When I was 6, I sat on the floor of the doctor’s office as my older brother was getting his annual checkup. Naturally, I got bored.
The nurses gave me a sheet of paper and crayons. They told me to draw something funny.
Thirty seconds later, I depicted my brother Alex sitting on the doctor’s table with his arm being stabbed — mouth wide open, wailing, as big, blue drops of water streamed down his face.
I chuckled, my mom gasped, the doctor scolded, but my brother took a deep breath. Despite his fear of needles, he felt as though he couldn’t cry or else he would be deemed “weak.”
Don’t worry — we laugh about it now. Alex, if I haven’t apologized yet, sorry, bestie!
There’s more to it, though.
Why did I find it funny to see a 7-year-old boy crying over a big needle — a completely rational fear?
As we grew up, Alex was always someone my sister and I looked up to. My parents taught him to protect us, and he did. He stuck up for us when we were made fun of, he toted us around before I could drive and he even paid for our Starbucks.
As most brothers do, he wrestled us, flicked us, chased us and farted in our faces — all of which he continues to do at the age of 21.
As the undesignated family eulogist, I had a particularly hard time with my one grandfather’s death. It was only my second eulogy, and I struggled through the reading. When I went to sit back down in the church pew, I laid my head on Alex’s shoulder.
He held his head high while I sobbed into his shoulder. I saw him shed one, maybe two tears.
It’s not like he wasn’t sad, though. In fact, he still drives the “Zeb-mobile” — my grandpa’s 20-year-old beige Honda CRV that didn’t even pass its last inspection.
Alex is forever determined to show a strong, outgoing side because that’s what he was taught.
In fact, I don’t think he’s alone. Many young boys are taught they need to be strong.
Boys don’t cry. Only girls talk about their feelings. You have to like sports because you’re a boy.
I’m calling bulls---.
Society has this fixed perception that boys can’t show their emotions or talk about their feelings because it makes them weak.
Boys, you will still have “balls” if you’re honest about having a bad day. You can shed tears because you got a bad haircut. You can be depressed, anxious and seek medical or professional help. You will be just as strong, if not stronger.
Your mental health matters.
I want to see guys rant about their day on a private Snapchat story. I want to know if a guy is upset and in need of a shoulder to cry on. I want to see a guy do a little dancey-dance on TikTok if he gets excited about something.
I may not know what it’s like to be told by society to refrain from showing emotions, but I’m willing to help change the stereotype.
Though major depressive disorders are said to be more prevalent in women, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, men died by suicide nearly four times more than women in 2020 as cited by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
I’m no psychologist, but part of me will forever believe that toxic masculinity is playing a role in this.
You are allowed to be insecure, emotional, in pain. You can talk about your feelings.
The only way your character in life can develop is if you sit with the pain and grow from it. You can’t do that if you’re stuck lying about your height to make yourself feel more masculine.
In the wise words of Michael Scott, “Society teaches us that having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that's baloney, because grief isn't wrong. There's such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.”
If it really tickles your peach to continue memorizing the birthdays, hometowns, colleges and social security numbers of every athlete on your favorite team, keep doing you. If you’d rather talk about why your gym split has one leg day and four push or pull days, please don’t let me interrupt.
But… if you ever need to unpack, I’m sure your bros will hear you out. If they don’t, feel free to hit my line. All I do is make fun of myself and others through a news outlet.
There’s no shame in asking for help. We’re all humans, and you’re not alone. It’s OK to not be OK.
Kings debrief their days, acknowledge their personal beef and let people in. I don’t make the rules.
Happy Men's Mental Health Awareness Month. Keep slaying, besties. You got this.