Bathing Drowning In Male Tears

According to the feminist sacred texts, the most despised decade of the 20th Century was the fecund 50’s. The birth rate was high, stay-at-home moms were the norm, and domesticity was exalted. Thanks to lingering postwar affluence, shoe sales skyrocketed, as women were pregnant but not barefoot.

In latter decades the birth rate plummeted and feminists spread the trope “I bathe in male tears,” a slogan emblazoned on T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies, as well as on coffee cups. Ironically, women in the 1950’s could have filled up the Great Lakes with tears cried by male vocalists. Pop music-wise, it was the most lachrymose of decades.

Shedding of tears was nothing new in popular songs but it was generally the province of females. The greatest example of this was a female specialty, the torch song, which had nothing to do with the Statue of Liberty. The genre was defined by the phrase “to carry a torch” for a former lover, in other words to refuse to let the light of love go out, to hope that a former lover would one day return. Such songs tended to be mawkish and maudlin.

A classic example is “Cry Me a River,” written in 1953 and most famously recorded by Julie London in 1955. The gist of the song is contained in the opening verse:

Now you say you’re lonely

You cry the whole night through

Well, you can cry me a river

Cry me a river

I cried a river over you

As is the case with a number of popular songs, it can easily be flipped for male singers (e.g., Matt Forbes, Joe Cocker, Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr.) without any change in the lyrics. (Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” has nothing in common with the original other than the title.) Any singer can take on this song. You can be Old Man River or Old Woman River or Old Non-Binary River.

At the same time “Cry Me a River” was on its way to becoming a pop standard, torch singing was spreading to male vocalists. Men not only had balls, they had bawls! And no, I don’t mean after the old man got a switch or a strap and uttered the immortal words, “I’ll give you something to cry about!” Young men were crying over young women!

Such singers were appealing more to females than to males. A nubile woman reducing a young man to a blubbering blob of silly putty is a testimony to the magic spell the female can cast over the male. Heartbreaker sisterhood is powerful! As proof of this creepy-weepy side of men, I offer popular songs of the 1950’s, when male tear ducts were oozing like open sores.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

Technically this song was released late in 1949, but it was on the hit parade well into 1950. This is one of Hank Williams’ signature tunes and for the most part is a wistful song of existential melancholy fueled by insomnia. But it all falls apart in the end when we hear:

And as I wonder where you are

I’m so lonesome I could cry

So there we have it. It was all about a woman after all. Forget all the previous lyrics about the “lonesome whippoorwill” and the weeping robin who’s “lost the will to live,” and the midnight train “whining low.” If this were a contemporary tune, the songwriter would be a candidate for suicide watch. Someone would be called in to talk him down from the ledge.

Crying in the Chapel

Elvis Presley’s 1960 rendition of this remains the most popular version today, yet it was first recorded by Darrell Glenn in 1953 when Elvis was just a regional phenom who had yet to make the acquaintance of Colonel Tom Parker:

You saw me crying in the chapel

The tears I shed were tears of joy

Tears of joy? Well, that’s a change of pace. Not only that, the singer is not crying over a woman but over his relationship with God.

I know the meaning of contentment

I am happy with the Lord

Given the decline in church attendance since 1953, I’m pretty sure fewer and fewer men would be found shedding tears in a chapel today. If a man were to embark on a crying jag in a mainline Protestant church today he would probably encounter a lesbian or trans pastor willing to congratulate him for his stunning and brave display of vulnerability.

In the meantime, don’t hold your breath waiting for the heavy metal version of “Crying in the Chapel.”

Heartbreak Hotel

Elvis did originate this song in 1956 and it was one of his biggest hits. In fact, it’s kind of surprising that Memphis or Las Vegas hasn’t come up with a hotel so named. As described in the song, however, it doesn’t sound like any place I’d care to stay:

Although it’s always crowded

But you still can find some room

For broken hearted lovers

To cry there in their gloom…

The dingiest Motel 6 is a bastion of good cheer compared to this dump. On the other hand, if you’re determined to wallow in self-pity, you might as well rack up some frequent-guest points at the Heartbreak Hotel. But please don’t take a swan dive off the rooftop sundeck or drown yourself in the hotel pool. Housekeeping will leave a Petite Pity Party mint on your pillow to alleviate your suffering.

