This is my first blog of 2011, so let me begin by wishing all of my loyal readers a Happy New Year. I hope you both had a good Christmas and that Santa brought everything that such discerning people would surely deserve.
It may be, though, that you didn’t have such a merry Christmas. Your festive season may have been blighted by one of the many bugs that seem to have proliferated throughout the period. It seems that about 50% of the population have been afflicted with either a cold/ flu-like virus or a bad case of vomiting and diarrhoea, either of which would play havoc with anyone’s Christmas spirit.
I thought that cold weather was supposed to help eradicate these pesky bugs, so with the weather we’ve been having, with local temperatures dropping below -10˚C, you’d have thought we’d all be safe. Apparently, though, they have found nice snug places to live in our centrally heated homes and convenient means of propagation via the workplace air conditioning.
Amazingly, however, despite the fact that an alarming number of the people that I work with have had these bugs and my wife has had both of the ailments I describe, I have remained in good health (touch wood, cross fingers and all other superstitious nonsense that I don’t really believe in but do anyway because you can’t be too careful). However, it is this that inspires my first blog of the New Year: in particular the pernicious myth of Man Flu that is running unchecked through our collective consciousness.
When I say that vast swathes of the population have been laid low with this cold/flu bug it extends to radio and TV personalities. This includes Richard Madeley, who is currently sitting in for Chris Evans on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and who I was listening to on my way into work this morning. He was clearly suffering and was constantly banging on about having ‘man flu’ and inviting listeners to get in touch to basically tell him what a wuss he was being.
This man flu myth irritates me on two levels:
Firstly, from my experience, both socially and in the workplace, men are no more (or less) likely to make an undue fuss about having a cold than women. Indeed, often the only reason it gets mentioned at all is because when a man is clearly looking unwell those around him start going on about him having man flu, and so it becomes a topic of conversation even if the sufferer never mentioned it.
Perhaps there was a time when women were the home maker and had to struggle through come what may to look after the children and put food on the table. Maybe in those days the man would come home and, because the societal norm was that he didn’t help around the house, he could sit back and snuffle and feel sorry for himself. However, it is likely that he had come home from a hard shift down t’pit or in the factory, where it is unlikely that he would have taken a day off due to his illness.
This is no longer the case. Nowadays men are generally expected to pull their weight around the house, and if women are feeling under the weather they are at least as likely as the man to take to their bed and feel sorry for themselves.
The second reason that I take issue over this man flu myth is the disparity of sympathy between the sexes. If a man shows any signs of having a cold, no matter how serious or mild, the instant reaction is along the lines of ‘stop whinging about your man flu and get on with it.’ If a woman complains about an illness of equal magnitude try giving her a similar response and see where it gets you.
So, can we please just accept that different people have different levels of tolerance to illness. Whatever the cause of these differences I do not believe that it is gender. If you think someone is being unduly wussy, by all means take the piss, it is your duty as a friend or colleague, but do it equally to both men and women as appropriate.
On the other hand, if you are one of those people who stoically struggles on about their business even when suffering from the most horrendous cold, coughing, sneezing and spluttering about the workplace, supermarket or pub and distributing snotty tissues hither and thither with gay abandon, please stop it and confine yourself to bed until the contagion has passed.