‘When did you last cry?” That was one of the questions asked during last night’s Talk Radio/The Sun/Rupert Murdoch debate between the two woeful candidates who are standing as candidates to be in the list of the three worst British prime ministers ever. The winner will be the chief liar, charlatan, narcissist and huckster Boris Johnson. His answer was illustrative of the man himself. He cried when his bicycle was nicked from the House of Commons. In other words, he cried when he felt sorry for himself.
By contrast, Jeremy Hunt couldn’t remember the last time he cried, a broadly similar answer to that given by the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for the 19th century, who replied he had never cried as an adult. Does this make them ‘real’ men?
As a mental basket case, my answer was last week when once again I started to sink into a bout of depression and then later, that night, when I couldn’t sleep and had all manner of dark thoughts. Then, at the weekend, I saw a beautiful rhino, murdered brutally for its horns and that too reduced me into, if not a blubbering mess, then a slightly tearful state. Should I be ashamed of my feelings? Frankly, I don’t give a damn.
If my moods and emotions rattle along like an elderly fairground ride, that’s just me. If I cry when someone dies or someone loses the fight against an horrendous disease, in my head that’s a normal thing. Even, when someone cries when their football team loses a big game or gets relegated, I can understand, just about, how that can reduce someone to tears.
I can control this kind of emotion for most of the time and, like most mental people, I can sustain the illusion that all is well when I really need to. When I was sent to the Occupational Health Service by the British Red Cross, they concluded, to the astonishment of myself and my latest psychotherapist, that I was ‘mentally weak’ (those were the actual words). She didn’t say those words to my face when I attended which was just as well because I was in the middle of a fully-blown British Red Cross induced mental breakdown but she certainly included the actual words in her report. I didn’t agree. I thought, and still think, I was and remain the world’s strongest man for still being here after all these years.
I have found that on occasions, crying had a positive effect. I only cried once when my mother died and once I had got it out of the way, I was able to understand it was the end of her horrible struggle against ill health that caused her unbelievably pain and distress. And with the death of my mum I learned that vital lesson: I was crying for me, my loss and the empty space in my life. I knew then it was all right to cry. I had simply got it out of the way and was able to celebrate the parts of her life that were worth celebrating and not to wallow in a pool of self-pity.
The middle aged Tory men cling to the old delusion of stiff upper lip, where crying is somehow weak. No, it isn’t. I don’t control every time I laugh, I can’t control every time I cry. Sometimes, with either emotion, it’s good to let it out.
The question ‘when did you last cry?’ isn’t that interesting really. If you never cry, you’re not stronger, you’re not better and, if you are man, it doesn’t make you better. It just means you cry sometimes, for good reasons or bad. That’s all.