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Abbie Wightwick column.

Byline: By Abbie Wightwick

I didn't see it but it must have struck a chord. Men friends talked about little else for days. Claudio Ranieri, manager of Chelsea, burst into tears after his team beat Arsenal in some crucial football match.

The significance of which team won eludes me but I am glad that at last I can find something of interest in the game.

The last time I followed soccer so closely was when Gazza bawled into his shirt after Germany beat England in the 1990 World Cup. As I recall, the ref had also threatened to send him off, so he was having a bad day all round.

Thankfully, Gazza decided stiff upper lips were surplus to requirement and wiped his tears openly on to his shirt.

This show of emotion almost made me forgive him for that song about fog.

There is something heartening about watching men cry spontaneously.

Whether it's conditioning, nature or nurture, men aren't usually that keen to expand on their emotions.You won't often find them dripping tears into cups of tea while best friends hand round the digestives. It's so rare to see the real thing that when you do it's hard not to be moved.

Men, like women, can turn on the waterworks as artifice. Crocodile tears cross both sexes and are equally nauseating. They are there for show rather than for real. Think Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars. Was I alone in wanting to slap her?

Then there were the tears that welled in President Bush Senior's eyes when George was inaugurated. I was upset too but felt crying was inappropriate.

Men seem to find it easiest to cry in public over issues that don't really matter.

Sport is a perfect example. OK, so they may have had their hearts set on victory and they may have been training all season, but it's not a life or death situation. Still, it's a start. Tears are a wonderful release for emotions that are too strong and too confused to express in words.

It seems a shame that half the population is denied Nature's in-built therapy. Feelings that aren't cried out may emerge as violence or depression.

British culture seems to shun public airing of triumphs or losses. It is seen as faintly undignified, embarrassing and exotic. I remember once being unable to stop crying at a funeral and being asked by a fellow mourner if I was all right.

This was a question so bizarre that I couldn't reply except by crying more.

Claudio's tears of joy were spread across the media just as Gazza's tears of sorrow were a decade ago.

Crying is an art that we are all born with but men seem to lose, either because they are conditioned into thinking it isn't masculine, or because they are genuinely more repressed than women.

Babies cry to communicate almost everything because they cannot talk. Toddlers cry out of frustration because they cannot always express themselves. Soon they learn that crying can be deployed in various forms for psychological warfare. Scream very loudly and Mummy may buy sweets because everyone is staring. Scream very loudly and Daddy may buy sweets because he has a migraine and will do anything for silence.

As they grow into children, they realise it just isn't on to cry over every little thing or no-one will believe them.

But hopefully they can still be told that tears are acceptable and necessary in the right circumstances.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2004
Words:580
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