Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Cold Truth

On the great scale of things that can go wrong with you, catching a summer cold probably ranks no more than 1 or 2 out of 100. But when it is your head cold with your eyes burning, your throat sore, your lungs wheezing -- well, it just seems that it is more significant than that.

To be honest, I haven't even entered that stage where I can claim to be ill. Today is more of a "Is this a really bad allergy attack or a slowly developing cold?" day. But I have one clue that it's a cold and not hay fever. I am feeling sorry for myself.

With even bad allergies, I never feel bad for myself. I think there's a psychology at play there. I know that allergies are just the body overreacting to pollen or some other foreign invader getting into the system. Kind of a Bush-Cheney way of dealing with dust and plants. It may not be pleasant. It certainly is not effective. But at least it is a sign of strength, however miserable the end result makes us. But in the face of all this, we simply do not feel sorry for ourselves.

But a cold is so passive. Some virus has jumped up our nose and is now marching through our respiratory system like Sherman through Georgia. And in the ultimate sign of passivity, the medical community seems powerless in the face of this attack. There is no cure for the common cold, they tell us, and you kind of get the impression that they really don't care all that much.

The best you can do is make yourself comfortable, drink lots of water, take an antihistamine and an aspirin or two and rest. That's what LK does when she catches a cold. Then she basically does a Garbo and firmly lets me know she wants to be alone.

But I am a guy, and we aren't wired that way. If I have the sniffles, then give me a hug. Plump up my pillow. Check for a fever by placing the back of your hand on my brow. Kiss the top of my head. Surprise me with a cup of tea, even though I don't ever drink it.

Give a man a serious injury or disease, and most of the ones I know are incredibly stoic, quietly dealing with the challenge. But give us a little thing like a cold and most want to revert to when we were six-years-old and mother did her best to make the little darlings comfortable.

I am guessing here, but I wonder if it isn't all part of our DNA. Men want to be "mothered" when ill because we have such hardwired memories from when we were babies and mother took care of us during illness.

Let's face it, the words say it all. Men may like being mothered, but have you ever heard anyone say, "When I have a cold, I just want to be fathered."

The very meaning of the words is telling. To "father" is to create life, but the word is not used to extend to that more difficult bit about raising the bubs for the next 20 or so years. But to "mother" means to nurture and care for. It may not be very 21st Century, but the very language we use reveals the oldest of old-fashioned thinking.

But perhaps the most telling use of words is one I have heard my beloved proclaim just about every time I have a cold. "Men are such big babies."

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