Big Girls Don’t Cry

I used to recite the last line of Fergie’s 2006 hit song every time I was hurt and overwhelmed. There were days when I locked myself in a bathroom stall at school or at work and repeated those words to myself over and over, grasping desperately at the million pieces of my heart as they fell. Of course, it did not take long for me to realize that reciting ‘big girls don’t cry’ to oneself is not the same as calling candyman in front of the mirror five times. A hook does not appear out of nowhere to wipe away your tears or replace the pain in your heart with warmth. I am not even sure if the candyman thing works, but with a Jordan Peele movie in the works, I am not about to test it.

I quickly accepted that tears were an unavoidable part of my journey and heck, they were refreshing. In the years that followed Fergie’s song release, I stopped believing I was weak whenever I cried. On several occasions, I left my desk and purposefully strolled to the bathroom to have a good cry. As tears rolled down my face, I would say words like “breathe”, “it will get better”, “this is not the end of you”, “you can do this”…. and many more affirmative phrases that could get me through difficult times. But as I grew to accept this side of me, I started to realize that the world was not ready to.

I am not supposed to cry. But I do, and I have found that not many people can understand how a strong woman like me can have meltdowns

You see, I look nothing like teary-eyed Demi who stands in front of a bathroom mirror to affirm herself. I am what the world refers to as a strong woman. When I open my mouth to speak at meetings, I speak from a point of comprehension. Except for social gatherings, I hate speaking just for the sake of speaking. I have been told that my resting face is intimidating. I am the world’s description of a strong woman. A machine. A boss lady. A woman who slays all day every day. I am not supposed to cry. But I do, and I have found that not many people can understand how a strong woman like me can have meltdowns and be heartbroken when things turn sour or are overwhelming. This perception is hurting me and women who are like me, especially when it comes from the people we love or people we expect to see us beyond our steel exterior.

I remember sitting with a love interest once and expressing my fear of the future. I was at the tail-end of my masters degree and unsure of what to do next. I told him how terrified I was and how I just felt unsure of myself. His response to the outpouring of my heart put an end to that kind of conversation between us. He said “I thought you were supposed to be a strong woman.”

Last year, I was sharing my anxious thoughts with a person I have known intimately for seven years. I was again at crossroads and on the cusp of making life-changing decisions. As a single person, I needed a sounding board, a person I could express myself to without reservation. His response took me aback and left me feeling unsure of myself. “I have seen a different side to you since this conversation started. A side that’s driven by anxiety and fear.” He didn’t say it was distasteful but his facial expression told me all I needed to know.

Recently, a friend shared how her boyfriend always said she was not confident whenever she expressed any kind of emotional response to work, life or love. “You are supposed to be confident”, he would always say.

There is a perception of strong women that the men who date them fail to look beyond. They see the steel exterior, the slay warrior, the boss lady, the machine, and they think that is all there is to her. They believe she always has life on lockdown, and often become shocked when this mean machine needs a shoulder to cry on. How can she cry? She’s supposed to be a machine!

Here’s something to bear in mind: machines, no matter how excellently they function, always need maintenance. Without consistent, top quality maintenance, machines break down. Now, I am not saying women are machines. We are not work horses who simply receive instructions and churn out outputs. What I am saying is that it is important for the men who date and marry strong women to realize that they need care, love and sometimes, cushioning from harsh realities. We don’t always have life on lockdown. Many times, we have questions that have no answers. We cry when a boss says something mean or when life does not make sense. We feel anxious when we are making big decisions and we sometimes question our approach to situations.

In these vulnerable moments, we do not want to be told we are not confident or strong. We don’t want to see or hear expressions of distaste that make us wonder if we are letting down the entire human race. We simply want to be seen for what we are – complex, multifaceted, human. Yes, we go out on some days and slay the devil to hell. On other days, we want to sit with you on the couch and cry about how horrible work is while eating a tub of salted caramel ice cream. We want the men who care about us to see the vulnerable, the unkempt and the ugly. They are the different parts that come together to make us the strong slay warriors you love.

So, next time your strong girlfriend has a meltdown and starts to open up, don’t shut her down with Fergie’s “big girls don’t cry”. Instead, be a shield and a cushion, and believe that Sia was on to something when she sang “big girls cry when their hearts are breaking.”


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Independent Women are Scary!

