Who Handles Illness Better? Men vs. Women

Everyone gets sick. But why does it seem that men are so much more helpless than women when it happens? Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but on the whole, I can honestly say that women are superior creatures when it comes to handling illness.

I'm not talking about pain. Pain and illness, while they often go hand in hand, are not the same thing. I won't even go into the whole childbirth/cramps stuff. It's too easy. We'll never know how men would handle those situations, so let's move on.

My theory on men and illness: It's not the sore throat, nausea, fever, and what have you, that throws them off kilter, it's admitting the problem. Men can have a faucet-like stream of snot flowing freely from their nose or be bleeding from the eyeballs, and look you in the face and tell you they're fine. Men, take note: We don't think it's tough and stoic when you do this. We think it's stupid.

What's with the head-in-the-sand approach? Women are smart enough to know that if you don't treat the problem, you stay sick, thus prolonging suffering of everyone around. (We can also manage to take care of ourselves and quite often, the rest of the household while ill, but I don't have room for that argument here.)

At this point, after denying the truth and possibly infecting handfuls of others in the meantime, Not Sick Man reaches the Admittance Stage. Sick Man is now free to suffer the most horrible flu any human being on earth ever had, the most violent chills, the most intolerable headache. Next comes Feed-me-love-me-why-me? Stage, and Sick Man assumes the fetal position on the couch. After everyone has agreed that Sick Man does indeed have the most horrible case of (fill in the blank), Sick Man becomes Healthy Man again, and immediately forgets the lessons he's learned in the process. You'll see Not Sick Man again next year, same time, same place.

Women don't like getting sick either. But we know that it's not somehow a failure on our part if we do. It's okay to admit you're not infallible. We already know that, and we love you anyway.

~  Mary Helen Tibbs

Two years ago, my 1996 Toyota 4-Runner developed a problem: the lock on the driver's side wouldn't unlock with the key. I sprayed the lock with WD-40, which as every man knows, will fix just about anything. But in this case the magic elixir failed. My key wouldn't go all the way into the lock, no matter how hard I forced it or how much I jiggled it.

"You ought to get that fixed," my wife said.

"Yeah, I will," I responded. But I didn't. Oh, I looked into it, but it was going to cost more than $100, and I'd have to take my car and leave it overnight, and ... well, instead of doing the logical thing, I just adapted. I got in the habit of walking to the passenger side first and unlocking the car. People who rode with me thought I was being polite, an unexpected side benefit. After a few months, it became habit, and anyone who knew me knew that my driver's side door-lock didn't work. It was an 8-year-old car with 170,000 miles. Big deal.

Then my rock-and-roller son borrowed my car to go on tour. Just to be safe, I had another set of keys made and gave them to him, reminding him that the driver's door didn't work. But suddenly it did. The new door key "fixed" the broken lock.

This is also my sickness-fighting method, and the one employed by most men that I know. Wait it out. Let the body's natural defenses -- or the fates -- work their magic. (Of course, one of a man's natural defenses is incessant whining, but it's a small price to pay.) I've found that with most illnesses, by the time you can get a doctor's appointment and get your prescription filled, you're already feeling better. Obviously, I don't recommend this method if you break your leg, or you're bleeding profusely. Just as I wouldn't assume my car could fix its own flat tires.

And I'm all for periodic checkups, just to make sure there are no major problems -- with your body or your car. This philosophy saves money, time, and helps free up our overloaded medical system -- and it is, for the most part, foreign to the female psyche. Which is why men handle sickness better.

It's simple: Wait it out and you'll soon feel better, And if you don't, well, there's always WD-40.

~ Bruce VanWyngarden

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