Men and women are on different schedules when it comes to sickness. If there is an upcoming event needing a ton of planning, work, and energy, Woman will rise to the occasion doing everything necessary and participate in the event in fine, even if frazzled style. Vacations, dinner parties, weekend guests… a sister friend will get ‘er done, using up every last drop of adrenaline. Only then might some lurking bug nail her while she’s folding that last load of after-party laundry. She’ll put it all away, then collapse only after she closes the final drawer.
It doesn’t work that way for men. Keep a calendar, Girlfriends, because there are two things you can count on: (1) they’re going to break, catch, fracture, or sprain something before the big event. (2) it’s going to be dramatic.
During our years on the frozen tundra, we received an invitation to THE big, formal event held every other January. It was a Big Deal. Dearly Beloved, of course, could rent a tux and his preparations were over. Not that easy for me. The trauma of finding something to wear in a town with one department store and two dress shops sent me bingeing in the old Halloween candy. Then there were shoes to find. . . are sandals appropriate in two feet of snow? You get the idea.
The first year, the stores yielded nothing, my neighbor saved me by passing on a slinky black jersey gown she’d never worn; it still bore the sale tags. We weren’t even close to the same size, but desperation kicked in and I, a most elementary seamstress at best, amazed myself completely remaking the dress. Hey, Betsy Ross. . . need any help with that flag? It looked better than anything I’d tried on in the stores. My confidence soared.
The day before the formal event, however, DB’s back went out. He couldn’t stand straight; his head was bent foward, navel contemplation style, and his shoulders were hunched over, arms dangling. He looked scary and funny at the same time. I felt bad for him, but sympathy goes only so far and I’d sewn a 24″ zipper into that dress by hand.
DB is not a quitter and managed to grunt and gyrate into his tuxedo, a pitifully hilarious process that should have been videoed. (To watch as our family holiday special instead of the dreaded Christmas Vacation.)
The suit, the stoop, and the shuffling walk. . . yes, I was going to a dance with The Penguin. When we arrived at the Big Event, he could not look anyone in the eye, so he introduced himself to an assortment of cummerbunds and cleavage, depending on the height of the individual. Or so he claimed.
We knew only a few people there and the roomful of staring strangers caused my confidence to sag. I worried that my dress was doing likewise. “I’m ready to go,” I whispered, after about 30 minutes.
“One slow dance,” he answered, “and then we’ll go.” Even that didn’t happen; he couldn’t raise his arms to put them around me. We were home by 9.
Two years later, another invitation. The night of the big “Do” he looked extremely handsome and quite healthy as we prepared to leave the house. Then he sneezed, quickly putting his hand to his face. When he removed it, a crown was lying in his hand. A front molar tooth.
Nothing he tried held it in place, but we went to the ball anyway. He tried to balance it with his tongue. That rendered him non-conversant and screwed up his face in a look of painful concentration. Losing a tooth on the dance floor is not a good conversation starter. We were home before 9:30.
These are not isolated incidents. There was the fractured ankle the day before a long-planned trip with friends. The back problem resurfaced like Old Faithful for a string of social events. Coughs, colds, or migraines set in like clockwork the year we had season tickets for the symphony. We never saw one.
He wasn’t faking. I’m not saying that. But he was healthy as a horse the rest of the year and I can’t recall his ever having to cancel a golf game because of injury or illness.
I don’t think he is unique in this. Our son has signs of bearing the gene, as do our sons-in-law. My brother is definitely a carrier. As far as I know, this syndrome has no name. No studies have been done except by long-suffering wives:
We call it MANia.