Why Do Men Get Emotional With Age?

I used to be proud of myself for striving to be an “ubermensch”, having converted to the Nietzschean religion when I first read about it in my History of Western Civilization II class 25 years ago.

I’m of course referring to the stoic elements of the word, not the racist connetations that came afterwards. I could have also said a ”mentat” from Dune, a ”stoic” from the Ancient Greeks, or a Mr Spock from Star Trek. My wife prefers to call me a “robot” to simplify things.

Heartbroken at 18, I had calculated that the little happiness love would bring was not worth the commensurate pain, and with an engineer’s resolve, I declared myself above human emotions.

My Hero, Mr. Spock (photo source)

I believe I managed to remain some sort of an emotion-free human until I became a father.

Sometime after my second son was born I was shocked to realise that my vision got blurry watching a YouTube video about a hearing-impaired little baby smiling in delight after hearing his mother for the first time.

Along the years as the crying persisted, I tried to understand what moves me most, ruins my hard-earned self-control. I think the list below covers most of it:

  • (Disadvantaged) children when they break barriers
  • Sports success after a massive determined effort
  • Music! In many different forms

My older son is not a huge fan of music; actually I never saw him actively listen to music – if you call drill music that is – until he was past 15.

2 years ago when I was filling out the admissions form for his school, there was a part where they asked if he wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. I nonchalantly asked him if he wanted to and he said, “Yes, the bass guitar”. I remember being surprised he knew that there was a second type of guitar with thicker strings.

Luckily the school gave him a bass guitar and I was saved the trouble and the cost of buying another instrument to be forgotten in a corner, but to this day he surprised me by religiously attending bass guitar lessons. He’s also in a band of teenagers his age outside the school where they play hits from our time, though I will have to wait until June to hear them. He still does not really listen to much music and he rarely practices unless he has to, but he loves going to practice sessions.

For their school annual house (dorm) music competition, the older boys invited him to the band because they needed a bass player, a rarity. He obliged and played in the competition which they lost – but should’ve won in my humble opinion. This song they played was called Colors, one of the best I’d heard in a while.

Colors was written by Eric Burton, a street busker turned pro musician with the Austin, Texas based band Black Pumas. Their style is somewhere between soul and rock. Burton has an angelic voice and a huge talent for songwriting.

Colors became our family theme song for the school year, we’ve listened to it countless times already.

We went to see Black Pumas at the Roundhouse in November 2021. It was our first live concert after Covid, and our first proper concert ever as a family. Black Pumas ended the evening with a tearjerker, Fast Car by Tracey Chapman sung with a solo guitar after Burton suddenly appeared 10 meters to our right in the balcony.

Yesterday Salto, a fellow Guns’n Roses fan, sent me a link of Colors played by a bunch of musicians and danced to by another bunch all around the world.

I like this sort of collaborative YouTube video which is a blessing thanks to Covid (among remote working, better digital TV, not dealing with change at bars, and more al fresco food in London).

This version ends with a solo by Slash that ties the song together. We adored him when I was my older son’s age. He too has aged, biceps flabby, face out between the curls (not because he has less hair, thankfully). Watching Slash perform as cool as ever, I realised my eyes were welling up for no reason again. It was a disgrace that I got emotional over a song, over Slash (!) and I blamed fatherhood.

Black Pumas have made me cry twice, with their song about redemption, which by itself is not a hugely emotional thing for me. I just don’t get it…

The first time was when I heard my boy play the bass in a live concert we were luckily able to watch at home on our TV. The first time I lost my cool watching my offspring perform in front of an audience.

I’m no longer a mentat I guess, but fatherhood’s a good reason for it.

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