There is no greater difference between the sexes than when they’re sick. Women make their own soup (sometimes from scratch), take their own temperature, monitor their own fluids and when shit gets really bad, they curl up in a ball and go to sleep.
And they might get a passing, “How are you feeling?” from the men in their lives. Or an offer to pick up Gatorade on the way home from work. If they remember.
Men on the other hand, turn into fragile invalids who lack the strength to bring their empty soup bowl to the sink.
It’s heavy, I know.
The boyfriend and I just spent about six weeks leap frogging each other with sickness. I went first with a fever and chest cold, coughing up giant globules of green stuff day and night. In fact, my coughs were so loud, the neighbors at the other end of the hall stopped me and asked how I was feeling. “Your cough sounds nasty.”
But the boyfriend? Not a peep. We’d be sitting on the couch reading something or watching tv and a coughing fit would start, causing me to walk quickly to the bathroom and make horrendous gagging noises until I expelled mucous from my mouth. In the middle of it I’d hear him call, “Hey, did you hear about ‘x’?”
No, I didn’t. Because I’m DYING in here. Thanks for asking though.
Two weeks after that I had the flu and was in bed for most of the weekend. And I made my own soup and hot lemon water, made dinner for both of us one night and made dinner AND cleaned up after it the other. Because he was tired. Poor baby.
Fast forward two weeks and he has the same mucous fever thing.
“Ugh! I’m coughing up green stuff,” he’d complain, limping back from the bathroom as if the mucous was affecting his ability to walk.
“Yep, I had that a month ago. Sucks, huh?”
“You did? When?”
“A month ago. You don’t remember when I was in bed and hacking?”
God, you are such an only child.
Now, I’ve been told by multiple women that empathy isn’t their man’s strong suit. “They’re all assholes,” one of them said recently. “My husband is a really good guy and even he’s a selfish jerk sometimes.”
Ok, fine. Men are traditionally handicapped in this area. But I still think the fact that my boyfriend was an only child, i.e. the center of all attention during his formative years, makes him especially bad at being aware of others. And I’m trying to train him to be a better care taker.
But sometimes it’s hard and I get really mad.
Like when he got sick the second time.
It all started on a Thursday night when he ate his third burger of the week and then went out drinking with his coworkers for five hours. Not shockingly, he threw up on Friday morning.
“I think I got food poisoning,” he said, limping back to bed. Because again, when he’s sick his legs don’t work.
Food poisoning…right. Don’t think I’ve used that excuse since I was 25.
“Or maybe I was drugged.”
Yup, used that one too.
“OR, maybe you’re hungover,” I said without looking up from the news story I was reading.
“No way. I wasn’t that drunk.”
“Ok. Maybe it was the burger. Maybe you’ve had one too many burgers and your body is revolting.” The amount of burgers, fries, burritos and pizza in his diet is a point of contention, so this time I did look up and gave him my most judgy eyes.
“My diet is fine! I don’t eat that bad. No, I think something’s wrong.”
I didn’t buy it and went about my day, ignoring him as he lay in bed moaning. If I thought he was legitimately sick, I would have had more empathy. But if you go out and drink too much, that’s on you. I do not baby bad behavior.
My theory that he wasn’t actually sick was confirmed when he asked me to pick him up a sandwich on my way back to the apartment. Because sick people do not eat sandwiches. Especially if it’s their stomach that’s upset.
But then I got home and took his temperature. 102 degrees.
“Ok, I believe you. Sorry.” I sent him to bed, defrosted some homemade chicken soup we had in the freezer and picked up Gatorade. I also started a batch of bone broth in our slow cooker.
At 9pm he got out of bed and ate the giant sandwich I’d picked up earlier in the day.
“I don’t think you should be eating that.”
And I was right—five minutes after finishing he felt worse.
“I’m pooing water,” he said the next morning as he limped back to bed.
“You mean you have diarrhea?”
Well then you probably shouldn’t be eating sandwiches.
I made him eggs, forced him to drink a mug of bone broth and picked up more Gatorade. And every few minutes there was new request. “Can you open the window?” “Can you get me another Gatorade?” “Can you get me water?” “Can you close the window?” “Can you take my temperature?” all the while limping around the apartment holding his stomach and leaving a wake of crap I had to pick up.
At 2pm he ordered a pizza with pepperoni.
I’m being played.
At first I was amused and then I got pissed.
“I’m sick, you should be nice to me,” he barely whispered from bed. If they gave Oscars to regular people, he’d be a strong contender.
“It’s really hard to want to take care of you when you don’t take care of yourself. AND you don’t take care of me when I’m sick.”
“When were you sick?”
Oh my fucking god I’m going to lose it.
But I took a deep breath instead. “I’ve been sick twice. I had the mucous thing you had a month before you did and I had the flu two weeks after that.”
“I didn’t know!”
“How did you not know—are you really that oblivious to other people and their state of being? We live together for godssake!”
“You didn’t tell me!” Apparently anger has a way of overriding sickness.
“I did tell you. Are you a selective English speaker?”
“You should be nice to me,” he whispered again, this time with the back of his hand on his forehead.
Reminding myself that murder is a felony in all 50 states, I went into the living room and stayed there until he emerged a few hours later. And asked for some soup.
The next morning he woke up early and went and got himself a bagel sandwich for breakfast and some Yoohoo (I had to make my own breakfast). Then he ate Popeye’s for lunch.
Seeing that he was feeling better, I “suggested” he help clean the apartment.