When It Comes to Being Sick, Are Men the Weaker Sex?

November 15, 2011 | By | Comments (6)

Quick question for anyone who may be sniffling, sneezing, and coughing through the beginning of cold and flu season…

I know it’s one of those trite things to say, that men are wimpier when they are sick. And yes, I do hate to perpetuate such reductive, battle-of-the-sexes clichés, BUT based on my, um, research, the answer is: Yes, when the sinuses get stuffed, men crumble.

Case in point: My own husband, who may be a stoic when it comes to long hours at work, shooting pain from intractable plantar fasciitis and other ailments, but give the man a head cold for more than a few days and you’d think he wouldn’t live to see another day, such is the gloom and doom of his outlook. Even after the worst of the symptoms have passed and it’s just the tail end, some of the moaning and groaning that comes out of his mouth could have been lifted from the deathbed rantings of an 19th century consumptive.

While I’m no one to comment on under-the-weather whining—when I have flu symptoms like fever/aches/chills I can get rather melodramatic and positively teary myself—but when it’s just your garden variety cold, with sneezes, sniffles and coughs that linger for what seems to be forever, I think I’m pretty good at sucking it up and moving on without complaint.

Granted, a recent study did find that women actually take more sick days than men, but the researchers do point out that women tend to feel more guilty about “succumbing to illness.”

The whole thing reminds me of an article I read recently—but I can’t seem to find online, argh—wherein the writer sheepishly, but boldly confessed that she finds herself a bit irritated with her husband when he’s sick and when she’s in the caretaker role. While that sounds horrible, she went on to explain it in a much more coherent way—taking into account the dynamic of their relationship and her own frailties and personality tics. I do think care-taking (both short and long-term) brings out interesting traits in people, and it sometimes depends on the nature of one’s relationship before the illness as to how benign those traits are.

As for me and my still-sniffling partner, I’m trying to be patient and nonjudgmental, trying to understand that I cannot, in fact, actually know how he feels physically, and making sure to stock up on vitamin C. Gonna be a long winter!