Now the bellhop’s tears keep flowin’

And the desk clerk’s dressed in black

There was a time when you could ask a bellhop to send up a woman to keep you company, but this one’s too busy emoting to make himself useful. I don’t think it would be prudent to make such a request today anyway…could be a vice squad sting operation or you might be linked to some sort of sex trafficking ring or you might get a dose of the clap. That’ll bring tears to your eyes every time you go to the bathroom.

I doubt the black-clad desk clerk will ask you how you enjoyed your stay when you check out. For certain, this man in black ain’t no Johnny Cash. As near as I can recall, that pillar of stoicism never cried in any of his songs. Oh, there are plenty of depressing situations (breakups, incarcerations, hangovers) in his songs (and in his life) that might induce tears, yet Johnny Cash manfully shouldered his burdens. On the other hand, A Boy Named Sue might bear closer scrutiny in today’s environment.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

This 1933 show tune was dormant till the Platters brought it back in 1959. It remains the most popular rendering of the song. The theme is that when the fire of a relationship is extinguished, the result is smoke. It gets in your eyes, producing tears. So if you start tearing up, you can say it’s a physiological, not an emotional, reaction and save face. It’s literally a smokescreen:

Now laughing heads deride

Tears I cannot hide, hide

So I smile and say, when a lovely flame dies (ahh)

Smoke gets in your eyes

Don’t try this strategy in your home unless you take the smoke detector offline. In my humble opinion, if you need to make an excuse for tearing up, it’s easier to say you got something in your eye, or the ragweed count is off the charts, or you just returned from East Palestine, Ohio.

Tears on My Pillow

This was a big hit in 1958 for Little Anthony and the Imperials. Crying oneself to sleep would have been laughable for anyone named Big Tony, but it was sound strategy for Little Anthony:

If we could start anew, I wouldn’t hesitate

I’d gladly take you back, and tempt the hand of fate

Tears on my pillow, pain in my heart, caused by you

I suppose if you have insomnia, crying yourself to sleep is one remedy. Personally, I prefer melatonin or valerian root…or a strong IPA.

Like a lot of the aforementioned songs, the lyrics of “Tears on My Pillow” serve for a man or a woman – even a homosexual, come to think of it. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine a pillow-biter shedding tears on his pillow. Come to think of it, “Hurt So Bad” was a later hit for Little Anthony.

It’s Time to Cry

This tune, introduced in 1959 by Paul Anka was fairly typical of his oeuvre at the time. Initially, he was your basic teen idol, but over time he became a force in the music industry, not just behind the microphone but also behind the scenes:

When somebody leaves you

That’s the time to cry

When you know you’re lonely

You’re not the one and only who will cry

When your heart is broken

That’s the time to cry

When you know she’s left you

You’ll know that she has left you

So you can cry

That shows you how foreign the crying experience is to men. Paul Anka has to tell them when to cry. In all of recorded history no one has ever had to tell women when to cry. With them, it comes with the territory. Just Google the subject of tear ducts and sex differences and see for yourself.

Puppy Love

Paul Anka strikes again with another hit, technically a 60’s artifact (released on February 13, 1960) but really a relic of the 50’s:

I cry each night

My tears for you

My tears are all in vain

In those days crying and teen angst went together like pimples and Stridex. Not so much these days, however. Modern teens have discovered that shooting up schools is more cathartic than a good cry.

I don’t know if the phrase “puppy love” has any currency with anyone today aside from SPCA volunteers. It used to mean, more or less, a teenage crush. Swap out “pubescent” for “puppy” and the phrase makes more sense. Today puppy love might be confused with bestiality or some kind of furry fetish.

Actually, I don’t think puppies cry. They whimper but they don’t cry. For sure, if you don’t keep an eye on them, they’ll chew your blue suede shoes.

