Cherise got me into So You Think You Can Dance pretty much right when we met. Since then, I’ve watched every season with her. It’s truly an amazing show – there’s some awesome dancing, moving stories, and none of the mean-spirited comments that you might find on other reality competition shows. The other night, while we were watching a recorded episode on our DVR, I found myself moved to tears by the story of a 19 year old contestant who lost her father to a car crash when she was 12. I also found myself trying to hold back the tears (truth is, I’ve always been an emotional guy, but since becoming a dad, things hit me harder and quicker than ever before).
Then I stopped and thought to myself: Why am I trying to choke back the tears? Cherise is just as moved as I am, she’s my wife and I can certainly be comfortable showing emotions around her….
Then I started thinking about why I felt like I had to censor myself.
I know. You’re probably thinking: Don’t let this be a post about how men aren’t supposed to cry, and women are, and you think it’s ok to let your emotions show, blah blah blah…
Don’t worry. It’s not. Mostly not, anyway.
Here’s the thing: it’s not about what men and women are or aren’t supposed to be, do or feel. I believe that men and women are essentially the same – we all feel the entire spectrum of emotions. It’s what makes us human. Expressing what we feel is healthy.
Bottling it up causes ulcers. (Trust me, I know about this firsthand)
And that’s what I want Jacob to understand. Gender roles are a crock. If you’re happy, be happy. If you’re sad, let it out and cry – you’ll feel better afterward. If you’re a guy and you love pink, then wear pink and smile! If you’re a woman and you want to rebuild car transmissions, maybe learn about electric vehicles instead (environment, hello!). In all seriousness, we should all follow our passions regardless of what gender we are and what gender is “supposed” to fulfill that role.
The other day, I took him to a kids play place nearby. They had all sorts of costumes that the kids could wear. He chose the pink and purple super hero costume with the billowing pink cape. He said: “This one! I want to wear this one!” And you know what? I put it on him and took pictures, all with a huge grin on my face. He was happy and so was I. He was hammering away at a play tool bench, dressed as a pink super hero. Then he went and cooked at the fake stove. I couldn’t have been more proud. The time before that when I took him, he chose the pirate costume and didn’t want to take it off. Makes absolutely zero difference to me as long as he’s happy, healthy and not a little terror (that’s a whole other story for a very different kind of post)…
I think if we all resisted the urge to tell our children what boys and girls were “supposed” to be like and just let them be who they are, we wouldn’t need to tell us guys that there’s no shame in crying because something moved us.
Empathy is a strength, not a weakness.
And if Jacob ever decides to wear a dress or anything else that would be viewed as inappropriate for a guy to do, well, I’ll do it right along with him, walking hand in hand until he looks at me and says: “Don’t worry dad, I got this.”
Just don’t ask me to shave my legs… (I doubt I could handle the itch)