Why do I tear up so easy now?
April 6, 2012 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Why have I become so damn weepy in my 30's?

I'm a 32 year old male. Things that used to just make me sad now leave me with eyes full of tears. Is this a typical change for men in their 30s? Related to lowering testosterone or something?

Up until my 30s I was never much of a weeper. I'm sure I cried about the usual amount as a kid, and I know I was capable of it later on for big things. When my dog died when I was 18 I cried like a baby.

But now little things tear me up. Like when Spock dies in Wrath of Khan, or the end of the Iron Giant (Superman!). These things always were sad, of course, but I never had this kind of physical reaction.

So: men in your 30s and later: is this something you went through? Is it a chemical sort of thing, or something unique to my psychology? Honestly, every day of my life since my kids were born has been better than the one before, so it's not like there is some kind of outside stimulus at work here. I'm just much more likely to tear up when I think of something sad.

Thanks.
posted by BeeDo to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
since my kids were born ... i think this has something to do with it...i notice that i'm more prone to getting emotional about bad things happening to children in the news etc...
posted by Busmick at 8:28 AM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


since my kids were born ...

Since my son was born, I've been a lot more emotional, too. I was 23 when he was born though, so at the time I just attributed it to growing up.

Maybe there's something to having kids softening you a bit.

The parental rage thing was new, too.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:31 AM on April 6, 2012


Having a kid was a huge emotional change for me, too. I used to be a cynical bastard, and now I'm a sentimental old fool. The moment it happened was when my 2-minute-old daughter latched on to my finger with her tiny hand.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:32 AM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I noticed this. I'm also a parent, though I'm not sure that's what changed me. Certain things bring a tear to my eye that in my 20s I might have mocked. Some movies will do it to me. I'm man enough to admit I cried when Dr. Green died on E.R. I didn't think I was able to actually Cry until we put one of our cats down (RIP Quill) a couple of weeks ago, but I bawled like a baby. Seeing my son do something that makes me proud, like something at a school assembly, can also make me tear up.

I think it's just a matter of getting older, more mature, and less cynical. Sad things can be sad.
posted by bondcliff at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


So: men in your 30s and later: is this something you went through?

I'm 31, no kids. The opposite has happened to me. Prior to a few years ago, I was much more prone to crying at "little things" like movies, music, etc.
posted by John Cohen at 8:39 AM on April 6, 2012


Yeah, I think the parenting thing has something to do with it. I just had a weirdly similar experience where the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, which was an _awfully_ written ending to a pretty terrible movie left me pretty damn weepy.

I think bondcliff hit on it -- parenthood really drives a stake into your cynicism.
posted by bfranklin at 8:41 AM on April 6, 2012


I'm 28 and not a parent, and this is happening to me too. I choke up pretty easily during the emotional parts of even silly media, is how it mostly manifests. At both joyful and tragic things, actually. I sort of enjoy it. I like being able to appreciate that, even though what I'm seeing isn't, perhaps, very well written or presented, it still manages to convey a piece of the simple importance of human joy, tragedy, love, etc. And that's worth feeling something over, even if it's not especially well crafted.

Most people would feel natural feeling powerfully moved by a great work of art, in whatever medium at any age. It's power at every level us what makes it great art, perhaps. I feel like, whether through experience or just some kind of chemical change in maturity, I find that power more often in the mundane.

Nothing to be ashamed of, unless you find it frequently inconvenient or debilitating.
posted by gilrain at 8:44 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not imagining things. Having kids causes a marked decrease in testosterone.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 8:44 AM on April 6, 2012


I should have said "concerned about", not "ashamed of", amongst other typos.
posted by gilrain at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2012


I would just like to say, as a woman, it's really heartwarming and endearing when a man is not afraid to show natural, human emotion like this. I really hope you embrace the change.
posted by Falwless at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am not a parent, and I found this same thing happened to me in my 30s. I never cried at movies in my teens or 20s, but when I hit my 30s, things just seemed to "get to me" a bit more.

I think it's possible that as we mature we have more life experiences that make us more able to relate to, and thus more strongly empathize with, sad situations that we see or read about.

In my 40s now, and this is still the case.
posted by blurker at 9:03 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my late 40s. Cried while watching On Golden Pond last night and I would characterize myself as like Norman (Henry Fonda). I like to think of myself as a lovable old get off my lawn kind of guy, but not so sure y'all would see it as lovable, yet I cried at the end when his daughter tried to reconcile with him.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2012


It happens. After the birth of my second daughter I could not finish the movie Marley and Me. Any time I hear a news story about murdered/abused/neglected kids I tear up.

I'm not a doctor but I think there are two things going on, one is psychological/emotional having to do with your bonding to your kids. The second is the decline of testosterone production. Some men cope by overcompensating (a convertable and a divorce). Others cope by being better dads and husbands.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:10 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm male and turning 30 this year and have also noticed this change. I also have two sons under 3 years old each.

