Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Man Cold

It's been coming up in therapy that men need to be babied when they are sick. They think they're dying at the first sign of a headache, a cold, weakness, and if they are married, expect their partners to drop everything to take care of them, nurture them. And all their partner wants to say is:
 Man up. It's a cold.

That's pretty funny, no? Is it true? Are most men big babies when they're down for the count? Sometimes, surely not universally. We all know men who refuse to stay home from work when they have a cold, even a fever, or who might stay home but won't call their moms to make them chicken soup. They make it themselves, or order in, or do without.

Are the less needy ones the same men who second shift, who know that there are other things that have to be done, more important things than lying around to wait for the fever to pass? Maybe. But it is more likely they had to take care of themselves as kids, didn't have a mommy hovering over them when they came down with symptoms. They took a couple of Tylenol and went about the work that had to be done, went to school, made their own lunch as kids.

Women want to be nurtured, too, is the subtext, when they're under the weather. But traditionally, carrying the second shift, they haven't the luxury of staying in bed. They still have to make lunches, do the laundry, drive car pool, unless a partner isn't off to work and can do these things for them. If he is expected on the job, then she has no time to go back to bed. Men who never lifted a dish, who never did laundry in their lives, can't relate. They don't see the urgency, and when they feel uncomfortable become, or hope to become, the center of attention, helpless. They really feel helpless.

Why would women tolerate the beached whale, a self-indulgent male partner who keeps ringing a bell for room service? Maybe it is because we saw our mothers doing it for our fathers, women grumbling under their breath, as they brought yet another cup of tea, joking to anyone in earshot, Such a baby, your father. It was cute, Dad being sick, perhaps the only time he let his machismo down.

But if the model was different, and Mom and Dad both toughed out their viruses, daughters would expect their partners to do the same.

Just a theory. But I think it's got to be in there. They're cute when they're sick, but not too sick, and we might be cute, too, under the same circumstances, given the luxury. This isn't death defying stuff, a cold. And really, if someone's late with the tea, just maybe, if it is a he, someone with a man cold, he'll get up and get it himself.



clairesmum said...

It's an important dynamic to establish early in a relationship. We were young, not clued in to the impact of family of origin patterns on a newlywed couple.
He had a badly infected ingrown toenail, and I am a nurse. So, my job to handle wound care. Once he went back to work, we did it after supper.
Well, he was so sure I would hurt him that he started to fuss about pain when I was not touching his foot. I put up with it, sympathetic, then a bit teasing..until the day that my work day included trying to convince a suicidal man who had one leg out over the edge of the window on the 3rd floor NOT to keep going (no phone in apartment, before cell phones.) I did it, but was pretty shook up
That night, he fussed as I picked up the gauze pad....
I lost it, and my husband got blasted with the full force of an Irish woman who had had ENOUGH.
After that he got much better...tho we didn't joke about the toe for several years.

therapydoc said...

GREAT anecdote. Can't believe you held out as long as you did. Probably also an Irish woman thing.

Mound Builder said...

I do hear this complaint rather often from women, that men are just big babies that want their mommies, especially when they are sick. I can't say that's been my experience of the men I've been closest to: my father, my brother, my husband. Not a one of them ever required someone to take care of them. My husband tends to want to be left alone. My father tended to just keep going no matter what. And my brother, similarly, and in the face of pretty bad injuries after being hit by a car, did not want lots of sympathy nor require excessive attention. In the case of my father, when my mother's incision got infected after open heart surgery, my father who had training as a surgical technician tended to that wound and probably is largely responsible for the fact that it successfully healed. So I've tended to find it offensive when I hear women complaining that men are just big babies. Not in my personal experience.

Mysouljunkie said...
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Mysouljunkie said...
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Mound Builder said...

I also meant to add that when I was a child both of my parents were the ones who cleaned up if we vomited. My mother would cook special things sometimes. Sometimes my father, a microbiologist, would do his own cultures on us and tell the doctor which antibiotic to prescribe for bacterial infections. And in the middle of the night, if I felt sick, it was my father I went to, not my mother. I can remember him sitting up with me for part of the night. I was so congested from a cold and thought I couldn't breathe. And he was very soothing to me.

Likewise, my husband has been perfectly comfortable taking care of me if I'm not feeling well, leaving me to sleep if that's what I want; Fixing dinner, fetching prescriptions, tending to children so I could rest.

Harder to say with my brother, as he hasn't often been in the position of needing to take care of me when I was sick, as there have been others around. But he's been so thoughtful and supportive in so many other ways, when dealing with various crises as our parents aged and died, that I would expect him to be similarly considerate if he needed to care for me if I were sick. And he's made dinner for me, just because he was visiting and wanted to do something for me.

I gather I have been unusually blessed.

therapydoc said...

Certainly blessed. Thanks for sharing. I am beginning to empathize a little better with the man cold because truly, sensing discomfort falls on a continuum. There really are lower and higher thresholds to pain and discomfort. A man, or a woman, with a low threshold to discomfort is likely to express it loudly in a safe environment. So one could say, to a kvetchy mate, "I know you feel miserable, and I'm glad that you feel close enough to me to tell me, but I honestly feel that you can, and it would be good for you, even, to try to stand. Go very slowly, hold onto the bed, the wall, and very gradually try to inch your way back to the living. Try to make your tea the way you really like it. I won't be around forever. I have to know that you'll be OK if one day I'm gone. Because you will be. So di it for me." Wioethe patient's forehead with Purell and gently ๐Ÿ˜˜

therapydoc said...

Last line above, sorry: Wipe the patient's forehead. . .