If being manly was something I gave more than a passing concern to, my ego would have taken a big blow over the weekend.
I began Sunday in a somewhat manly fashion, watching the NFL and working out in the early afternoon. But by nightfall I had spiraled into a blubbering mess of teary, emotional goo.
The culprit: a yellow Labrador retriever named Marley.
In case you haven't figured it out, my fiancee and I were one of the hundreds of thousands of people that went to see the movie Marley and Me over the weekend.
Based on the bestselling autobiographical book by John Grogan, Marley and Me follows the life of a trouble-making dog and its human family. It is an instant classic along the lines of other animal movies like Old Yeller (1957) or Babe (1995).
Having read the book a while ago, my fiancee told me to grab a handful of napkins from the lobby to bring to the movie. It was good advice. Without spoiling anything, the ending is tough, especially if you have a dog or have ever had one.
I was surprised to see I needed more napkins than she did. I brought in about seven and used three or four. My fiancee needed one.
The embarrassment of crying didn't occur in the theater because of the anonymity of the dark. No one could see the tears or the snot bubbling from my nose. And hearing the rest of the audience sniffling made me feel better, like I was part of some odd therapy group that got together and cried in the dark.
No, the embarrassment came later. When, upon walking from the theater to the ticket gate, my fiancee told me that my eyes were noticeably bloodshot and my face was splotchy red.
Looking like a teenage girl that had just been dumped, I walked into the bright lights of the crowded lobby and assumed all of the hundreds of eyes were staring directly at me. I put my head down and took the walk of shame quickly to the parking lot, my fiancee chuckling beside me all the way.
This experience made me think about what it means to be a man and cry.
Like most American men, I grew up knowing the unwritten rule that a man doesn't cry unless there is a really good reason. Whether you believe in the rule or not - I don't - it exists and affects the way we men grow up.
But it doesn't stop us from crying.
As a sports writer, I've seen many tears shed after big games by players on both the winning and losing teams. I haven't covered a single state championship game where there hasn't been at least once tear shed on either side of the playing surface.
Sometimes crying is manly.
Who can forget Michael Jordan holding his first NBA championship trophy and sobbing uncontrollably? And who can forget watching Tiger Woods break down after winning the British Open following his father's death?
I'm not about to call either of them unmanly.
Fact is there are plenty of reasons for a man to cry and I'm not about to name them all.
Like it or not, crying is ingrained in our DNA. It is one of the first things we did when we were born and, despite out-dated societal taboos, it is something we'll continue to do as we get older. There is even evidence that crying is beneficial.
Remember that the next time you see a red-faced guy leaving a theater, and cut him some slack.
(Craig Haupert is a sports writer for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)