A friend of ours was sick this past weekend. Actually, two friends: a man and his wife. They were supposed to join Jodi and me and two other couples for an evening of dinner and faith-building conversation, but (according to the message we received as the rest of us were gathering), he had the “man version” of the cold she had, so they were unable to come.
The men gathered for dinner immediately fell silent in sympathy and concern. The women laughed. They are not ordinarily so hard-hearted, so I began to wonder: why is the man-cold so misunderstood and easily dismissed by women?
When we returned home, my bride relayed the tale to my second son, Gabe, and that conversation yielded valuable insight into common misperceptions about man-colds.
Jodi (laughing): “She had the same cold that he had!”
Gabe: “That’s not possible. He has a man-cold, and she is not a man.”
Jodi (smiling): “Okay. She had the same SYMPTOMS as he did.”
Gabe: “That’s not true: she wasn’t bedridden.”
Jodi (exasperated): “Look, she was just as sick as he was!”
I was proud of my teenage son. Already at age 16, Gabe has come to understand that there are, in fact, fundamental differences between men and women and how they experience and interact with the world, and his polite but firm insistence that a man-cold is no laughing matter will one day garner his mother’s respect, even if in the moment she wanted to bean him with her Yeti tumbler.
At any rate, these two interactions led me to research and reflect upon the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of the man-cold. Here’s what I discovered.
Perhaps the best summary of the symptoms of a man-cold appears in the classic YouTube video below:
The fact that these additional symptoms are so rarely experienced by women does not make them any less real for afflicted men, and this disconnect is the cause of much misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and marital strife, as evidenced by this more recent video. (Warning: What follows includes examples of inappropriate gender-based “humor” and is difficult to watch, but unless we confront the reality of misunderstanding and neglect, we cannot hope to treat man-colds properly.)
- Inability to rise from bed, couch, or recliner (or in some severe cases, the floor)
- Inability to change positions without groaning, crying out, or otherwise vocalizing discomfort
- Rapid fluctuation in felt temperature (“burniness” or chills) resulting in piling up or throwing off covers—again, accompanied by vocal expressions of discomfort
- Concerns about obscure or unknown diseases, viruses, or parasites
- Feelings or visions of doom or death
- Intense limb heaviness, achiness, fatigue, lethargy, work avoidance and antisocial behaviors, depression, unhappiness, acedia, or ennui
- Deep desire for physical contact (hand-holding, back or head rubs, forehead kisses, and the like) and child-like need for maternal warmth and affection
- Fluctuating appetite and desire to eat only particular foods associated with past (especially childhood) recoveries
- Any other manifestation of the victim’s inexplicably faltering body or immune system
I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge the possibility that some of these additional symptoms experienced by men may, in fact, be psychological. The reasons behind this are hazy, but are likely rooted in the man’s inherent role as provider and protector. Consider: especially in humanity’s early days, men were required to hunt and to kill, to provide for and defend their own lives and the lives of their family with their physical strength and prowess. And it is well known that both predators and enemies target the sick, the injured, and the weak—thus beginning in prehistoric times, men would have lain low at the slightest sign of infirmity, lest they be killed and leave their wife and brood utterly alone and undefended.
That feeling of vulnerability and mortality is still manifested in today’s men, who are ordinarily bold, robust, strong, striving creatures unaffected by fear, fatigue, or pain. Imagine if you can the emotional impact on that heroic figure of being cut down in his prime by an invisible (microscopic, we now know) enemy and thereby exposed to saber-toothed cats and club-wielding neanderthals intent on dragging away their brides and children to who-knows-what brutal misfortune. That strength of purpose and fear of failure persists today, even in the lowliest pot-bellied office drone, and must not be regarded lightly.
- Young Love. Your wife should envision you in your prime or when she first fell madly in love with you and recall how she desired nothing more at that time than to be near you and spend time with you—then awaken and apply that dormant desire to your current illness. Please note that back hair, bald spots, spare tires, and other natural signs of masculine maturity can unfortunately reduce the effectiveness of this approach.
- Momma’s Here. Your wife should call to mind her affection for your children at there tiniest, cutest, and most vulnerable (or at whatever stage in development appeals most to her maternal instinct), then recall that the child she loves so dearly is a manifestation of her husband’s love for her. She should then recall that, in this moment, he is every bit as vulnerable and helpless as that child and needs her loving care and attention. At all costs, men should resist the urge to spark this maternal instinct in their brides by assuming the fetal position or reverting to crying or other forms of pre-verbal communication. These approaches have been known to backfire.
- Martha Kent/Nurse of Heroes. Your wife should remember your natural call to protect and provide and envision you as the heroic figure you are meant to be—she need only restore you to health for you to strive and reach that magnificent potential. This approach requires the most imagination and effort on the part of your spouse; if undertaken seriously, it can be effective, but most early trials have resulted in eye-rolling and fits of hysterical laughter, which can be detrimental to the patient’s emotional well-being.