December 8, 2006

First Person:

When guys get sick

By Al Carlos Hernandez

You know it is coming, you experience a weird kind of detachment almost everything crawls by in slow motion dream sequence, then the throat starts to itch and feel feverish, a foreboding sense of dread, major headache, irritated, aches, pains, then wanting nothing better than hit the sack under the covers for a week. Even my hair hurt.

I felt the same way when I watched the Oakland Raiders first game of the season, oh and by the way caught the flu.

Something happens when you get sick, somehow you remember all the stuff you were thinking about the last time you got ill. Maybe the fever triggers the brain chemistry on getting cues as to how to get well, based on the last sick time experience. Well, at least that is what I thought last week, then two summers ago, then that weekend up in the snow after I slept in a camper and caught double pneumonia during the Carter administration.

There is a tradition whereby macho men who get sick turn into instant Babies. Several million times a day around the world in every language, grown men with the flu are telling their wives who have given birth to children, they don’t know how it feels to be this sick.

It could be that Mama’s are to blame for the way grown men react to being ill. Boys are usually reluctant to cuddle, and the only time young boys acquiesce to affection is when they want Mama to make it all better, and they always do.

As men grow into young adulthood they expect Mammas, Sisters and Girlfriends to join into the nurturing party. Mama’s and Girlfriends are happy to play nurse maid. Sisters say things like “Whatever you do, you spineless nerd, don’t think of mayonnaise.”

There is a point in time when the decision has to be made if you are going to work. This is a complicated decision, that demands mental clarity, after a fever wracked mind numbing medicated day of watching daytime TV and local news, having to ask yourself some really tough questions; Will I still get paid? If not, can I afford to be sick without having to work overtime to catch up only to get sicker next time? How much sick time do I have left, how much sick time have I used not being ill? Do I intend to party hard during the holidays, What if my team makes it to the payoffs? If I miss work will so and so try to steal my job or talk smack? Will my client get convicted, what if I don’t make my quota, what if I use my illness not to make my quota because I’m not going to make it anyway!

Once you decide to call in you use your most ailing voice, and hope they buy it and not talk about you the way you talk about them when they call in sick.

I’ve been less than one hundred percent all week, but hate to draw attention to myself whine and snivel about how miserable I am. We grew up in a family of chronic illness; somebody always had something or at least thought they did. Illness brought certain rote deference. One family member once hurt an arm and proceeded to limp around the house.

My wife will tell you I am Spock-like when it comes to reporting illness. I have this, these are my symptoms, this will be my cure, and nothing will stop me from making my appointed rounds, taking care of business. Do not feel sorry for me or even acknowledge my impaired condition.

“Ok honey, but why are you in your pajamas at 3 pm in the afternoon with your head wrapped in a towel, with my Bunny slippers on?”

When we first got married I got real sick, but couldn’t afford to miss work. Alba said; let me make you a Lemonada. Not really believing in Central American folk cures, I quipped why don’t you tape a tomato to my chest?

She brewed some hot water squeezed some fresh lemons a little sugar, and gave it to me with two aspirin. The fever broke, the next morning I felt fine.

“Everything is funny, just as long as it happens to someone else”.

-Will Rodgers

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

Return to the Frontpage