Sunday, 21 December 2008

At least we know when we're ill

Posting's been right down here, hasn't it? Sorry about that. There are a variety of reasons: Christmas is about the only time I actually have a social life; this new trend of job interviewers asking you to prepare a "short" presentation is a complete, and unwarranted, time-thief; lastly, I've been ill.

It's worth being clear about the last part. This was no seasonal cold; I was genuinely, sweatingly, shiveringly, ill. That the onset of symptoms started on the way back from my team Christmas party, leading the next morning to the least convincing sickness phonecall in the history of employment is merely emblematic of the wretched, cough-racked misery that I've been dragging my sorry carcass through. Because on day two I had been called back for a second interview half way across town; there can be no better preparation for an hour's Sounding Clever And Being Impressive than hawking up 50cl of coagulated mucus at Vauxhall tube. I staggered back from what was doubtless an inspiring performance just in time to spend the next 36 hours shivering in 4 layers of clothing and drinking my own weight in vitamin-bearing fluid.

In other words, as my female colleagues and pretty much every woman I know took delight in informing me, I had man-flu. It is, apparently, all but impossible for men to actually get sick; anything short of Ebola gets a knowing roll of the eyes, a patient sigh and a healthy dose of patronising skepticism. You can get a signed affidavit from a battery of doctors for all the good it will do you; the first suggestion that, being ill, you've decided not to do some otherwise simple task (go to work, take the recycling to the skip, scale Mt Kilimanjaro) and you become just one more of a long line of whingeing males, eager to give in to their illness where a woman would soldier on, hopped-up on decongestant and coughing up her own spleen.

Well, enough. It may be little enough compared to centuries of social, financial and political dominance, but I'm done with it. Women's position as the arbiters of what is and is not illness, suffering or pain is based (as far as I can tell) on the all but unimaginable rigours of pregnancy and childbirth. (That and leg-waxing.) Not any more. From now on, I'm calling BS on the whole "agony of childbirth" thing. I bet it's really a doddle. Moreover, I'm going to take the wholly unsupported position that men would cope much better. "Tchah," I will say, when next confronted by another claim that men don't know what pain really is, "tchah. Sounds like it was just woman-birth."

I can't see this plan going wrong at all.

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