Lonely Teardrops

In real life, singer Jackie Wilson was a sexual athlete (check out his bio on Wikipedia). It is highly unlikely that he ever shed any tears over a woman, but you’d never know that from “Lonely Teardrops,” a 1958 hit:

My heart is crying, crying

Lonely teardrops

My pillows never dry of lonely teardrops

Come home, come home

Just say you will, say you will…

My heart is crying, crying

There’s that tears-on-the-pillow trope again. Personally, I would recommend skipping the bedroom and going straight to the bathroom. Just blubber into your “HIS” towel and save the “HERS” towel for blowing your nose…or for absorbing any other bodily fluids, precious or otherwise, that are petitioning you for release.

A Teenager in Love

This song, performed by Dion & the Belmonts, rose to No. 25 on the Hot 100 list for 1959. Basically, it’s puppy love redux:

I cried a tear for nobody but you

I’ll be a lonely one if you should say we’re through

Well if you want to make me cry

That won’t be so hard to do

If you should say goodbye

I’d still go on loving you

This sort of pantywaist drivel didn’t happen when fathers took their sons to a whorehouse for a sexual initiation. See, kid, this is all there is to it. No reason to get all bent out of shape over it. You ain’t cherry no more, so now get on with your life.

Given the absence of fathers today, that sort of patriarchal wisdom is not passed on as much as it used to be. Today groomers and cougars are the most likely candidates to show a young man the ropes…bondage, anyone?

I Cried a Tear

A songbird called LaVern Baker did this in 1958. A year later, Ernest Tubb, of all people, covered it and it rose to No. 12 on the country and western hit list:

I cried a tear because of you

I cried a tear because we’re through

I cried a tear, what could I do?

But cry inside for love of you…

I cried a tear because of you

I cried a tear because we’re through

Please make my dreams of you come true

Don’t make me cry a tear for you

In 1941 Tubb recorded “Walkin’ the Floor Over You,” which described a man pacing back and forth due to woman trouble. That was an acceptably masculine way to deal with an achy, breaky heart in those days. Yet 18 years later Tubb has resorted to weeping. Inappropriate behavior for a guy who performs in a cowboy hat and boots.

Only the Lonely

After all that dammed-up weepiness broke loose in the 50’s, it was inevitable that it would overflow into the early 60’s. This 1960 hit by Roy Orbison was a good example:

But only the lonely

Know why

I cry

Only the lonely…

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)

Know the heartaches I’ve been through (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah)

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)

Know I cry and cry for you (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)

OK, Roy, we get the message, your heart is broken, you’re down in the dumps. But it’s hard to feel sorry for you. Crying over a woman is pretty dumb-dumb-dumb-dumbdy – hoo-hah!


Only the Lonely” was Orbison’s first big hit, at one point rising to No. 2 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100. He took the hint and followed up with “Crying” in 1961:

That I’d been crying over you

Crying over you

Then you said, “So long”

Left me standing all alone

Alone and crying




It’s hard to understand

Bu the touch of your hand

Can start me crying…

Crying over you

Crying over you

Yes, now you’re gone

And from this moment on

I’ll be crying




Yeah, crying


Over You

Alone and crying…hmmm. If a woman starts bawling in public, people tend to approach and offer assistance or consolation. When a man cries, he cries alone, even if he’s in the waiting room at Grand Central Station.

Anyway, we hear you loud and clear, Roy. You might as well have a sign on your back that says “Cuck Me.” He never took to heart that old saying about spilt milk. As late as 1964 he was still at it in Oh, Pretty Woman. This one could be the incel national anthem:

Pretty woman don’t walk on by

Pretty woman don’t make me cry

Stop the presses! I think I finally figured out why Roy Orbison always wore those dark glasses – to hide his crying eyes! Or at least to make the audience think he was weeping while he was crooning his tunes.

So there we have it, pop culture fans. Long before second-wave feminism was a thing, the aforementioned hairy-chested, antediluvian, patriarchal brutes were crying their eyes out. Maybe “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (the Four Seasons. 1962) but big boys do!

Today, of course, young men, biological or otherwise, are so much more emotionally intelligent. Go ahead, young man, turn on the waterworks and let it all out.

Unless you live in California. They have a severe water shortage there.

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