These Delaware guys cry. And now they have a stereotype-busting podcast to talk about it.
A lot of guys don't like to cry, be seen crying or even talk about crying, fearful of being perceived as less stereotypically masculine.
Reuben Dhanawade and Adam Cooke are not those guys.
When the old college acquaintances reconnected during the pandemic, their conversations sometimes veered into deeper subjects such as crying and sadness. And that's when they eventually had an idea: a stereotype-busting podcast "Guys Who Cry."
"We figured it kind of rhymes and gets the message across that we're open to talk about anything," Cooke, 34, said of the podcast name.
Not a sad sap session
The podcast, which launched a month ago, isn't a sad sap session if that's what you're thinking.
Dhanawade, a chef from Newark, and Milltown-based Cooke, who works as a manager for a software company, not only chat about emotions, but also relationships, dating and even fashion in their first four episodes, available across all podcast platforms.
But with the country nearly a full year into the pandemic, emotion runs high for many as the stress of the seemingly never-ending disaster compounds. And perhaps that's why it's especially refreshing to hear a pair of straight Delaware dudes sharing vulnerable, intimate moments and talking it out for all to hear.
For example, Dhanawade, 30, spoke about how he sometimes tears up when he's angry, which has happened in kitchens while working with his teams.
"It can be a very toxic male environment in a restaurant, and for a while I was embarrassed when I would cry," he said. "This is the way I react to things and it's OK. Some people like to punch holes in the wall. I like to sit down and be emotional about it for a little bit, you know."
For his part, Cooke has spoken on the podcast about everything from seeing a therapist to a 2019 emotional breakup with a girlfriend just before the pandemic hit. He also revealed that he had COVID-19 over the past year.
With some of the pain subsiding from the past year or so, Cooke has more fully jumped into life. He's joined a gym group, started the podcast and added other activities to his schedule as the world mostly sits still. And instead of wallowing in the negative of the time, he's looking to the positive — especially looking forward to the day we can take the masks off and live freely again.
"After the pandemic, I'm going to be going to concerts and festivals and all sorts of things I never did before because I either didn't have the time or just let that time go and had boring weekends," he said on one episode.
Men and emotions
Crying is normal for men, even if our society doesn't associate that with masculinity, said Philip Gable, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware.
And even though men have as many emotional feelings as women, those feelings are often less expressive, less intense and have less range, he said.
"But I guarantee you that we have a huge chunk of men who are just as emotional," said Gable, whose latest National Science Foundation-funded research focused on emotions and behaviors of Americans during the pandemic.
There are benefits of crying, he said, such as an emotional release or a stress reliever. "There's a reason why a lot of people feel better after a good cry," Gable added.
That's the root of the podcast: Turning a pain into a positive through properly dealing with issues emotionally, something that is frankly very hard for many men to do.
And, no, ex-NFL lineman Rosey Grier's 1972 song "It's Alright to Cry" isn't their theme song, even though it could be. "It's all right to cry, little boy, I know some big boys that cry, too," he sang.
Considering the subject matter of a podcast such as "Guys Who Cry," you'd think Dhanawade and Cooke have been longtime close friends. But that's not the case.
They met briefly more than a decade ago when they were both at the University of Delaware. It wasn't until COVID-19 hit that they reunited and have grown into best friends during the pandemic.
They happened to bump into each other at a costume party of a mutual friend a few months prior to the pandemic. When the gyms closed, they began working out together in Cooke's basement and garage. That's when the friendship blossomed and they began having deeper conversations.
They have quite different backgrounds.
Dhanawade was born in India to a very conservative family and spent part of his childhood living in Qatar where his parents ran underground Christian churches before moving to Delaware in 1996. They were floored when he revealed to them that he got his first tattoo.
"I probably can't be as open with my family as I would like to be, but that's why I have friends like Adam and others who I am very, very fortunate for," he said.
For Cooke's part, he grew up in a middle-class suburban Pike Creek family where talk about emotions and sex education were common. His father is a sensitive guy, whom he would witness getting choked up at times growing up. It's one of the reasons Cooke thinks he's so open emotionally.
'You don't have to be the alpha male all the time'
Because Cooke is a creative type, Dhanawade threw out the idea of doing a podcast last month. Within hours, the podcast was created and the first episode was posted. You can tell it's their maiden voyage because the first episode is less structured and less serious than the others.
"We're trying to break down the stigma that guys can't cry. For so long it was seen as a sign of weakness. We want to show it's OK to cry and show these emotions as a man," Dhanawade said. "You don't have to be the alpha male all the time."
With the first few episodes under their belt, they are now on the hunt for guests who are different from them to hear their takes, especially women and people in the LGBTQ community.
So far the reaction to the podcast has been positive from listeners and from friends and family members who have heard it. But they both admit that they're doing the podcast for themselves as much as their audience.
"It really helps to talk about these things and not be judged for it and instead get some helpful insight," Dhanawade said. "It definitely feels therapeutic ... because it is."
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