I’ve commented on it before, but every time I come down with some kind of bug, I can’t help but be reminded of all the commercials, social media posts, and general sense that there’s something called a “man cold,” some kind of received wisdom that says men are somehow unwilling or unable to function when laid low by a head full of congestion. I’m sure it follows from the contemporary school of thought that wants to “smash the patriarchy” and paint all things masculine as evil, bad, and wrong, but that should probably be a different post.
I find the whole “man cold” line of thinking particularly odious as I’ve gone through the last couple of days getting up, feeding and watering the critters, making meals, cleaning the homestead, handling the yard work, and schlepping into the office for a day’s work… all miraculously while simultaneously having a cold and being a man.
It occurs to me that for those of you out there who complain about the stereotypical “man cold” and the periodic uselessness of the man in your life, the problem might not be men in general… perhaps your taste in partner is problematic and you’ve simply hitched your individual wagon to the wrong sort of man. Food for thought, I’d think.
It’s harder and probably more politically incorrect to make a meme about that, though… so as usual, this post will surely reflect the minority opinion.
People will spend a lot of time telling you about the trials and tribulations of life with a new puppy. Poke around Google and the internet is littered with Twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated to the foibles of puppy ownership.
You’ve got to dig a little deeper to find the blogs and message boards that talk about what it’s like to live with an elderly or ailing dog. It’s not the wide-eyed adorableness and puppy breath side of having pets. It’s the astronomical vet bills, fists full of medications, and a body slowly wearing out even when the spirit is still more than willing.
Old pets are heartbreaking not just because we can sense that our time together is growing short, but also because their compressed life cycle points us inexorably towards our own fate at some point in the future. It’s one of the reasons I’m always a little bit perplexed by people who give up and give away their old pets. They have no sense of the broader context of life.
My dear sweet Maggie had a bad morning today. After years of perfect behavior, I knew she was embarrassed and upset. I could read it all over her face – and especially in her eyes. Climbing out of bed to scrub the bedroom carpet wasn’t exactly on my list of things to do today, but looking at those cloudy brown eyes I couldn’t even bring myself to scold her. Going on 11 years together she’s earned the benefit of a few hundred doubts.
Maybe this morning was a one off. Maybe it’s a warning sign of things to come. I’m trying not to let the first thoughts of my sleep addled brain read too much into it. I hope beyond measure this isn’t something that will become the new normal… but if it does, we’ll cope. Maggie is the grand dame of the family I got to pick for myself. She’s entitled to expect that level of effort in her golden years.
I wrote most of this before seeing the bloody urine this evening that set my alarm bells clanging – and before I took off to the local emergency vet to have my girl checked over. Maybe I’m paranoid or at least a bit too cautious. I’ve also seen how fast things can go bad and when warning signs start stacking up, it’s not the moment to prioritize time or money.
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived on my own for most of my adult life, but when I see sitcoms or commercials making fun of the “man cold,” I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Sure, I stayed home from work, but given the shit ton of sick leave I’ve banked over the last 14 years I don’t exactly feel guilty about that.
My point here is that even if my breathing rattles like a steam locomotive, there’s mucus oozing out of every opening, and I sound like I’ve swallowed a bassoon, there are no enablers here. Meals needs prepped, dogs need tended, and there’s a household to run whether I feel great or not… so I do hope you’ll forgive me if I struggle to understand exactly how my gender is supposed to be debilitated by the average summer cold. Just color me confused.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to scavenge another box of tissues and another bottle of NyQuil.
I complain alot about Uncle Sam’s half-assed approach to managing his people… and God knows I’m not going to withdraw any of those previous commentaries. They all have the convenient aspect of being statements of fact rather than simple opinion. The one thing, though, that I won’t fault Uncle on is his policy on sick leave. We rack up 104 hours of sick leave every year and the unused balance rolls over from year to year assuming you don’t use all 13 days earned. Not a bad deal compared to some of the paid-time-off schemes out there.
