When you work in an office filled with women, as I have, it's not easy being ill. It's not that the ladies are unsympathetic. Generally speaking their maternal instincts kick in not only with sniffling 8 year olds and whimpering puppies but it's also triggered by sniveling men with a low-grade fever.
No, the problem with being sick and surrounded by women is that you have no one with whom you can silently commiserate about how miserable you feel. Only another man can appreciate how intimately familiar with death you become when you have a man-cold.
Not that most men want to converse when they have a cold. In my experience, conversations between men under the weather run like this:
"Hi. How are you?"
The subtext, however, tells a different story.
"Hi - wow dear God stay away from me you look wrecked, you poor bastard. Sucks to be you."
"Thanks. I feel like hell. Like an elephant who doesn't like men with vowels in their names has trampled all over my otherwise indestructible body and a group of Smurfs and Oompa Loompas bicker over how best to put my bones back together with used masking tape. Shoot me. Shoot me now."
For one thing, complaining to a woman about being sick is like complaining to a West African that you're feeling a bit peckish after having just devoured a six-course Chinese dinner. Women are, after all, the same creatures who endure childbirth, menstrual cramps, breast smooshing mammographies and high heeled shoes. Our colds are nothing compared to what they routinely experience.
That's the underlying, unspoken sentiment, anyway. That our "little cold" isn't nearly as painful as we make it out to be.
Well, I may not be a doctor but I have surfed the Internet enough to have one time found a passing reference on an obscure website that I haven't been able to find since to a theory that suggests women have some sort of chemical in their body that makes it easier for them to tolerate pain and discomfort. And, as we all know, if it's on Internet it must be true.
So, you see, women don't understand because they are physiologically incapable of relating to men. They have a sort of superpower that allows them to squeeze out kid after kid without batting an eye while men are forced to endure the true, gut-wrenching pain of flu without any sort of physiological enhancement whatsoever.
So, the next time you see a man with the sniffles and a cough, know that what you're witnessing is a silent demonstration of bravery. Because what we have isn't just a cold. It's a man-cold.