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Dear Fellow Travelers,

Have you heard this one before: “Why are you crying?!?”? Uttered in a tone ranging from surprised, to displeased, or even accusatory, this question still startles me. After having learned all the social conventions of when, where, and to which extent it is appropriate to express my feelings including different social environments (work vs. private life), gender groups (men vs. women – and yes, I choose “versus” deliberately, here), and source of emotions (physical pain vs. anger better left muted a bit), I am still puzzled when I run into this blatant accusation, because an ACCUSATION it is!

I could possibly dismiss this question uttered by my work team’s sales coach and brush it off like so many of his insensitive comments glaring with a lack of people skills, if it weren’t the drop in my bucket right now. And it is time to speak up. There is nothing wrong with tears! In fact, Kathleen Doheny quotes in her article, “Why We Cry: The Truth About Tearing Up,” that

”Crying is a natural emotional response to certain feelings, usually sadness and hurt. But then people [also] cry under other circumstances and occasions,” says Stephen Sideroff, PhD…For instance, he says, ”people cry in response to something of beauty…. They are letting go of their guard, their defenses, tapping into a place deep inside themselves.”

I am not condoning crying at every instance because that usually shows an unhealthy lack of self-control or even deliberate manipulation, but learning to admit to an emotional side in and of life I consider not only healthy but increasingly necessary. If there were as much emphasis on the emotional side of things as there is on the rational side, the world would be more balanced and kinder. Let me explain.

When I was slapped with that man’s comment on tears rushing to my eyes after another wave of pain had shot through my body despite the shots I had received from the emergency doctor minutes before, I was in the process of explaining to him the reason that I could not continue work that day. First of all, I did not cry deliberately to gather empathy – that would be a lost cause with that person anyway. It was merely a physical reaction to my back pain that happened to occur while engaged in a conversation with him, creeping along the polished airport floors toward the kiosk at which my colleague was eagerly awaiting news from my doctor’s visit. My colleague had seen my pain earlier, offered to take me to the ER, and already called to check up on me – that colleague is female.

Now there is the reason I used “versus” in the paragraph above. Although I know some courageous men  who are not ashamed or afraid of tears, most men still are. And what’s worse, they lash out at those who cry; because that is what it was, a lashing out at a female whose physical pain grew so intense that the body released stress hormones through tears. She did not cry to get compassion. She did not cry to get out of work. She did not cry to manipulate. Yet, on top of her physical pain she had to endure an attack that insinuated several things, namely that she a) behaved inappropriately, b) was too weak, c) tried to accomplish a particular goal with her tears, d) had no “reason” to cry as condoned by the accompanying man, and, most importantly, e) has to have PERMISSION to cry by said man.

It is one thing that men still feel inhibited to allow expression of their softer feelings, also. Although having grown up in the 1970’s I observed a softening of male roles galore, it seems that this softening, in Germany at least, has led more to a confusion of gender roles and courteous behavior (as in, “you can open your own door, you are a feminist, aren’t you?”) than of integrating the female side into the male psyche. I find this confusion fascinating and off-putting, because it has resulted in a society in which women (and generally anybody, really) are not treated courteously anymore, are expected to appear as hard as men when it comes to showing softer emotions, but are still disgraced when displaying harder ones, such as open aggression, or just even speaking / standing up for themselves.

I tried it once: I angrily slapped a tram when it was leaving the station one minute early and people laughed at me, stunned. And always, or %99 that is, I would have to raise my voice to be heard over the men’s loud ones – something I have refused to do for 25 years now. I give it a maximum of three attempts to be heard in a normal voice, then I leave the conversation, regardless of what it is about. Although it still makes me angry sometimes, I do keep my self-respect that way. It does require a great amount of confidence, though, as conflicts take a longer time to be resolved that way and the men, more often than not, lash out at you for that, too.

Even though this sounds like a victim report now, I don’t mean it to be one. I do not feel like a victim, but I do see the victimization of females and males acting in a similar way. Those of us, who subscribe to living an authentic life that includes tears and self-respect to be gained by not bowing to the social and definitely patriarchal conventions still in place, are being openly attacked. Being attacked does not equal being a victim, though, and the empowerment derives from feeling strong in being who you are. Incidents such as this one may rattle me, sure, as some things sometimes will. But deep inside I know I am strong enough to stand up for myself and the new world of balanced female and male energies and qualities.

I feel this is the right way and I know I am not alone. And we, who are in touch with all our aspects of our personalities, are the ones changing the world. And this is the answer to your question “Warum heulst’ denn jetzt?!?”!

Spread the balance! Namaste’