I used to get a little teary-eyed at some movies but now it's like racking choking sobs. My wife thinks its adorable and sweet and whenever we're at an emotional part in a movie she peeks over at me and giggles if she sees me crying. Usually I don't mind the light teasing I get from her on this topic. But most recently we saw The Hunger Games and there's this scene where a quite young child dies and oh boy did the tears flow. And I was overwhelmed by this sadness I totally wasn't expecting, and I thought about my own children and when we got home I just hugged them and hugged them and kissed their cheeks and tousled their hair and I never wanted to let them go ever. I did not appreciate her teasing at that particular moment.

This also happened when I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

So yeah chalk it up to maturity and paternity.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:17 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note: this is not scientific information and is just me shooting the shit.

I haven't had kids and neither has my male partner, but he's much more prone to crying than he used to be (we're both 37), and I'm just about the same as I've been since I met him (which is, to say, I tear up more than most and have been this way for most of my late 20s/30s). I think this is an over-generalization that wouldn't necessarily apply to all people, but I think it has something to do with how comfortable you are with your self/masculinity, since boys/men can be given the strong message that crying isn't okay for them to do.

I'd imagine that parenting solidifies that sense of self or masculine identity more than just about anything else, but to put a less gendered spin on it, I also imagine that the older you get, the more you just plain don't care what others may think. I think becoming a parent refocuses this as well.

As far as lesser testosterone, I have recently fixed a low testosterone problem and have found that, if anything, I feel things stronger than I did when I had low testosterone levels. But if I've learned anything through my recent diagnosis, it's that hormones are fucked up and that different people react differently to the same levels. (Again, all anecdotal, no science)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2012


Speaking of the testosterone thing, there was an episode of This American Life about hormones and there was one guy who had a complete testosterone deficiency (as in, his body wasn't producing any at all) and for him it meant that he simply had no emotions whatsoever. It wasn't like he got more "girly" or anything like that, he simply had no feelings at all. He said he could stare at a blank wall for hours on end and wouldn't even care. He was like Spock.

So yeah, I think it would be hard to pin this on hormones, since hormones don't necessarily work in the way we would expect them to. It probably has a little bit to do with, as MCMikeNamara put it, with shedding some of that macho-socialization that happens at a young age and probably a little bit of understanding the Mortality of All Things in a way that the brain probably just couldn't connect with at a younger age.

I would love to see some scientific research on this, but have yet to find anything.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:33 AM on April 6, 2012


My grandfather was well known for tearing up in sad movies. He would sit and unashamedly weep (just tears) in response to all the melodrama your average Bollywood tearjerker is capable of squeezing out of you in 3 hours. (And then go on to manage unruly hordes while putting the fear of god into them)
posted by infini at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had been considering posting an almost identical question, so thanks for doing this! I have no kids, but started noticing the same thing over the last few years, and have been wondering how common this is. I even got my testosterone levels checked out of curiosity, but they were totally normal.

Just personally, for me it's a change for the better to be more expressive emotionally. I wouldn't want it to escalate to the point where I was uncontrollably emotional over tiny things, but the way I am now strikes me as more healthy than the way I used to be. It is still a very odd experience, though, to tear up during sad movies or while reading a sad article after 30-some years of not having that kind of reaction.
posted by Forktine at 9:46 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've certainly become more susceptible to tearjerkers as I've gotten older (not a parent, though). For me the change was thrown into sharp relief this past Christmas when I watched It's a Wonderful Life for the first time in many years. I found myself getting incredibly choked up during some scenes -- George perking up when he hears a train whistle and the sadness that comes over him when he realizes he'll never leave Bedford Falls; or when a defeated George comes home to Mary and asks her why she ever married him -- that were sad to watch when I was young, but had somehow become devastating in my maturity.

I think many, maybe most, sad stories have to do with loss -- lost loves, friends, youth, dreams. The older you get in your life, the more loss you accrue, so these stories take on more and more resonance. And the more aware you become of the fact that you're going to die -- the further you are from the days when you thought you were going to live forever -- the idea of someone losing their life, especially by self-sacrifice, becomes so much more poignant and heartbreaking.

By the time I reach my 80s, if make it that far, I fully expect to just be weeping continuously.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 10:13 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep. 40 years old here, and a cryer for sure. I was always a bit of a softie over sad films, but definitely got worse when I had a child.

I advise you to avoid Story Corps on NPR like the plague. No-one likes to see a grown man weeipng into his oatmeal on a Friday morning.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:26 AM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


After the birth of my second daughter I could not finish the movie Marley and Me.

That movie gets me every time...and I used to NEVER cry at movies. Just thinking about that movie is enough to get me going!

I'm female(age 28) and am not a parent but I've never cried very much - most people have never seen me cry at all. However, in the past few years I've noticed that I tear up at crazy things as well.

I think I started crying/showing emotions/being less able to hold them in after my dad died. Maybe a big emotional, life-changing event is the starting point for showing emotions for some people?
posted by fromageball at 10:30 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


But most recently we saw The Hunger Games and there's this scene where a quite young child dies and oh boy did the tears flow. And I was overwhelmed by this sadness I totally wasn't expecting...

