So, the story from women goes that when we men go down with the flu we really go down.
We get knocked out—completely.
I’ve heard this enough times over many years to know this is a truth. A woman might talk about her man getting hopelessly sick with a roll of her eyes or a sardonic laugh like, “You know what I mean?”
My theory that I want to test out with you is this: in a society where men have so few places (if any) to be vulnerable and to receive tenderness, surrendering to a bout of sickness is a place where a man can surrender to his vulnerability. Think about it. In order to be men, we’re asked to repress our feelings, our reactions. We’re called to man up, don’t be a p*ssy, wuss, keep it together. So we don’t cry, we don’t show fear, we don’t ask for help (or directions amiright, ladies?)—not even from our friends.
Other than from our partners, if we have one, we have no tender touches. We make do with a slap on the back from our mate watching the game or a drunken, clumsy hug stumbling out from the bar, or when the Raptors win the goddam NBA Final. No gentle fingers of a hairstylist washing our hair, no makeup brush caressing our cheek, no holding hands with our friends, no discussion of the challenges in our relationships or the sadness in our heart, no facial, no pedicure, no massage, no spa day.
I want to be clear, I’m not saying women have it easier than men. I don’t believe that to be the case. I am saying that men have few, if any, places to express their vulnerability and receive tenderness.
On top of this, often our vulnerabilities—if we express them—make our women feel unsafe. So, even in our homes, we can get the message that our vulnerability and our need for tenderness isn’t welcome, thank you very much. Man up.
So maybe, for men, when the flu comes calling, for a couple of days he can surrender.
I can just f*cking collapse into my vulnerability. I don’t have to man up, I can be weak, I can be powerless, I can receive tenderness, I can be honest about how I’m feeling (sh*tty), I can receive help, and I can receive all this without being judged as less than a man.
I know it can feel like a burden to take care of another adult. This burden is amplified if you have kids and now there’s another person who’s dependent on you. I get it.
But consider that when your man goes down with the flu/cold, it’s one of the only ways he knows to briefly escape the narrow and intense pressures of being a man in this world.