A lot of women complain that men are horrible at being sick. That at the first sign of a sniffle, the male persuasion is quick to whine and wail, plant their feverish bodies front-and-center on a couch they’ve moved into an entrance hall, surround themselves with Himalayas of Kleenex, and hire out someone to plaster the nearest billboard with: “JOE HAS A REALLY BAD SINUS INFECTION.” Some of these men, I’ve heard, even employ a little silver bell. That they ring when they need something. Like orange juice. Or Robitussin. Or someone who actually gives a flying f*ck that they’re congested.
I have to give my husband credit. When he’s sick, no one really knows it. Maybe it’s because I banish him to the basement sectional and throw Purell and Powerade down the stairs to him every 18 hours. Or maybe it’s because he’s usually the fourth and last to get whatever’s been going through our house, and I’ve already been rendered deaf from whining. But for the most part, he’s a silent sufferer.
Not me. I like everyone to know damn well that I’ve been infected by no fault of my own. I wash my hands. I do not pick my nose. I do not suck my thumb. I certainly do not go into jumpy castles and lick the inflatable floor. I do not chew gum that I’ve discovered on the sole of my shoe. Nor do I go to the gym and lift other people’s sweaty weights before drinking out of a public water fountain. NO! I proudly live in a self-created halo of hand sanitizer, however, about twice a year, one of my sons decides to vomit into my eyeball, thus shattering my antibacterial bubble and rendering me gravely ill.
Here’s the shitty thing about being sick as a mom: you still have the same schedule to keep. All that crap you were doing in a sweater set and pearls (or in my case, a microfleece union suit and rainboots) is the same crap you’ve got to keep doing with blood coming out of your ears. So, I don’t like getting sick. And when I do, I make a point of keeping everyone on Facebook updated about my antibiotics regime and its associated side effects. (On a side note: I do suffer the big things in domestic silence. I don’t mention the pain of childbirth, the pain of breastfeeding, or the pain of episiotomies. I spare my husband and sons the details of such things and save that material for the local open mic.) Thus, in this household at least, it’s the girl who is bad at being sick. But I do smell good. That is, if you like Lysol.
So, what sort of sick person are you? (Or should I say “What sort of ILL person are you?” lest you think I’m talking about pedophiles.) Here are some popular suffering styles. Can you find you or your mate?
As described above, this patient doesn’t suffer quietly. He or she sneezes into microphones, sniffles into megaphones, and violently wheezes throughout the house, just to drive home the point that: YES. I have come down with SOMETHING. Maybe even SMALLPOX. This tickle in my throat? It’s not a cough. It’s a raccoon that needs hacking up during your important business call/nap/championship game. But don’t worry about me. I’ll get your LAUNDRY DONE.
This is a bedridden Vocalist who adores pity. Rendered completely immobile by something as simple as hayfever, this convalescent will take to the sheets at the first sign of a splinter. Get your butler bells, baby talk, and bedpans ready for this beauty. They’re going nowhere. And they need you, RIGHT NOW, to feed them some Earl Grey out of an eyedropper while you sing “You Are My Sunshine.”
Dead Man (or Woman) Walking
Much like my husband, this martyr refuses to succumb to illness and insists on staggering along as if nothing is happening. An attack of leprosy? No problem. Let me just put my forearm into my briefcase and keep going. Anyway, you can easily identify this species, as they often show up for important meetings with eyes swollen shut, smelling of Vicks VapoRub, and using sign language. Frequently, they just die on the subway on their way to buy some Tic Tacs for tuberculosis.
The variety insists on describing, in great detail, the fouler parts of his or her affliction, such as: warts, cysts, seepage and excretions, things related to the digestive and reproductive tracts, gangrene, trenchfoot, flesh-eating diseases, all manner of discharge, and boogers. Would you like to see their scar? No? Here it is anyway.
The Cold Case
These individuals always have some sort of vague, undiagnosed ailment — usually accompanied by a cold or malaise or exhaustion. Unlike the loud vocalist, this character likes to mope. And sigh. And pout. The best thing you can do for these folks is to suggest they open a Twitter account (the modern version of: “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.”). I’m not saying these chronically ill people have a psychological problem that makes them want constant attention, but actually I am.
Every once in a while, you come across a species of humanoid that never, ever gets sick. These people bounce through life, loaded with both vim and vitamin C. They’re always going somewhere or getting back from somewhere, like floating down the Amazon on flu victims or descending Everest with those who “couldn’t deal” strapped to their backs. They like to say: “I never get sick!!! Sickness is something you CHOOSE!” These people don’t usually die from disease, instead they’re poisoned by the people they live with.