Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Sickness Or in Health

Barbara: After some 30-odd years under my belt with the same man (see About Us. I know, I know, we’re an enigma, an anomaly, but it somehow works … even when we want to kill each other), I’m still shocked at the clichés we manifest on a daily basis. He’s the car guy, home-fixer, disciplinarian; I’m the closet-cleaner, appointment-maker, nurturer. 

I mean, we’re a thoroughly modern couple—always have been. We share the household and parental duties equally. But I’m so the girl and he’s so the boy. I defer to his money sense and he defers to my sense of fashion. He wants my opinion on everything and I want to give it to him. He likes to tell jokes and I like to laugh at them. He likes a good steak and I’m partial to poultry (but only if it’s organic free-range). 

So why is it that I am always surprised when he gets sick … and suddenly becomes a feeble patient on his deathbed barely able to utter his last words (which are plaintive mewlings begging for tender mercy and comfort)?? My Tarzan/Jane fantasy image is one of him pounding his chest in the face of the Common Cold, brazenly daring it to defeat him while he goes about his business. But the reality always reflects one of the most common clichés in the male/female dynamic—he is the dying swan and I am (read: should be) his besotted nursemaid. Oh well—I guess that’s the difference between fantasy and cliché! 

Deb: Unlike Barb, my relationship is hard to define because actually over the last year or so it has evolved yet again. Mostly my husband takes care of money, but I have recently stepped up in that arena. I am the spender; he is the saver. We share the household duties, but according to my friends, MY husband is a saint for one simple reason ... he cooks ... ALL the meals. Wonderful meals, thoughtful meals, nutritious meals. At one point when our son was in grade three, he had to write a paragraph on what his parents did at home and he said, “My Dad buys the groceries and cooks the dinner and my Mom lights the candles and pours the wine”. Out of the mouths of babes. 

While that observation contains truth, I always get defensive because it is tough to define what I do around the house. I do the stuff that goes unnoticed, unappreciated––yes, my husband cleans up, but it is “boy clean” … and I am “girl clean”. I do the ironing and my share of the laundry and I (deep breath here) pick up dirty clothes from the floor, wipe down counters and cupboards again and again, fluff pillows, tidy rooms, water and care for plants, book and oversee all appointments, medical and home repair, organize all social events (do I sound defensive yet?), tidy constantly, shut open closet doors, turn out lights, turn out lights again, control house temperature, fireplaces (man, do I sound defensive), tend garden, plant garden, decorate, polish, and scrub. 

In effect, I do all the things that don’t elicit thanks or verbal appreciation. We don’t thank someone for picking up dirty underwear because they just disappear into the hamper. We don’t thank someone for cleaning a kitchen. It just appears as if by magic. Clean. But when a meal is prepared, we are all over it with the thanks! My man can walk by something 50 times that needs to be put away. I don’t think he ignores it as much as truly doesn’t see it! But me? I’m with the “girl clean” radar! Beep beep beep: dirty underwear ... beep beep beep: wilting plant ... beep beep beep: crumbs on coffee table.... 

Wow, did I digress! This is supposed to be about whiney men with colds, isn’t it? Umm, okay, I guess the reason I ranted on in the other direction is because when it comes to my whiney Cold Man, I stand rant-less. My man is stoic, a rock, a beacon of the “buck up”. Never complains. Right this minute, he has a raging cold and is limping off to the grocery store to get dinner groceries. Why limping, you ask? Well, because he is in agonizing pain in the face of knee surgery that he will have in a few weeks. Yet as he went out the door the last thing he said to me (smiling pleasantly, damn him) was, “Can I pick you up anything for your lunch?” I watched him go off, gently closing the closet door he left opened, and thought, “Light the damn candles and count your blessings, you whiney cow”. 

Barbara: Okay, I will avow that Deb’s husband has many saintly qualities, but after having worked with Deb for 5 years, I can also avow that she never stops futzing—EVER! It’s quite amazing, actually. I just sip my tea and marvel at her. 

Anyway, we found this great video we had to share with you—it is hysterical!––and exactly Barbara’s life in a comedic nutshell. 


  1. Great post. My husband and I, when I worked full time, shared responsibility. When I became the stay at home mom (and hence started my writing career) I took on a lot, all the cleaning, grocery shopping, even taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn. He still does major repairs, he like MacGuyver in that sense, he can fix anything with a paper clip and some duct tape, and he does BIG yard projects (he's a great gardener, I hate getting dirt under my fingernails. I do pay the bills. While I'm not great at cleaning and paying bills, I'm good enough at it.

    And I think all men become crying babies when they're sick, no matter how manly they are.

