Men Don’t Cry

Rosa Martinez

Snow cone seller.  Photo: Juan Suarez
Snow cone seller. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — “Boys don’t cry, damn it!” How many times have we heard this? I, for one, heard it many a time from my father, scolding my younger brother for crying over something (being hungry, tired, etc.).

I thought that was something only my old man said (he had a male chauvinist rural upbringing with plenty of prejudices), but it didn’t take me long to find out other parents thought this way and, what’s worse, expressed similar things. “Act like a man, goddammit!” they would say to a cousin of mine. “Don’t be a fag, boy. So much crying makes you look like a little girl,” they would say to another.

My poor, misguided family forced the boys to swallow up the pain caused by a cut on the foot, a lost fight or a poor grade at school. Rage, yelling and even violence towards others were permitted, but not crying.

I felt lucky among all these boys, as I was allowed to cry whenever I wanted. They didn’t let me do many things in life, but, thankfully, crying wasn’t one of them.

A few days ago, my uncle German lost one of his children.

Carlitos, the oldest of his offspring, left early for work, as he normally did. He said goodbye to his two little girls and his parents. “I’ll be back early today, to prepare the chili stew I promised you,” he told his dad on his way out. A car accident didn’t let him keep his promise of preparing his friend and confidant’s favorite dish, let alone take care of him in his old age.

Many tears were shed during the funeral by his wife, sons, brothers, cousins and friends. Though we know death is everyone’s destiny, it is more painful when the deceased is a young person with apparently good health.

My uncle stood by the coffin the whole time, surrounded by many people, but alone.

“Crying is good,” a neighbor said to him, offering him her condolences, “let the pain out, the anger, the resignation.” But he wasn’t listening to anyone.

We went to the cemetery and we buried the outstanding worker, excellent father, lover and son…

When we got back home, everything finally dawned on German. He would never again see his beloved son; he would never again embrace him…never again. It was then when he fell down, yelled and cried like I’ve never seen a man cry.