I was feeling a little under the weather yesterday. Nothing major; scratchy throat, slightly hoarse, coughing, very tired and drained. I went to bed early to try and sleep it off. As I have previously mentioned (An Actor Unprepares) I am an amateur actor and we are well into rehearsals, so don’t want to risk missing any through illness. I wasn’t poorly, just not firing on all cylinders. (Though, to swap metaphors, I rarely have my full complement of cannon firing at any given time!)
It was one of those occasions where the word Manflu could be thrown at me. Though Mrs Bloke, through years of having to hear the lecture I will shortly deliver, does refrain from saying it, for the sake of her sanity.
Manflu is a malady that befalls a man when he has a cold, such that it renders him devastatingly ill, weak, incapable of performing the slightest action for himself, poleaxed on the sofa, demanding toast without crusts, drugs and gentle hands on our brows. He is too ill for work, but just well enough to reach the sofa, (with a blanket) to watch TV or play Xbox. It also miraculously improves on a Friday afternoon!
In short, it is the disease that reduces men to blubbering wrecks, whereas women solider on, barging through it, because they have more important things to do it. I know it’s supposed to be funny and wry but I just don’t see it. It annoys me on two levels.
Firstly, on a personal level. I don’t like being ill. And I have been ill in the past; very, very ill.’Life expectancy calculated in hours’ kind of ill. Through miraculously undeserved good fortune I pulled through, but it was hard work. There were times I was profoundly weak, when all I could do was sleep in bed for 20 hours a day and eat only Protein shakes and Rich Tea biscuits. Not that I was a model patient. I got bored in an isolation room during one spell in hospital, and decided to play hopscotch with the tiled pattern of the flooring. Next day I was discharged, with a wrenched ankle and had to be ferried onto the train home in a wheelchair with all my luggage. It was a valuable learning experience. I.e. When you’re bored in a room you can’t leave….don’t, just don’t..what ever idea you just had…don’t! AND people in wheelchairs have it damned rough, don’t ever suggest otherwise!
It throws it all into sharp relief now. Yes, whilst I have been left with conditions that don’t necessarily make me more vulnerable to colds, when I do get them they are more severe. But also I retained the strange ability to make myself retch at will (very useful after a heavy night out. Involves visualising breaded fish.) and the ability to tell when I’m running a fever.
I’m not saying I’m a saint. When I do have bad cold I am a grumpy old sod, and will lurk on the sofa like a malevolent snot troll. But I never exaggerate and I don’t crave any extra attention or care.So the suggestion that I turn into a snivelling man child is frankly insulting.
For a start, people don’t get the ‘flu anywhere like as much as they think they do. I remember a doctor on the radio saying once, if you go to your GP because you think you have the ‘flu, you don’t. If you have the ‘flu you can’t leave the bed. I’ve only had it once I think and it cost me an interview for a really good job. I managed to pull on my suit and got about half way to the train station before I just physically ground to a halt and knew I could get no further. They couldn’t reschedule. I was sad.
But the second reason Manflu gets on my wick is that it’s sexist. It’s one of those sexist tropes we still seem to cling to in our culture. It’s as bad as a man rolling his eyes and asking if it’s a ‘woman’s time of the month’ or making jokes about parallel parking. Now I know that sexism almost exclusively flow’s the other ways and it’s only fair that women get a little payback. But is that the answer? Surely we should try and find better ways of co-existing then just throwing massively generalised insults at each other.
We need to find new ways of talking about sex and gender. Why, when we read articles about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Canada, are we told what she is wearing, as if she is just a mannequin? The Daily Mail side bar of shame is daily full of body shaming photo’s. Even our female politicians are described in terms of their looks and appearance.(After many years in 10 Downing Street I know nothing about Cameron’s, Brown’s or Blair’s shoe tastes, but after 5 minutes we all know Theresa May likes a Kitten Heel.) Right now, in the U.S a hideously unpleasant man is a serious contender for the White House. It can’t really be true that the only reason he is doing so well is because a large part of the country can’t stomach voting for a WOMAN!?
So, as I climb carefully down from my high horse, let’s agree shall we, to cut out the sexist generalisations. Let us find a better way to behave and communicate. I’m not saying let’s all hold hands and get along. I’m saying let’s use our imaginations to more accurately insult each other. Perhaps if we can do that, we’ll find there is less to fight about in the first place.
Here ends the lecture. Carry on about your business. I’m going to lie down….
PS. Mrs Bloke has just read this and would like to suggest that, whilst I don’t crave extra attention when ill, I do lie on the sofa, complaining, in a plaintive voice, like a 19th century consumptive playwright, that I have a malaise.
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