Boys Don’t Cry

Me and a boy were talking about some real shit
I mean hard shit
Like how he wanted to die
And he said, stop it, you’re making me cry
I said, what’s wrong with that
He said, everything
I said, name one thing
He told me two
I am not a girl, and I am not a baby
I thought, there it is
The tough-love line we hear from our mothers
We tell our best friends and we tell our little brothers
But as often as we say it, it’s still a lie
Just three words: boys don’t cry

He said, it’s like
You prove you’re a boy when you prove what you’re not
Well I got caught a lot so I got taught that you cannot walk like, talk like, fight like, write like, dress like a girl, or you’re less like a boy
And more like someone who ought to get beat up
Then he shrugs his shoulders, like I don’t make the rules, but I don’t fuck with fools who don’t know the way to avoid getting called a bitch is to not get emotional in the first place
It’s the first taste of the pace of the ways we embrace the violence that we think is our best protection
Like flexing
I’ll roll up the heart on my sleeve to show you the scar I believe you know where this one is from
That fight where I fought where I might have not been quite so quick to fit this fist like a fix for that first taste of violence
But I had to
There’s too much to lose
And boys gotta prove what we’re not
So I’ll bluff like a blackjack callback past the fact that this mask is an act and that’s all it ever was
And stop talking like I’ve got tears in my eyes
Cause I’m not a girl and boys don’t…yeah

He said, there’s one other thing you should understand
It’s that every young boy wants to be a man
There’s a presence of lessons in adolescence
Like when my grade school grad class asked
What do you want to be when you grow up
And my only answer was, honestly? Big
It’s important to recognize, because they don’t just tell you that boys don’t cry
They say big boys don’t, and then they say you’re big or your worthless
So I know it’s worth this so I hold this surface tension attention prevention let me be real clear the only thing I’m getting off my chest is a bench press
What makes a man, muscle
We’re taught to forget that the heart is a muscle too
Like I’ll become man enough to withstand enough understand that my hands are commanding enough so I show up with fists so I grow up like this split lip bullshit hit me anywhere you want just don’t acknowledge my feelings
And when I’m that man I won’t still wonder why
The first thing I learned is that boys…you get it

I said, yeah I get it, I’m also a guy
But listen I’m telling you every boy cries
It’s a fact, right, but you act, right
If nothing else wear your mask right
But it’s like this you start you can’t fight this apart and you gotta let somebody else in your heart, I mean real shit, hard shit
Trust them and be who you are, quit
Pretending that this isn’t sad
Or that it doesn’t matter
You matter
That’s not poetry, that’s a full sentence
So when you say stop it you’re making me cry
You decide to try to lie to hide deny the inside your implied pride is leading to the biggest killer of boys and young men
That comes from somewhere
Which brings me back to that tough love line we heard from our mothers
We told our best friends and we told our little brothers
But as often as we said it, it was always a lie
Let’s change just one word, boys do cry

Be a Man

I want to start with an image
There’s a boy, who’s twelve, and he’s crying
I’ve got a lot inside, there’s pain, grief, loneliness, anger
And I can’t hold it all, so I slam my fist into a wall
She grabs my hand without a doubt
Like somehow she will figure out what to say
From the lines in my palm
I imagine her reading my future like this is the map to manhood
Well your love line is really long, so you’re going to hit a lot of women
Not just the wall
The she folds my fingers and kisses my fist
Not the tears on my cheek
Like this is what’s hurting, not this

And I want you to hold that image inside while I tell you about how I lost my best friend when I was five
We were just playing
I knocked him down, he hit the ground and didn’t make a sound until I heard a teacher say are you okay, and he whispered, I want Jonathon
And I felt good, because my best friend needed me
So I reached down and lifted him up and he punched me as hard as he could in the stomach
Can you imagine what that felt like?
It felt like an ocean wave slamming against me
An entire tide of salt water rising behind my eyes
Because I was surprised, I didn’t know this guy
This boy who couldn’t cry, how did we come to this
That he would need his fist more than he needed me

Well that’s what we teach our boys
Don’t cry, toughen up, be a man
What are you, some kind of faggot
You pussy, you going to go home and cry about it
Come on, don’t be a bitch
Walk it off, rub some dirt in it
Be a good soldier
Like post-traumatic stress disorder
Do you think it’s a coincidence that if they hold it inside then they suicide
It’s not
It’s dangerous as hell and it’s what we teach our boys
Be a man

When I was ten, I fell playing basketball
I still remember the blurry eyes, bloody arms
And the teacher who looked at me and said
Battle scars
Fuck that
Cause I don’t need to be a hero
I need a hug
Cause the future seems bleak when you can’t be weak
When you need to wear this mask like it’s your only task
Be a man

When I was thirteen I was in the park
And a boy fell learning to ride his bike
His dad said, come on son, get up, don’t be a wimp
Well I didn’t know his name but I knew his shame
Because he didn’t say it
But the look in his eyes was just as loud
He wanted to make his dad proud
So he blinked and did the only thing he knew how
He stood up
So congratulations son, take a bow
You’ve learned the act just like my best friend when I was five
Be a man

And if you’re listening to this thinking but it’s for the best we make them stronger
You’re wrong
I know a boy who cut himself so many times his blood vessels stopped healing properly
And I’m sorry if that’s not poetic but it’s not fucking poetic
Strong is not invincible
Weak is not invaluable
So you have the choice
Tears on a cheek or a closed fist missed opportunity for what we could have been
I want you to imagine that you have the chance to reach out and hold my best friend right before that ocean wave hits
To open his hand and read new lines to manhood
For my sake and for the sake of any boys listening to this
I hope your kiss tastes like saltwater