    Yet we are still expected to keep up with all our responsibilities even under the strain of the flu. ;)

    Great blog ladies.

  2. I love the cooking thing. If I could turn over all grocery shopping and cooking responsibilities, life would be grand. No meal tastes as good as one someone else cooks!

  3. Thanks, ladies. And seriously, Megan, Deb's husband does NOT become a cry baby. And seriously, Joanne, he cooks EVERY meal (when he's home ... even jet-lagged). I agree -- wouldn't that be grand? (oops, don't read this DH -- you do lots, especially this last weekend. love you!)

  4. AAAAAKKKKK!! Great posts, and that video made me scream with laughter. So, so true. One time my husband had a cold and was lying on the couch in front of the tv in the basement when I was upstairs, and I heard him shout as if he was dying. I went running down the stairs ... WHAT??!!
    And his answer?
    "I WANT you!"
    And not in the carnal way, either. He just wanted a hug and some attention.
    And Deb, most men think housework and cooking gets done the Elizabeth Montgomery way -- it takes no time or effort; women just wiggle their noses. You're exactly right; we don't have anything to show for what we do, because it all gets messed up again within the first 24 hours and has to be cleaned once more. They fix something and it stays fixed and they can point to it and say "I did that."
    This has been an issue in my household for some years; my husband still thinks I sit around eating bonbons all day, just because I work from my home office. He doesn't understand that the reason he can use the kitchen table is because SOMEBODY cleans all his crap off it every day!
    Meanwhile, your husband cooks meals? I think I love him.

  5. omg, LOL! LOL! LOL!

    must post to my page. WIll link to you. And I see you posted here and there. :)

  6. How true this is ladies! Husband #1 was just appalling when he had a cold. #2 is just as bad. I thought it was just me attracting whiny sick guys. I adore my husband and he's a tough guy...breaks or crushes various body parts all the time and sits in emerge with not one moan. But let him get "the sniffles" and it's pathetic.

    He does a lot of building, landscaping and what-not after work, so I don't moan much when the floor's dirty or the dishwasher not put on when I've gone to bed early. He also cooks on occasion. I guess I'm lucky. Great post!

  7. It kills me how you guys are all relating to this! I guess we are tribal creatures still, hearkening back to some primal mode.

  8. Love your post!

    I'm not married, but grew up as the oldest of three girls raised by a single father. He was Mr. Mom, doing all the cooking and cleaning after he got home from a long day at work. As I got older these duties fell to me as well taking care of him when he was sick. I never got used to watching my strong father turning into a baby when he got sick, correction the biggest baby ever.

    On the cleaning topic, we grew up with stuff always being "boy clean," but after I got to college the "girl clean" gene kicked in so now whenever I go home to visit I spend the first day just cleaning and recleaning the house. Good to know I'm not the only one out there who likes things "girl clean"!

  9. This is probably my favorite post so far.

    Anyway, I've never been married, but most of the men I know get quite whiney in the face of discomfort, but only around people they trust. For example, my dad, when he was still working, was in a significant amount of physical discomfort most of the time, and he'd whine about it to my mom or anyone who'd listen when he was at home. Yet at work he remained pleasant with everyone even though I know he didn't feel very pleasant.

    Otherwise, my dad frequently breaks from the "husband cliches". He doesn't cook, but he cleans and does dishes like nobody's business.

    Deb, I hope your husband's knee surgery goes well, and that he recovers quickly from that and his cold. :)

  10. Ruth, you give me hope that my daughters will one day discover the joys of "girl clean". They're still in "don't see mess at all" mode.

    And Adrienne, I have to agree that the whiney-baby usually only rears his head at home with loved ones.

  11. Ex-husband is a grumpy, reclusive, recliner-dweller-remote-control-or-video-game-controller-in-hand bear under normal circumstances. When he is sick, his temperament and isolationism become exponentially worse. Add in that he's the bad, stupid kind of stubborn (it's that Y-chromosome induced testosterone poisoning). One fall, he got sicker and sicker with a nasty respiratory bug that went far past being a "bad cold", and I kept telling him he really needed to a) take some days off work and b) go to the doctor. This went on for week, and he got worse and worse. Nevermind that I used to work at a hospital, used to be an EMT, and stuff like that, he stubbornly wouldn't listen despite the fact that I told him, "You know, your lips and skin should NOT be that color. You aren't getting adequate oxygenation. Your peripheral perfusion is crap." Finally, one morning he got sick enough that it scared him into going to the doctor. He ended up in the hospital for 4 days with severe infection in both lungs. Stupid, stubborn man...

  12. BWAHAHAhahahahahahaha!!! I just found Man Flu in today's news headlines!!!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.