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Friday, January 18, 2008

Cold comfort

My Last Word column from Day and Night in today's Irish Independent

Well what do you know? It turns out I am a stereotypical man after all. Years of carefully cultivating the image that I was a more evolved, sophisticated model of modern masculinity have been undone in one runny-nosed strike. For as I write, I'm bleary-eyed and half-zonked with a headcold. Correction: make that the worst headcold ever.

Actually, I think that this headcold - which I'm pretty confident is mutating into flu at this stage - marks a new epoch in human suffering. In fact, I can't think of a single instance, ever, in all the history of mankind, that somebody has had to endure the misery, discomfort and hardship that I'm living with at the moment. What's more, I believe the world should acknowledge this profusely and bend over backwards to alleviate my wretched pain.

I'll pause for a second here to allow all you bros to nod in agreement out of solidarity and for all you ladies to roll your eyes and let out a knowing guffaw. Doesn't what you've just read sum up the mindset that every man sinks into whenever they're struck down by what everyone but the poor guy believes to be the most minor of afflictions?

But indulge me - afterall, I'm sick. It's all too easy to mock us for being bad patients that are hysterically prone to exaggerating symptoms and indulging in borderline hyperchondria. It's hard for us poor blokes to get a sympathetic break. If, like me, you've woken up on a chilly January morning in an achy fit of oozy sneezes, coughs and the feeling that your head has been replaced by a cement block, you need to find someone to lend you a kind word and tell you what a handsome, brave superhero you are for even contemplating getting up to face the world in the face of such cruel adversity.

I find in nearly all cases, it's the womenfolk in our lives that need to fill this role. In my case, I called my mother as soon as I woke up, for I was sure she'd want to be the first to hear that her son was so ill on an unprecedented scale. Of course, I forgot that she's a woman who's had five kids and worked as a nurse for 40 years, and she had a cold herself which she wasn’t complaining about. Sympathy wasn't on the cards, despite my best moany voice and pitiful coughs.
What was wrong with the world? Surely a sex whose biological make-up plunges them into involuntary physical and emotional turmoil on a monthly basis should understand what it's like to be so incapacitated?

In the face of such a dearth of human kindness, I did what any man must do - moan to anyone and everyone who'd listen to me. Everywhere I went, I presented the visage of a cursed man, and every time I sneezed or coughed, I quickly shot a glance to those around me with eyes that said, 'I know - I myself wonder where I find the strength to go on. Now carry on mere mortal, and take heart that one day you might be as courageous and resilient as I'.

I'm sure that after a few nights (and maybe the odd day) filled with hot whiskeys, and by popping enough vitamins to make 45-a-day Hilary Swank green with envy, I'll manage to best this cold. And while convalescing, I can spend my time pondering who will play me in the inevitable TV movie about my noble struggle, He Sneezed Alone: The Declan Cashin Story. Personally, I think Jake Gyllenhaal would be an uncanny choice. Wow, those hot whiskeys are strong.

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