I’m just going to come out and say it: I cry. At least, I’m crying more now than I used to. Not tears-streaming-down-my-face-because-Kate-let-go-of-Leo-and-he-sank tears, but the watery eyes one gets when first realizing the dog probably won’t outlive you. I don’t know whether it’s the inexorable approach of my 50th birthday or the abysmal performance of Notre Dame’s defense this season, but I find myself riding an emotional roller coaster.
I’ve really noticed it during movies. Last year I was home with the flu and stumbled upon the 1980 classic Ordinary People. I couldn’t take my eyes off Timothy Hutton’s anguished confusion over his mother’s emotional detachment following the death of his older brother. My eyes welled up at the end when (spoiler alert) he reconnects with his dad. I was spent by the time the credits rolled.
I would’ve thought nothing of it had I not broken into tears toward the end of the next movie on that channel, 1994’s Guarding Tess. I went through more tissues when (spoiler alert) Shirley MacLaine refuses to let the helicopter take off without her personal guard than I did because of the congestion. No man should ever be caught crying during a Nicholas Cage movie, but I chalked it up to the NyQuil and lack of sleep. When I lost it during the Mountain Dew commercial later that afternoon, I knew something was up.
I struggle with how this conflicts with my supposed masculinity. To be honest, I’ve never really had too a firm a grasp on my “man card.” I’ve always been lousy with routine car maintenance, I don’t like steak or more than one beer, and I’m actually pretty good with directions. For a guy, I make a pretty good teenage girl.
It’s as if someone’s upping the voltage on my empathy meter as I get older. I get goose bumps on a regular basis: rooting for kids at the Little League World Series; cheering on the zebra in a YouTube video as it escapes the lion; celebrating the discovery of a forgotten Snickers bar at the bottom of the freezer. The hairs stand up on my arms so often I wonder if I’m walking under electrical wires.
Is this normal, and if so, what do we call it? Seems unfair that someone already gave women the term “menopause.”
I still remember the day my mom told me how my dad cried during the final scene in Field of Dreams when (spoiler alert) Kevin Costner gets to play catch with his dead father. I’d never seen my dad get that emotional outside of someone leaving the car on empty after driving. I didn’t know he was capable of allowing himself to feel at that level, and it’s been a comfort to me ever since.
I’m growing more comfortable with my emotionality these days. I don’t think showing the depth of my attachment to the world around me is a sign of weakness as much as it is evidence of engagement. And if I cry at a movie (spoiler alert), it might just be because I wasted 13 bucks on Zoolander 2.