'Sobbo' sheds light on macho tears

18:44, Nov 28 2012
Howard Dobson
REDUCED TO TEARS: Howard Dobson.

An old pop song - oddly enough sung in falsetto by male voices - said big girls don't cry. Balderdash.

I once worked with a woman who'd laugh till she cried, catching her tears with ultra-long, pearl-polished fingernails positioned like cups to catch the droplets.

The sight was both hilarious and endearing. That's one kind of crying, the best kind.

Grief, feeling humiliated, joy and despair are more common reasons to cry. And then you get older and cry over anything.

Men cry, too. I've mostly known them to do it in self-pity when in a tight corner, which is the reverse of endearing.

But why shouldn't they cry for all the reasons they might have in the world? That includes a TV3 journalist who was last week reduced to tears on the radio by - of all macho things - a boxing match.


I don't hold it against Howard "Sobbo" Dobson, who explained later that a major health scare had made him feel a bit trembly lately. Be warned: it will be you one day, and it will be over something really corny, like a dribbling baby's smile.

It's built into the human genome to respond to kitsch increasingly in our dotage.

As evidence, think of the people who collect china cats, or have dolls with fancy long skirts to hide the spare toilet roll. People under 45 would have these only as a joke.

Somebody still buys the kitsch picture of the little boy with a tear in his eye that turns up regularly in junk shops, and ditto the little girl in a bonnet pictured praying with gloved hands together, and a look of nauseating innocence.

Nobody sends those pictures to the tip when their nana dies, out of fear they'll be struck dead by the god of tear-jerkers.

Scientists have just revealed that our cousins, the great apes, suffer from middle-age malaise, just as we do.

This might include the abashed Dobson, although he looks a bit young for it.

It's quite likely that tear-jerker films are made especially for this audience, who can thus be caught having a weep for legitimate reasons, rather than because they just heard a snatch of an old hymn on the radio.

My eyes get watery when it's cold, which is an embarrassing head start, and they pour over hay fever.

I'm regularly set off by reports of courageous deeds, and am relieved that I no longer work at reporting the way Dobson does. It could be tough keeping your professional face on when you were talking to people at the highest and lowest points in their lives.

Some people have equated Dobson's tears with bias, but I don't buy that.

They might have been inappropriate, but they were forgivable and, personally, I'd rather be interviewed by a sensitive soul, even if they were a bit drippy, than by the macho persons who so often rise to the top of the media trade.

Better tender-hearted than crass.

If experience tells me that men usually cry in self-pity, it also tells me that they, too, start to turn into softies when they have children, the point in life when we all confront our own mortality, a fact sheeted home by the sheer vulnerability of an infant whose survival is the massively important task ahead. From then on it's downhill.

The news will set you off, and every child's cry in a supermarket will forever make you react instinctively as if it's your own.

What made Dobson weepy is the kind of thing that deserves it: admiration and sadness over boxer Shane Cameron losing a title fight.

Boxing is a cruel sport that encapsulates the struggle common to everyone as we forge our way in the world.

It's an epic told in 10 rounds, with fists, and with heart.

That's surely why people still care about it, despite its savagery, and why both loss and victory in the ring are legitimate reasons to snatch a hankie and blub.

The Press