Life is beautiful. Still, there is no life that isn’t touched by suffering. Lord, o Lord, how we do suffer…but do we suffer equally? Turns out that the pursuit of equality hasn’t yet leveled the field for human reactions to colds and ’flus, asthmas and allergies. Published recently, a study conducted at Australia’s University of Queensland offers evidence that factors of age and, importantly, gender affect our ability to combat infections.
Gentlemen, does your partner publicly ridicule your admittedly childlike reactions to a sniffle whereas she, set upon by a ’flu bug, continues performing quasi-Herculean tasks? “Oh, you know David: first sign of a cough, he’s under the covers and begging for soup and hot, lemony drinks for days on end. Remember when I had double pneumonia? I painted the house!” The inelegant guffaws from the assembled womenfolk and half-hearted protests from the men attest to the general acceptance of this urban mythology — only there’s a bitter echo of truth once the laughter has subsided. Men feel worse than women do when they’re ailing.
Cut through the bumph in the UofQ report, and here’s the bottom line: In pre-menopausal age, a woman’s ability to fight respiratory infections is greater than that of a man’s. In short, women don’t generally become as sick when fighting a cold, and they return to health sooner. Men become ill more intensely and for longer durations. UofQ calls it Man Flu, and that’s OK by us. The mockery you’ve endured for feeling poorly, friends, has indeed been a cruel form of sport enjoyed by an insensitive distaff society.
Speaking of sport, you were aware of the also-recent Women’s World Cup of football. Certainly no literate Canadian could have missed the news story of our country’s captain, Christine Sinclair, who suffered a broken nose but resolutely played on and scored for her team and nation. Much has been said, rightly, in regard to Sinclair’s strength of body and of character. Of course, this has also been accompanied by snide derision of the men’s game.
Pundits boldly asserted that no footballing man would play on with a broken nose, and most would be stretchered off the pitch after minimal contact. In sharp contrast to the women, these smug commentators assert that men dive, play-act for sympathy from the ref, complain of make-believe maladies, and suffer out of proportion to their alleged injuries. This tarring of a gender would not be accepted in the other direction but we are forced to accept the slander with good cheer.
What is the source of all this doubt over the male ability to endure life’s aches? Perhaps men have been too busy GETTING STUFF DONE to correct fallacious beliefs surrounding our noble coping with illness and injury. Will a fair response be at hand the next time we suffer a paper cut? Perhaps not, but we can, and must, enlighten our women with the scientific proof of our sufferings when next we are waylaid by a cold and reduced to the comfy chair, avec remote. Pamper us, ladies, for we are so deeply afflicted — as you will never have to know.
Image courtesy of B Rosen.