The only reason I bring it up is I’m currently on the second day in a row sitting here on the couch alternately burning up and shivering. It’s good times. Really. I heard from several people yesterday that men are babies when it comes to dealing with the average case of “sick.” Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. I tend to go with the latter. I’m still keeping up with feeding and watering the zoo, taking care of the three S’s every morning, and making my own trips to the drug store. I’ve even managed to feed myself for the last 36 hours – which has been pretty easy since the only flavor I can really taste is salty. I even think I’m getting along with a minimum amount of complaint.
Maybe the deciding element for “being a baby” has to do with not feeling the compulsion to go sit at my desk while I’m hacking and wheezing all over everything. I know some people do, but I just can’t see any up side to it. If I’m going to spend the day shooting weird neon colored snot out my nose, blowing through two boxes of tissues a day, and generally feeling sick and tired, I’d rather do that in the privacy of my own home than have ten people listening in on my progress. If that makes me a baby, well, fine… but I’d go more with responsible adult.
Now if anyone needs me, I’ll be watching House reruns and trying to diagnose myself.
There’s a difference between feeling sick and feeling too sick to show up at the office. Sometimes that difference can be measured by the width of a razor blade. One thing that’s been pretty consistent in my career, though, has been my willingness to use sick days when I’ve needed them. Those tend to be days when getting out of bed or off the couch is just more effort than I can muster. Just below those days on my severity scale are days when I feel like a big steamy pile of poo, but show up in the office anyway. The problem with days like that is even before your computer boots up you know the day isn’t going to be productive. You’re going to end up pissing away most of your time alternately halfway reading articles online, coughing up a lung, and staring longingly at the clock wishing it were already time to go home. The only thing that’s really different between these type of “sick” days is the geographic location where you waste the day.
The only possible upside of being sick and in the office all at the same time is that your colleagues are likely to beat a hasty retreat when they catch a good look at the vast array of cold medicine, tissues, and homeopathic remedies piled up on your desk. If nothing else, it might buy you a little time away from them without needing to dip into your sick time stockpile. Then again, the ones who are oblivious to everything else are just as oblivious to your dripping nose and itching eyes. Personally I always try to make it a point to cough and sneeze in their general direction. At best, they’ll end up getting whatever you’re down with and at worst, I feel like I’m exacting at least some minor retribution for their failure to pay attention.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I’ve spent the last week feeling somewhere between sick and well. It’s not that I really feel bad in any way I can put my finger on, but then again it’s not that I’m feeling bad enough to want to stay on the couch all day trying to recover. It’s a madding no man’s land between the two. If there’s some fall crud lurking around, I wish it would just smack me around and be done with it. As it is, mustering the enthusiasm to do much of anything is getting to be a bit of a chore. Until I figure out what it is I’ve got and convinced it with high doses of chemicals that it needs to go away, I’ll keep treating the symptoms with ridiculous amounts of caffeine administered regularly throughout the day. That course of treatment might leave some people awake half the night, but the one perk of whatever it is picking at my system is I’m practically sound asleep before my head hits the pillow. Now if I would just start waking up rested, we might just be in business.
My throat is ripped, and sadly not in the good way that things get when you spend too much time doing P90X. Perhaps I should say my throat is shredded. Swallowing is tough. Talking mainly makes me wait to cry, so yeah, if you’re trying to reach me on the phone, don’t bother, because there’s no way in hell I’m willingly putting myself through the torture of trying to have a conversation. We’re on day two of this little treat and unless something changes in short order, working tomorrow could be out of the question… which is kind of unfortunate because almost everyone else is out of the office attending a boondoggle…er… I mean “conference”, in Tampa. Maybe I’ll go in anyway. It should at least be quiet and it’s only a 10 minute drive to the doctor’s office from there. My treatment plan of honey tea, ibuprofen, and salt water gargle doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, so day three seems like a reasonable time to seek professional guidance. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not sure I can deal with too many more nights of waking up two or three times needing to gargle and pop another handfull of pills. The up side is I think I’ve now actually seen four or five episodes of Brooke Knows Best. That’s always fun.
Other than the whole throat being torn apart thing and not getting quite enough sleep the last two nights, I don’t actually feel bad. Thank the gods for small mercies, I suppose. It’s safe to say that I’ll be pulling up an e-book and a comfortable spot on the couch and spending most of the day watching trash television. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday.