Crying and nudity are, in American culture, subjects which are very closely related, even though they may not seem like it. This is so much the case, in fact, that I studied the two subjects as part of an Independent Study course that I designed for myself, under the direction of a Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, in the American Studies department.

Here are some reasons supporting the connection between crying and nudity in America:

  • Crying and being naked are both governed by strict, mostly-unwritten social rules which: are different for males and females; vary by country and culture; and are nonetheless sometimes overridden during times of crisis or intense intimacy.
  • Tearfulness and nakedness are both regarded by American adults as highly private, even shameful personal states, and yet children require repeated ‘corrections’ before they learn that they are expected to keep their bodies and certain emotions hidden from the world.
  • Being ‘caught’ naked invokes the same intense embarrassment that attends the involuntary display of tears at an ‘inappropriate’ time.
  • When changing clothes in a locker room, many men attempt to keep all or part of their body hidden, using towels, bathroom stalls, or lightning speed. Even when walking nude from his locker to a shower, men tend to hold a towel in front of their genitals, as if to prevent observation. Similarly, people try to hide their faces when weeping, covering them with their hands, or seeking a more private location.
  • Crying or being nude in front of other males can suggest unmanliness, or homosexuality.
  • The biblical book of Genesis equates nudity with shame. Genesis’ author(s) find it necessary to point out that Adam and Eve “were both naked,” and that in spite of this, “they felt no shame” (Gen 2:25), until they were suddenly made aware of their nakedness and scramble to hide their bodies from God’s view (Gen 3:7). This implies, of course, that under most circumstances, someone would feel shame when naked. Genesis also seems to suggest that crying is an activity that a man should keep to himself: “Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there” (Gen 43:30). The fact that Joseph had to search for 'a place to weep' is telling.
  • Most of all, crying and nudity are experienced together for the first time at the moment of nearly every human being's birth!

My study focused on the ways in which American attitudes toward crying and nudity both impose a sort of 'cloak' on American men, causing them to hide their true 'self' beneath a façade of some sort--a literal one in the case of clothes, and a figurative, emotional one in the case of crying.

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