrument had both my wife and me in tears. What a gorgeous gift she has. Her voice is so great. And I had no shame [about crying.] If you live your life openly with your emotions, that’s a more manly stance than burying them.“
BOOM! That’s the kind of thinking we need to dismantle toxic masculinity.
Offerman’s words are vital, especially for men and boys who are socialized to believe “boys don’t cry.”
Though it may seem like a different world, gender roles and expectations have changed very little in the past 30 years, and a bias against men crying — especially in public — persists.
“That crying is a sign of weakness and a reason for shame is a lesson most males learn by the time they reach adolescence,” wrote Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D., for Psychology Today. “Whether by ‘swallowing tears’ or actively avoiding situations that might lead to crying, males actively suppress their emotions or express them in other ways that seem more suitable for their gender roles.”
Actively suppressing tears can lead to other physical and emotional concerns. Stifling this natural response can temporarily raise a person’s blood pressure or heart rate since the body’s fight or flight response has to work overtime to figure out what’s happening.
Not to mention, crying is almost exclusively a human trait, and it’s one of our body’s built-in mechanisms for emotional release. It also reveals our capacity to have empathy for others. When we see a sad movie, learn good news, or as in Offerman’s case, witness a remarkable talent, our bodies react with emotional, empathetic tears. That’s not weakness (or “fake”) — that’s a physiological marvel.
So take it from Offerman, a multi-faceted, talented, emotional man: Let it allllllll out.
No matter your gender, having emotions or feelings so strong you’re moved to tears is nothing to be ashamed of. Offerman is right. We should never be afraid to have a good cry when the mood strikes — no matter what Ron Swanson says.