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The Man Flu Myth

By Rupert Truscott-Hughes on July 28, 2013 in Other

Picture: Penny Cilin

Picture: Penny Cilin

I felt like I was dying.

It was as though my head was being squeezed tight in a vice. It thumped in time with the beat of my heart and each pulse was as excruciating as the next. Every time I swallowed it was as though a red-hot poker was being forced down my throat. I felt like a poorly trained fire-swallower the day after an ill-feted debut performance.

On the second night I woke in a pool of sweat so deep that I worried not about my illness but about falling back to sleep and drowning in my own perspiration. I needed a bilge pump and an industrial air blower the next morning just to return my boudoir to a sleepable state. Even the spare room wasn’t spared, as I proceeded to soil it with my sickly secretions when the bed in the main room became untenable.

I endured the illness for three days before I finally decided to take myself off to the doctor’s surgery, assuming that I was suffering from something more than just the common cold. I usually avoid the doctor like the plague, instead opting to suck back numerous litres of ‘immunity’ juice from the local fruit bar, overdosing on Echinacea, gobbling down more cold and flu tablets than is probably recommended and just riding the thing out until my health slowly returns. But this time around it was just too much to bear.

Sure enough, the doctor diagnosed me with a case of “garden variety” tonsillitis, which has apparently been “doing the rounds”. He quickly scribbled out a script for a dose of twice-a-day penicillin, assured me I’d be right as rain in no time and sent me off to the pharmacy. And this is where things got a bit ugly.

“Suffering from a bit of man flu are you Mr Hughes?” quipped the public school educated female pharmacist’s assistant, clearly mistaking me for someone keen to participate in her banal attempt at humour. In her early thirties and having held the same role for at least ten years (we are reasonably well acquainted), she is an obvious example of why one should complete their High School Certificate rather than drop out at the end of Year 10.

I nearly choked on my Strepsil. For three days I had writhed around in pain, wallowed in my own filth and fought the urge to see a doctor for this very reason, convinced by society to “suck it up; it’s just a cold”. I was infuriated.

“Actually darling, it’s tonsillitis,” I replied, stepping closer and breathing the words upon her, hoping to thrust my illness her way so that she too could experience what I had over the past few days.

“That’s gross,” she retorted, reeling backwards with a look of disgust smeared across her podgy face. “Why would you do that?”

I grabbed my meds and made my way for the door, a smile sweeping across my face for the first time in days.
The next week when I popped into the pharmacy to grab some supplies – toothpaste, razors, shaving cream and the like – the pharmacist’s assistant was a notable absentee.

“Charlene on holidays is she?” I asked her replacement, knowing full well that this wasn’t the case.

“No, she’s on sick leave. Nasty bout of tonsillitis apparently,” she lamented.

“That’s no good,” I replied. “I’ve heard that it’s ‘doing the rounds’.”