You’ve noticed right? Or maybe suspected? That there is something drastically different between when a woman is sick and a man is sick? It’s OK. You’re not alone. Here’s what happens. To All Men. Without Question or Exception. Sometimes, men get sick. Sometimes they don’t whine. Sometimes they go to work and tough it out. Sometimes they muster through the weekend and still do household chores. And then at some point, their Healthy Manhood expires and they act like a Sick Man. And what Sick Men do is not the same as what Sick Women do.
When He’s Sick: He wakes up. He has A Sniffle. Maybe he has a Tickle in his throat. He moans. He Feels Sick. This means he can’t get out of bed. He can barely move. He must remain lying down, stay in bed and Recuperate.
When She’s Sick: She wakes up. She has A Sniffle. Maybe a Tickle in her throat. She gargles with the leftover toothpaste in her mouth and spits. The Tickle doesn’t go away. She gets the kids ready for school. Has some tea. The kids forgot they need to make a cardboard castle for a poem project for school. The rest of the tea is forgotten as they excavate the recycling in the garage so they can finish the project in thirteen minutes. She drives the rest of carpool to school, balancing a castle on her lap. On the way home she picks up dog food, goes to the bank, and remembers the kids lunch supplies for the rest of the week. When she gets home her tea is cold and Himself hasn’t moved. He moans a little in his sleep. She forgets why she married him. It certainly wasn’t for his immune system.
When He’s Sick: He uses four boxes of tissues. Some of these tissues make it into the garbage can. The rest spread across the floor like a carpet badge of honor snot.
When’s She’s Sick: She manages to use the same tissue for 24 hours. She’ll keep it in her pocket or bra, depending on how old she is and what her cup size is. It will be a petri dish of Kleenex insanity. She’ll also manage to wash her hands every time she touches her tissue, so that she can properly prepare meals without transferring germs to anyone else in the house.
When He’s Sick: He sometimes becomes paralyzed and melts into the couch. He will remain on the couch, semi-deaf and semi-blind to the family life that is going on around him for long periods of time. Like, days. Children will be screaming. He will (barely be able to) lift his arm and drape it over his eyes like an invisibility cloak of denial. Toys will break. Glass will shatter. He will hear nothing.
When She’s Sick: No one notices. Life continues as normal (or as normal as life can be with a Sick Himself and Sick Children).
When He’s Sick: He uses up all the cold medicines and wonders if there is anything to eat that might give him some energy.
When She’s Sick: She buttons her coat while she’s walking (staggering) out the door and heads to the grocery store. She buys ingredients for chicken noodle soup. If she is near death she will buy the pre-made kind from the deli. If she has already died and just doesn’t realize it yet she might buy the soup that comes in a can. She stocks up on medicines for adults and children, she buys a case of tissues, replacement filters for the humidifiers, vitamins and herbs from every article she’s ever read to combat germs: Vitamin C, Zinc, Ginseng, Echinacea, Andrographis (Indian Echinacea), L-Lysine, honey, cough drops, whole fruit popsicles and apple juice without added sugar.
When He Gets Sick First: It’s worse for him because he is Patient Zero. The germs are at their strongest and they have invaded his body and he is fighting with every ounce of strength God gave him. When the Wife gets sick 48 hours later, and it’s no big deal, it is because she was able to build up an immunity ahead of time. She’s not fighting the same thing. She’s got Super-heroine Strength because he gave her time to build up special protection. He doesn’t wonder how he got sick. It just Happened. She might wonder if it had anything to do with how he recently travelled across country in a giant flying test tube with circulated air or how he works in an office with thousands of other people or how he travels by subway in a large city. The largest of cities with the largest of subway systems. The same subway system that also has the bubonic plague. No joke.
When She is Sick First: It’s not that big a deal. She wonders where she got it – was it when she touched her steering wheel first before using her Purell after going to the grocery store? Or perhaps wiping up boogers from one of the short people who live in the house? Or sweeping up a buckshot of tissues? When He gets sick 48 hours after her and it is awful and the worst illness on the planet, prior description of immunity building doesn’t count. This illness has morphed into some unknown virus from a third world country and it might be Ebola. He also blames her for bringing home this virus to him and giving it to him. He’s never done that.
When my brother read my last blog about Katie’s cooties, he sent me a note. One part said something along the lines of “poor Katie”. The other was a link to an article showing that there is actually scientific evidence that men are just not good at the being sick thing. Of course, my brother is a male so I read it and knew that instead of believing any of it I would use it as fodder here. Essentially, some scientists came up with this study that says estrogen (or oestreogen if you’re insistent on making up multiple spellings for female hormones and chemicals) makes women able to combat illness better – not just the flu, but also HIV, Ebola, and hepatitis. Now, I have a few things to say about science in general. One, it doesn’t usually last long. This is also the same science that once said we should use leeches to cure our imbalance of humors in the blood. I see your science and I raise you an army of I don’t believe you. Two, Sometimes I think science takes some leaps. Is it Estrogen/Oestrogen that makes women Super Heroes? Or are women just Super Heroes and they all happen to have Estrogen?
When He’s Sick: Achoo…I think I’m dying.
When She’s Sick: Achoo… Who’s due for meds/chicken soup/needs a tissue/needs a hug from Mom?