Earthly

Why can't real men cry?
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The Independent Culture
David is standing on the pavement. While everyone else lingers in the lobby choosing free postcards and discussing whether they can hold on for the loo, David has raced for the safety of the outdoors. It's drizzling, and threatening to turn into buckets - quite appropriate since we've been wallowing in dead babies, incipient tuberculosis and pigs' entrails all afternoon. It rains constantly in Jude, and everybody suffers. Let it never be said that the Russians held the monopoly in gloom.

Anyway, David's pouting, and glaring at a dump bin. I lean against a poster for Last Man Standing. "You," I say, "have been crying". This is an excellent tactic if you want to draw attention away from your own mascara- smeared cuffs. We are surrounded by people going "that was wudderful. Fadtastic" and breathing through their mouths.

"No I haven't," he says. His eyes are rimmed red like a Tory propaganda poster. Men are darling when they do that I-don't-care-if-I-grazed-my knee act. He does a long, snotty snort. "The air conditioning in that place is too strong," he says. "My nose is all blocked".

Jules comes out. "Werrr," she says, "I haven't cried that much in ages". "It was okay," says David. "I like films like that. They cheer me up." Jules gives him a look. "So what was that snuffling, then?" "Nothing. My nose was blocked." "Well, how come you kept rubbing your eyes?" "Look," he says, "I'm really tired at the moment. They were hurting."

I did see David cry once, or at least go pink and start dribbling, which is roughly the same thing. It was the night England dropped out of Euro 96, and every Pringle sweater in London was blubbering into his pint. I haven't had such a good laugh since Squidgygate. I remind him of this. He shows no shame. "Yeah, but that was football. Of course I cry about important things. I just never cry in films. I laughed when Bambi's mother died. I talked all the way through Debra Winger's deathbed speech in Terms of Endearment."

Jules and I exchange one of those "men" glances. "Don't do that," says David, "Just because you women can't stop snivelling into your cappuccinos doesn't make it a virtue. Nothing would get done if we all burst into tears every time we broke a fingernail".

"My fingernails mean a lot to me," says Jules. "I invested a lot of time in my fingernails."

We play chicken through the traffic on Clapham High Street. It's the end of the rush hour and the pavements are crowded with Big Issue vendors. I can't let the subject rest. "You really don't cry?"

"Never."

An image from lunchtime flits across my memory. "Bet I can make you cry right now."

"Try it." He pulls the "I come from Yorkshire" arm-fold.

"Remember that call you made to Madrid before we went out?"

"Yerr?"

"I don't remember you hanging up."

David goes white, sticks out his hand and disappears in a cloud of black- cab diesel. Jules and I wade on through the kebab wrappers. "Was that true?" she asks. "Naah. Just an experiment." "Good one".

We pass a kid and his dad. Kid is just-pre-testosterone: old enough to recite the names of the Manchester United squad since 1963, too young to insist on changing his own sheets. His mouth is a wobbly "O" and his fists are clenched. "I don't want to," he wails. Papa stands three paces away. "Stop it, Michael," he intones. "You're too old to cry." At the bus stop, a man in a corduoroy bomber jacket is locked in denial with his girlfriend. "I was having trouble with my contacts," he says in that irritated whine usually reserved for younger sisters, "and anyway, I think I'm coming down with a cold." Her laughter rings out over the hydraulic pshht as the bus door opens.

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