In Struggling with Shame, a Man has as Much Right as a Woman to a Good Cry Now and Then

This story comes from a recent excerpt from The Writer’s Almanac published by Garrison Keillor. It’s an inspiring story because it reveals how a gifted man used his feelings of shame to create something beautiful. We often use the story to encourage the men we work with to show their deeper feelings of shame and vulnerability to their lovers, something that’s usually much harder for men to do than women.

In 1947, a young man attended a reading that Robert Frost gave at Bowdin College. The man asked Frost which of the poems he had written was his favorite. Frost replied that he liked them all equally. But after the reading, the poet invited the man on stage and told him that his favorite was Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. He explained that one year on December 22, the winter solstice, he realized that he and his wife wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas presents for their children. Frost wasn’t a very successful farmer but he scrounged up some produce from his farm, hitched up his horse and took a wagon into town to try and sell enough produce to buy some gifts. He couldn’t sell a single thing. As evening came and it began to snow, he headed home.  On the way, he was overwhelmed with the shame of telling his family about his failure and, as if his horse sensed his mood, it stopped and Frost cried. He told the young man that he “bawled like a baby.” Eventually the horse jingled it’s bells, Frost collected himself and headed back home to his family.

Frost’s daughter Lesley later agreed that this was the inspiration for his poem and said she remembered the horse whose name was Eunice. She also recalled that her father told her, “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and then. The snow gave me shelter. The horse understood and gave me the time.”

Here is Frost’s poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

When we tell this story to the couples we work with, it often brings tears to their eyes, the women more than the men.


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