Once, when I was about 14 I had a sinus infection so severe that I nearly blew my left eye out.
To this day, I have to close my eyes tightly when I blow my nose so as not to accidentally launch my left eye across the room.
It occurred to me over the past several days, eyes closed, blowing furiously into a Kleenex, that I used to be really good at being sick.
As a kid I was sick all the time. I had coughs, fevers, pink eye, strep throat and chicken pox. I even got shingles when I was 13 — a special virus reserved for the elderly — that traced perfect loop-de-loops around my teenaged back.
But at some point it all stopped and I got cocky. My life is a germ factory, and I walk through it daily in short sleeves; my sick offspring literally sneeze into my open mouth and I wake up the next morning without a sniffle.
I rarely get sick, and now I’m out of practice.
Man Flu has its own Wikipedia page, and just recently, Dr. Robert H. Schmerling posted results of a scientific study conducted to determine if this condition is legitimate — if men actually experience more acute flu symptoms than women.
There is no similar Wikipedia page or Harvard study for the Mom Flu, so I feel qualified to discuss the differences between them, and I’ll do so by drawing upon zero actual research, and pure anecdotal evidence. Here is my conclusion: Women rarely give themselves permission to be sick.
Men are no better at math than women. They are no better at driving, at comedy, or at managing money. One only has to turn on the news to recognize that they’re also not that fabulous at running countries.
But they are great at being sick, and most of the women I know (sorry for generalizing ladies) are terrible at it.
This Mom Flu found me at home, alone, on my living room couch, on a cold Tuesday morning, confused and anxious about what was going on.
“What does a sick person even do,” I asked my dog.
He suggested a rousing game of fetch or a trip to the dog park, but there wasn’t enough Kleenex in the world to make that possible, so instead I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, tidied up the boots by the front door, started a load of laundry and took out the recycling. Then when I felt I had “earned” some down time, I made tea and sat on the couch.
Tea done, I got up, put the mug in the sink, and looked around.
“What now,” I kept wondering, as the minutes ticked by on my first official sick day in over a year, completely aware that I was failing, and feeling crummy about it because I hate being bad at shit.
I turned on the TV but it seemed noisy and out of place during the day.
So I folded laundry.
Then I tried to nap, because that’s what I tell my kids to do when they’re sick.
But instead I sat on my bed and stared at my dog, who I eventually took for a walk.
Sick Day No. 1 was over, and I’d accomplished about 20 minutes of productive rest time.
I’ve got a Mom Flu. I’m out of practice, and it’ll take a lot longer than the length of the average flu to figure out how to grant myself permission to relax.