Man-Flu: Urban myth, or utter truth? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Man-Flu: Urban myth, or utter truth?

So the other day Captain Awesome mentioned that he wasn’t feeling very well. Fast forward to 24 hours later and he is calling out sick from work because all “in here” (imagine me making a gesture to my entire face) is congested. Some people would call this a cold. Some however, would call it the worst they have ever felt in their entire life.

And by the “some” calling it a cold, I mean people with vaginas, and by the “some” calling it the worst, I mean people with penises.

It’s no secret that men and women tend to handle being sick differently. Women usually power through illness, denying the fact that they feel like absolute crap, and men usually tend to…well let’s not mince words – complain at every opportunity. In fact, if you search the phrase “why do men act like” on Google, the second item that pops up is “why do men act like babies when they are sick?” (the first is “why do men act like they don’t care after a breakup?” but that’s for another post at another time).

Sick? Go to work. Tough it out. Imagine if you were the sex who gave birth. We'd be extinct.

Sick? Go to work. Tough it out. Imagine if you were the sex who gave birth. We’d be extinct.

Of course, Captain Awesome, because he IS so awesome, hasn’t complained to the point where I want to punch him. He hasn’t moaned or groaned or whined the entire time, so I have to give him props for that. I did get a “PLEASE don’t leave me” the other morning when I had to go to work, but that really just made me feel special rather than annoyed. And I’m not saying he isn’t legitimately sick, or that he doesn’t feel horrible. He certainly sounds awful, and he isn’t the type to exaggerate.

But the fact still remains that if I were in his shoes (which I probably will be soon since we are constantly together), I more than likely would have forced myself out of bed, downed a glass of OJ, popped some Dayquil and slogged it to work. Am I a masochist? No. Do I worry about the company I work for burning down if I call out for anything other than projectile vomiting, childbirth, and coma? Yes. Because women constantly worry the world will stop turning if they miss a day of work, and men tend not to worry until the world actually stops revolving.

Men tend to act first, think later, where women just worry constantly. That could be the reason why we are so different when it comes to sickness.

Face it, men are cry babies when they get sick.

Face it, men are cry babies when they get sick.

Perhaps other reasoning behind this is that men are always expected to be the strong ones in other areas of life, so they grab sympathy whenever they can. Even though I have seen Awesome do an impressive number of pull ups at the gym multiple times and I’m pretty sure he would beat the shit out of anyone who tried to touch me in a negative way, give him a sniffly nose and he acts like a newborn kitten. The other night I mentioned that I had to make an appointment for my annual gynocological visit. Innocently, he asked me “what happens there?”

By the time I finished describing a visit he was as green as Kermit and told me he felt sick and didn’t know how we did it.

This sterotype of men acting childish while sick is so prevalent that people have actually done studies on it. Engage Mutual, a UK-based insurance company, polled 3,000 men and women in May 2010 about the “man flu.” They found that nearly 49 percent of men “exaggerate” their symptoms, while 57 percent become more attention-seeking, according to their partners (and more than a third of these partners don’t believe the seriousness of their illness). The phrase “man flu” is even an entry on Wikipedia, referring to a man’s experience of getting the common cold.

Of course, there is no hard scientific evidence to prove any of this. I’ve experienced firsthand women complaining just as much or even more than men when they have what I consider to be a minor cold. All I can go off of is Awesome, who has handled his illness like the strapping young man he is. But if at any point he starts whining uncontrollably, I’ll just turn the volume up on the Teen Mom episode I am forcing him to watch.


About the author

Emily Campbell

Emily Little (nee Campbell) was a perpetually single girl who recently met and married her Mr. Right. Her blog, Dating Emily, has been a two-year diary of her adventures in relationships. Her life of bar-hopping and casual dating has turned into one of dog-walking, craft-making and budgeting for eventual home ownership. But just because she can make a mean casserole doesn't mean her adventures are over. As she prepares to become a first-time homeowner and eventually, a mom, she is discovering that the adventure may just be beginning. Contact the author.
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