Winter is coming and with it a dreaded seasonal curse. Have you felt deathly sick lately? Had to take time off work? Unable to get out of bed? Suffered a clogged nose, chest congestion, fever, headache, gooseflesh, sore joints, sensitivity to light, general ooginess and – worst of all – a lack of genuine sympathy from your wife or girlfriend?
Well then, my poor fellow, you’ve had an early dose of manfluenza, an evil epidemic that will indiscriminately strike down millions of decent men this winter.
Manfluenza is not to be confused with influenza, an otherwise trifling malady that preys on both genders of all ages. A couple of years ago presentations at hospital ERs for flu-like symptoms was seven times higher than average. What I found surprising about that well-publicised outbreak was the complete lack of mention of the damage that was wrought by the much, MUCH more virulent and devastating manfluenza.
Of course the symptoms vary from man to man and largely depend on what type of man flu is in action. There are two strains: manfluenza A and manfluenza B.
Manfluenza A is characterised by the patient not being the only person in the household to be feeling unwell at the same time. For example, I had a classic case of manfluenza A when our young daughters were sick with the flu last winter. This meant I had to largely keep my symptoms in check and remain as strong as possible in order to take care of the children first.
By the time the tiny ones had recovered though, I’d developed a full-blown case of the dreaded strain B manfluenza.
As is typical, the first sign of this wretched viral infection was the aforementioned moaning and whimpering as I lay on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with a blanket tucked around my toes.
“What’s the matter, Honey,” my mostly caring and supportive wife inquired.
“Nya a aaaa mmmmmm errrhhhhhhhhh my-head-hurts-and-my-nose-is-all-snotty-and-it-hurts-when-I-cough-and-my-feet-are-freezing-and-my- hair-and-teeth-are-sooooo-sore! Wahhhhhh!” I snuffled.
“Ahh. Man flu?” she ventured – with the slightest hint of a smirk.
“You don’t caaaaare!” I croaked. “You never care ’cos you can never know how it feels. It’s hurty and I feel sick and you think it’s funny and I hate you!”
Another symptom of manfluenza B is a complete loss of perspective and any grip on reality. For example, the man-flu patient will overlook the fact his wife has endured discomfort and pain in life too – like labour and childbirth for example.
Sufferers of manfluenza B also regard expressions of genuine sympathy as hollow. My wife Lizzie is a great man-flu nurse, yet the accusation I fired most at her during that week was “You don’t care. Nobody cares. How can you not care?”
Sadly there’s no cure for manfluenza other than time. But fortunately there’s effective treatment for symptoms. Given the patient will never seek professional medical help, the malaise must be treated entirely within the home.
Step one is to provide the patient with a little bell to ring or a buzzer to press so he can summon assistance if his throat is too crippled to make himself heard.
Once the buzzer is activated, his carer should run into the room (yes, run) with a concerned expression devoid of any smirking, and issue any of the following clinically approved verbal statements:
- “Ohhh, poor possum. What can I get for you?”
- “Dear-oh-dear you sad, sweet man. We’re going to make you all better, aren’t we?”
- “Has the sick little boy dropped his remote? Here, let me get it for you.”
- “Aww, you’re breaking my heart. I just wish I could be the sick one so you could feel better.”
Under no circumstances should she seek to diminish the manfluenza patient’s suffering. There were many reasons my first marriage ended, but an image that will haunt me forever is of my ex-wife bursting into laughter when I told her my hair and teeth were sore and my skin felt icky-wicky and I needed another pillow.
The good news is that manfluenza – unlike influenza – is never fatal. At least not for the sufferer. So hang in there when winter rolls around fellas. You’re eventually gonna be okay.