I like women. I really do. By and large they’re better company than men. More insight. Funnier. And refreshingly free of the constant need to boast about their sexual conquests, drinking ability or all the other things little boys and men-in-suits are so desperate to brag about.
But – and this is a remarkably large but – if one more woman looks at me, puts her head on one side, smiles gently and says, “Awww… Have you got man flu then?” I will forget that I am a gentleman and let loose a long and blistering stream of invective.
Because it is not man flu, right? It is flu. Pure and simple flu and I am damn well ill. And the only reason I am at the office is that I have deadlines to meet for clients and if I didn’t have deadlines I’d be at home in bed for two weeks – which is exactly where my wife was before she gave the wretched virus to me.
My nose is running so much there’s a danger of a flood warning. My eyes hurt, my sinuses are killing me and every joint I have aches. I’m too ill to watch football and if there was a bucket of fivers in the back garden I couldn’t be bothered to go and pick it up. But it’s my business and they are my clients so here I am. So stop putting your damn head on one side: be suitably awed and tell me I’m a hero instead. Because I am.
What’s more I now have the antibiotics to prove it. Chest infection as well. Three a day for seven days. Although whether I shall take the tablets or wear them round my neck to prove I’m really ill I’m not sure.
Do we accord this label to any other illness? No we do not. ‘Nothing to worry about. It’s only a man-broken leg. You’ll be fine to drive home.’
‘Well I’m astonished. It was only a man-heart attack but he’s gone and died. Talk about over-reacting…’
So let’s just concede that men are allowed to have flu shall we? Good.
Anyway, rant over. And so much for the theory. What about the practice? Ben was in the school play. Flu or no flu I had to be there.
“What time are we due at school?”
“It starts at 7:30. I’m going for Mum and Dad at quarter-to.”
“OK, I’ll see you there.”
“Try not to cough all the way through it.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got a plan… I’m going to take my bottle of Benilyn and swig from that as I need it.”
Jane stared at me. “You can’t do that,” she said. “You can’t sit in the school hall swigging from a bottle. Not unless you want ‘alcoholic father’ written on your son’s school file.”
“Might work to his advantage. Might be given extra time in exams or something…” My wife didn’t deem that last suggestion worthy of a reply.
So there I sat. Desperately hanging on until the lights went off and the scene changed so I could have a good cough while trying not to spray phlegm over a particularly tempting bald head two rows in front of me.
And dwelling on the injustice of it all…
Had I not painstakingly taken care of my wife? Had I not scuttled backwards and forwards to the corner shop for Veno’s and Benylin and bunches of grapes? And this was how fate chose to reward me. With the hot and cold shakes, a hacking cough – and a condescending smile from every woman I meet…