I came here to tell the exact same story! I never cry, and I cried during that scene. I've read the book, so I even knew it was coming. I don't think it would have made me cry before I had a child.

I think the part that really got me was the singing. I sing my 3 year old daughter to sleep every night, so that part of it hit too close to home.
posted by diogenes at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's just a matter of getting older, more mature, and less cynical. Sad things can be sad.

This. Late 40s here, and sometimes the faucets just come on full blast.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:25 AM on April 6, 2012


Another vote for the effect of fatherhood.

Which reminds me of this beautifual, true, and devastating article. Both the saddest and most compelling thing I've ever read. Not to be started casually.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:34 AM on April 6, 2012


I am in my early 30s, no kids, and I too have noticed that I've been crying a lot more often at things. I suspected it was because I recently got married and the adjustment to that has been very difficult, tapping my emotional resources. I've always been an independent, solo, do-everything-by-and-for-myself guy and the vast majority of my previous relationships were long-distance. So I thought I just didn't have the emotional bank to deal with the stress of that adjustment and still not cry at things I'd previously not cried at.

I am very happy to discover that this may not, in fact, be the case, and that other men my age have experienced this.
posted by tckma at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Evolution has no need for tough guy parents. We leave that to the teens and kids in their 20s. The lizard part of your brain gets scared now. Its probably for the best.

Who knows what the mechanism at work here is, but I used to be able to view any gorey site on the internet and not get fazed. Someone posted a trapper posing next to a wolf with its paw in a trap looking hurt and bewildered. It took me all day to get over that photo.

There's also a lot to be said about understanding and accepting your own mortality and the mortality of those close to you. Once you've seen death a couple of times, its not this abstract idea. By your 30s, someone close to you would have died.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:54 AM on April 6, 2012


I agree with blurker - this has happened to me and I'm not a parent. I think it's just part of growing up - you experience the world, you realize there's more to life than you, and it touches you.

Having a baby can certainly drive home the point that there's more to life than you, but I do not think that's the only cause. It's likely emotional maturation on the whole, which having a baby is only a part of.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 3:50 PM on April 6, 2012


I'm 34 and it never occurred to me that I was in the same boat as you until I read

But now little things tear me up. Like when Spock dies in Wrath of Khan, or the end of the Iron Giant (Superman!). These things always were sad, of course, but I never had this kind of physical reaction.

and realized that I had the same reaction to those scenes in the past 2 years or so, but not in my younger days. Now that I think about it, I've had a number of movie/TV-related crying incidents in the past few years. We have 4 kids under 4, so it's possible that paternity has changed me. I've always been drawn to sad and poignant stories, but I never had emotional reactions to them that I seem to have these days.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:52 PM on April 6, 2012


31 and not a parent, and yes. I am definitely more free with the tears these days, and this is considering that during my 20s I went through several experiences very much worth crying about without cracking.

I think El Sabor Asiatico has it in regards to a non-parenting explanation. As you get older you experience more, and find that media that was seemingly benign when you were in your 20s now evokes a firm memory for you in your 30s. Crying belatedly honors moments you weren't able to fully appreciate when you were younger.

I also agree with those who state that you just stop caring about the perception of crying. Cynicism gets tiring, and time passes more quickly every year, and suddenly it's almost a point of pride. So what if I knew Rue was going to die? I'm going to cry while I can.
posted by greenland at 9:01 PM on April 6, 2012


"Me too" from an over-40, no kids male.

For me this has developed over the last 5-ish years, rather than in my early thirties.

I dunno how much this is a result of breaking the "macho-socialization" thing - I've never felt or (I think) acted particularly macho, and a lot of my teary moments happen when I'm alone.

I think there's something to the idea that greater maturity = greater empathy, even for fictional characters, and also the idea of being more aware of mortality.

I could see that having kids might speed this up for some guys.

Also, the end of the Iron Giant is not a "little thing", and men of all ages should be proud to bawl openly at the end of that movie.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:37 AM on April 7, 2012


gilrain:
I'm 28 and not a parent, and this is happening to me too. I choke up pretty easily during the emotional parts of even silly media, is how it mostly manifests. At both joyful and tragic things, actually. I sort of enjoy it. I like being able to appreciate that, even though what I'm seeing isn't, perhaps, very well written or presented, it still manages to convey a piece of the simple importance of human joy, tragedy, love, etc. And that's worth feeling something over, even if it's not especially well crafted.

Most people would feel natural feeling powerfully moved by a great work of art, in whatever medium at any age. It's power at every level us what makes it great art, perhaps. I feel like, whether through experience or just some kind of chemical change in maturity, I find that power more often in the mundane.

Nothing to be ashamed of, unless you find it frequently inconvenient or debilitating.

This. Exactly this. All of it.
posted by flippant at 9:40 AM on April 7, 2012


Thanks all. At least if I'm crazy, we are all crazy together.
posted by BeeDo at 12:42 PM on April 7, 2012


Yup, same here. 3 kids.
I think it started sometime in the late-90's/early 2000's...right around when this damn Bell Canada commercial was running on TV.
posted by chococat at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2012


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