I’m rattling towards 52 and nowadays I love a good cry - Euan McColm

I’m not saying I cry easily, but the kids are getting wary of going to the cinema with me.

I’ll suggest we see this particular movie, the girl will ask if I’ll cry, I’ll admit that I can’t guarantee I won’t, and the boy will suggest we see something else.

Thus, we are fairly limited to the sort of movies we can watch together. We stick to the reasonably safe worlds of John Wick and the Fast and the Furious. And even then, there’s no guarantee that some scene or other won’t set me off. I have not yet cried during a Jason Statham movie but we simply cannot rule out the possibility that, one day, I will.

I have not always been so lachrymose.

The Elephant Man, 1980, reduced Euan McColm to tears as a child.

Picture: ShutterstockThe Elephant Man, 1980, reduced Euan McColm to tears as a child.

Picture: Shutterstock
The Elephant Man, 1980, reduced Euan McColm to tears as a child. Picture: Shutterstock
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The first time I cried watching a movie was during a teenage viewing of The Elephant Man. It was the bit when John Merrick and Mrs Treves talk about his mother and I defy anyone to watch it without losing their composure.

For a long time, a movie or a song had to really go some to provoke my tears. Every so often, a real masterpiece would emerge to deserve my emotional reaction but, by and large, I could go about my daily business without blubbing at the slightest thing.

These days, I’m less discriminating. Things that have recently made me cry include the opening song from the Mary Poppins sequel, the experience of unwrapping the recent ABBA album, and the thought of a TV commercial in which a wee girl buys her mum a bar of chocolate using buttons, a ring and a plastic unicorn. Note that I didn’t have to actually view that particular ad - which should carry a warning every time it’s screened - I merely had to remember it for the tears to come.

I’m rattling towards 52 and of a generation which retains a degree of “real men don’t cry” in its worldview. As a child, I saw my father cry once and it made me think that If the world could break this man, my protector, then there was no chance for me.

Years later, I learned my father had been crying after a prolonged and terrifying episode of delirium tremens. That incident is now filed in the rolodex of my brain from which it might spring out at any moment, provoking tears.

After a prolonged period during which male crying was an absolute no-no, we are now more relaxed about it.

Of course, because the world is entirely messed up, we see male crying as something special, a show of vulnerability revealing some inner strength, while we see women crying as something else entirely. When Sir Andy Murray first cried on camera during a post-match interview, he was hugged to the national bosom. Contrast that to the reaction from - predominantly male - commentators when Emma Raducanu pulled out of last year’s Wimbledon after the pressure of play caused her breathing difficulties. Raducanu was just weak, wasn’t she?

Though we may live in days when male crying is positively encouraged, the practice is not always well received.

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When former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock turned up on ITV in December 2020 to discuss the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines, he appeared to wipe away tears. His voice cracked, too.

But instead of Hancock being hailed for his compassion and sensitivity, all anyone wanted to know was whether he was faking it. It’s not for me to say that Hancock pretended to weep tears of joy because he reckoned it would reflect well on him but it simply cannot be denied that he cried with all the conviction of a 12-year-old boy performing, against his will, the lead in “The Winslow Boy”.

Crying gives us pleasure. When we well up, our brains release the feel-good chemical oxytocin and endorphins which lift our moods.

Perhaps this accounts for my increased enthusiasm for crying. Have I, perhaps, been nurturing an addiction to the pleasure of a good, shuddering, teardrops-splashing-on-the floor sob session?

Thinking about it, I am far more likely to cry about something which has no real impact on my life than I am about some real and meaningful loss. It took me a long time to shed a tear after the death of my father whereas about three minutes into the opening sequence of “Up” I was a snivelling, snottering mess.

When coronavirus crept in to wreck Christmas for me and my kids last week (everyone’s fine and I hope the same can be said of any of you dealing with infection), I did a whole mess of recreational crying. Denied time with the children, I found the slightest thing would set me off.

I howled at every other TV commercial, at the words to “Stop The Cavalry”, and at a Muppet Christmas Carol, the best of all the Christmas files.

And I reckon all that crying did me a power of good.

After a Christmas best forgotten, Hogmanay loomed darkly ahead of me when a last-minute invitation from friends shone a light on what had been a pretty dark week.

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I slumped into bed at five am yesterday morning and allowed myself a few tears of happiness.

I hope, after another challenging year, you’ve had a safe and peaceful festive break and that 2022 is easier. And when times do get hard, as the surely will, I can heartily recommend crying your eyes out.

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