No surprises! strong and independent women might just be the scariest thing men have to face in recent times. In spite of widespread civilization and female empowerment drives engulfing societies, some men still get hot and bothered by a woman who ‘does not know her place’. Her place? Where is that? In the conventional kitchen and bedroom? Or is it simply ‘her place’ in a figurative sense that aims to ensure respect? Why are independent women scary? Why do men prefer to be with women who have less achievements? Why do men get hot beneath the collar if a woman happens to have bigger dreams than they do? The answers I believe lie deep in a tale of our cultural history and an unfair liberation that left society in a state of imbalance.

Men have always been told from the start of time that they are the stronger sex, while women are simply subordinates created to do their every bidding. Families did not see the point in educating their female children. The excuse often was “she will get married and take another man’s name, so what’s the point?” Women were not seen as slaves, don’t get me wrong. They were simply seen as weak individuals that were not worth investing in. Prices were paid at weddings to seal the deal, without these prices, brides could not be ‘acquired’ and two families could not be merged (Forgive me, I have currently developed an interest in mergers and acquisitions). Men, being deemed the stronger sex were expected to provide and protect, while women were simply expected to push out babies, cook, clean, look after the babies and have sex with their husbands….yea that does not compare in any way to providing and protecting.

At some point, society decided to liberate women. The big players in society pointed out that women have dreams too! They can have it all- the education, the career and the family. Women were suddenly identified as multitaskers, we became people that could delve into any male-dominated field and win because society suddenly realized our intelligence. Firms started to advertise that they are female-friendly. The big tech companies in the world now advertise their key female players, they advertise how much they love to have women onboard. Engineering, a field deemed to be suitable for men only now pleads for the inclusion of females; employers favour women over men of the same qualifications and experience. While many may decry these actions and point out how unfair they seem, it only makes it clear that society for some reason became aware of its injustice against women and decided to correct it.

Why then do men have a problem with independent women? Why do men prefer women whom they believe cannot compete with them financially or intellectually? I recently read a post on facebook where some guys were discussing two different types of women. The first woman was an educated top executive who earned a substantial amount of money a year, cooked three or four times a week and had her own car. The second woman did not finish high school, required an allowance of $20 a day and cooked fresh meals everyday. Most of the guys in this discussion group gravitated towards the second woman and for days, I was confused. These guys preferred to spend $20 a day on an unemployed partner than have one who could contribute intellectually and financially to the relationship. What is it about independent women that are so scary? I may have found the answer. (And don’t say it’s about having fresh meals everyday please!)

That an independent woman is scary is not her fault. Except she has an extra head or three legs, all she’s guilty of is pursuing her dreams and establishing her identity. I blame society for the fear/hatred men have for independent women. For years, society taught men to look at women as objects they could own and control. Society taught men to put women in their place. Society taught men they could have control of women as long as they provide and protect. I don’t know if this was a kind of revenge on women who had ruled powerful continents in the past, but it was established by society that women needed to be subdued. Then, society betrayed men. Society turned around and said “wait a minute, we need to empower women. There are so many single mothers and stranded widows, we need to give women equal opportunities so they can dare to be great- to be as great as men, or even greater”. And so it became that women can now get fancy jobs, women can afford fancy cars and pay their own bills without even glancing at a man for help….

Society liberated women but left men behind in the archaic school of thought that subordination is the way to establish their masculinity. This explains why we have so many men who find their masculinity challenged by the idea of a woman that has a mind of her own, a woman who ‘does not know her place’ as society once preached, a woman who brings opinions and dreams to the table, and works hard to achieve them, a woman who has a say in how the relationship should be conducted and how she wants to be treated- an independent woman. Yes, independent women are scary because we are focusing so much energy on women, we are ignoring men. We are telling men to move with the times, but the truth is many of them are ‘roaming free in a prison yard’, trying to adjust to the debacle the independent woman presents, yet at the same time challenged with the norms they were taught. Independent women are judged before they are known; men say things like “she won’t be respectful”, “she won’t know her place”, “she won’t make me feel like a man”…. all these excuses cause men to appreciate mediocrity more than embrace drive and success in a woman. There’s even a general belief that strong independent women are that way because they believe they don’t need men. Wrong! Women are strong and independent because they are human beings, with dreams and values, with aspirations and desires that can only be fulfilled if they stand¬† with their heads held high!


Here’s a tip: A strong woman should not intimidate you as a man; instead of seeing her as a threat, see her as a fuel for your drive and vision.¬† XOXO

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