Does Your Husband Suffer from Man Sick Syndrome?

Writer JoAnne Cannon argues that men handle getting sick much worse than women.

Writer JoAnne Cannon argues that men handle getting sick much worse than women do.

The audible sigh. The belabored breathing. The moaning, the groaning, the exaggerated coughing. The irritating throat clearing. It can only mean one thing. My husband has a cold. The bench-pressing, hardworking former marine vanishes when the “man sick” syndrome takes hold.

“Man sick” looks quite different from “woman sick.” Findings point to innate differences between the sexes. In general, women persevere through the illness, performing all necessary tasks and taking extreme measures to ensure prevention of said illness being passed on to family members.

With men, however, all bets are off. They’re miserable, and everyone must know. The world stops. They’re on the brink of death and essentially non-functioning, so they must be waited on hand and foot, with ample doses of sympathy expressed every few hours. They sleep all day—in between cries for help—only to awaken when it’s time for everyone else to go to sleep.

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Then, as soon as we slip into bed, the drama commences. It starts off with a toss, then a turn, then a loud clearing of the sinuses that could wake the dead. A throat is scratchy and needs water; a lozenge clicks from tooth to tooth. Then comes the running commentary: “This can’t be just a cold. I must have bronchitis, pneumonia, bird flu, swing flue, Legionnaires’ disease.”

Women, by contrast, refuse to succumb to the ravages of a cold. From the start, they make up for any potential downtime, washing clothes, disinfecting the house, gathering cold remedies and tissue boxes. And when he starts to feel better and we recognize the man we married, all this “man sick” business is forgotten. That is, until next time.

JoAnne Cannon admits that her husband will do what he can to help when she’s sick—even if he does avoid her like the plague.

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