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September 5, 2017 1:48 am  #1

coworker observation

I've been holding off on posting this for a while, but the board has been so quiet I figure now's as good a time as any. 

I have a 21 year old male coworker (looks strikingly like this) who I have always wanted to see cry. He has depressive tendencies and once mentioned to me that "I've felt like crying every day this week" as well as a couple old tweets along the lines of "worst night in a long time," or even more tantalizing, "I hope the tears in my eyes don't let on that I'm upset to my coworkers." (I checked the date, I wasn't working that day.)All that makes him sound sort of attention-seeking, but that's really not the case at all. He's someone who routinely puts the needs of others ahead of his own, even to his own detriment, and tends to be very stoic, if a little morose. He also has a lot of ideas about masculinity that I think end up hurting him. 

A few weeks ago his family pet was having medical issues, and he came into work anyway. I approached him in our break area around midday to ask if there was any news. He was facing away from me, and said quickly, "yeah put down," like he was already fighting tears. I said I was so sorry, and asked if he hugged (it's a habit of mine to ask before hugging someone, especially if I have no hug-history with them), and he said no. He was already trying so hard not to cry, I think hugging him would have made him break down. His chin was trembling and his eyes were filled with tears, he kept touching at the corners so keep them from falling. He said, “life is so cruel” and the pain in his voice and on his face was so open, that might have been the most vulnerable I've ever seen anyone. I sort of wish I had hugged him anyway, even though it almost definitely would have pushed him over the edge. 

He said, “I can’t cry, like an a**hole” (or along those lines), said that his friend had just lost his dad and what right did he have to cry when other people had it so much worse. I tried to combat that with “What would your friend say if he heard you say that? You crying doesn’t take anything away from anyone else,” but there wasn’t much I could do to dismantle that line of thought quickly. At that point other people came into the room and I stepped in front and talked to them so he could stay back and compose himself. I figure that's the second-best way to help someone who is crying, who isn’t willing to accept direct comfort. I can at least make it easier for them to stay discreet. 
Later that day we walked out to our cars and he mentioned working on some project for our boss that evening and I said, “tonight’s going to suck. It just is.” He said he wasn’t going to go home and was going to try to just keep busy. I said okay, but make sure you let yourself feel it sometime. He said, “I will, when I’m alone or late at night.”

I held off on posting this because the reason he was crying was so sad. In happier news, his family now has a new puppy, and a few of us at work had a tree planted in a national forest in his old dog's honor.    

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.
-- Antoine de Saint Exupery, "The Little Prince"

September 6, 2017 4:04 pm  #2

Re: coworker observation

Wow, meantangerine, that is definitely some powerful story. Having lost three of my pets in the span of 5 months, I can absolutely relate to that young man,
Now, while I understand the 'no-hugging unless you ask' line of thought, in that instance, I would not have asked and hugged him anyway. It definitely would have made him break down and cry - which might have been what he really needed to do. However, I probably would have pulled him into an office or outside or someplace away from others' prying eyes. I know what it is like to be at work and want to cry, have to cry, or just have it happen spontaneously, so that "embarrassment" is not lost on me. It just seems from your story like he has some real hangups about men crying, and unfortunately, that is exactly what he needed to do. Poor thing. Although it indeed is a sad topic, and can be a trigger for some of us on here, it is indeed an excellent observation.
I wonder, at the memorial ceremony, was he there? Did he cry or tear up then?


September 7, 2017 6:14 pm  #3

Re: coworker observation

I've heard that line so many times as well - "what right do I have to cry" - "there people worse off than me" - yeah, there probably is - and they are probably crying as well, even if you don't see it. I always say to people if you feel like crying it's justified - they are your feelings and yours alone. This guy was on the very edge - with visible tears in his eye some would class him as crying anyway - it would have probably done him a world of good to let a few tears fall and be comforted and hugged by you. 

​Do you think he was worried you would be interrupted - as you ultimately were? If you'd been somewhere where there was no chance of other people seeing him cry do you think he would have let himself go?

​Next time, hug him and tell him it's ok to cry  ;o)


September 9, 2017 9:59 pm  #4

Re: coworker observation

It saddens me how so many people are still pushing the toxic "real men don't cry" ideology. Real men do cry, because real men are, in fact, human. That poor young man desperately needed to let out a good cry. As others have stated before, perhaps the next time you're around him and he's still on edge, you could lead him to a more private place and hug him anyway. That can usually be exactly what someone that emotionally distraught needs without even knowing it themselves. I can feel for this poor man, as I have also lost my dog I've had since I was five- it is incredibly painful. I hope he's holding up okay.


September 9, 2017 10:32 pm  #5

Re: coworker observation

As a cat-lover, the OP's story touched me (I had a beloved cat put down over ten years ago).  And I totally agree with everything tearhunter and Whimsy wrote.


September 15, 2017 1:02 am  #6

Re: coworker observation

I understand that others may have handled the situation differently, and I agree that he did need to let it out, but ultimately I stand by my decision to ask and respect his no. If I could, I would love to take away all his destructive ideas about men crying, but in that moment, I couldn't; I could just make him as comfortable as I could, and I think in that moment, he valued maintaining his control/composure over his emotional health. I disagreed with his priorities, but I didn't want to force him to do something he didn't want to do. 

This is an interesting conversation-- I'm happy to keep discussing it if others are interested!

I've had pretty minimal contact with him in the last few weeks (during the school year he only works weekends, when i'm off, but from what I can tell he is doing better. 

It is such a secret place, the land of tears.
-- Antoine de Saint Exupery, "The Little Prince"
     Thread Starter

September 15, 2017 1:33 am  #7

Re: coworker observation

You did the right thing. Crying in real life is so different from acted crying - I simply can't enjoy when a man cries IRL because I'm too focused on easing his distress.

"We have our stalking memories, and they will demand their rightful tears."

September 15, 2017 5:23 am  #8

Re: coworker observation

meantangerine, you did good with what you could, and you did right by honoring his no. I think in the long run, you being there with him, listening to him, honoring his bodily autonomy and heading off the coworkers to give him a little time, did him more good than a crying session would have at that particular time.


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