When I’m ill, I drink whiskey. More specifically, a hot toddy, otherwise known as “Irish Nyquil.” My beloved local bartender from North Ireland taught me her old family recipe — just hot water, a couple jiggers of whiskey, and lemon wedges studded with cloves. One of those, spicy Kung Pao chicken, and bed. I behave like a dying animal when I’m sick. I like to suffer alone, in the dark. I hate to be fussed over. Can’t you see I’m in mortal combat with the sniffles?!
This frustrates my girlfriend because she sees it as unfair. Well, life is unfair, Toots. When I fall ill, she wants to rush to my apartment and dote on me. Nurture me back to health. And I refuse to let her. I can’t stand being pampered. It drives me crazy. I am a man. Like Batman. And if Batman can sew his own wounds shut in his crime-fighting bunker, I can blow my nose in bed without help from anyone. For the record: I blow my nose with toilet paper, not “Kleenex,” the way the cavemen did. I appreciate her attentions, of course. But it’s my fight.
Men don’t need to be babied. But when my woman is sick, I become extremely … protective. I wouldn’t say “nurturing.” No, if my girlfriend gets sick, I become focused on her getting better. But I’m very results-oriented about it. I project-manage her convalescence with the focus of a NASCAR pit crew or the Delta Force. There’s a game plan, a strategy. First off, I make sure she has enough pillows, and I inform her that if she wants to get better, she needs to get into her pajamas. So I put her into a bed that is made, and filled with pillows. Done. I make it a point to kiss her on the forehead.
“What if you get sick?” she’ll cough.
“That’s a chance I’m just going to have to take,” I’ll respond.
Once she is secure in bed, I venture outside to procure supplies. These include a variety of pills, syrups, and lozenges for her to choose from. A small oil tanker’s worth of orange juice and tea are also important. I have a policy that when sick, a person can eat whatever it is he or she wants. A box of cookies or some kind of chocolate confection is purchased along with the fluids and medicinal intoxicants. I also make sure to buy a stack of celebrity magazines.
I will slap these glossy magazines on the counter, and stare directly into the cashier’s eyeballs. My gaze will chill him to the bone and he will think, “Never have I seen a man with such steely purpose.”
Then I grab the ingredients for a gangster-ass pot of deeee-licious chicken noodle soup and return like a victorious warrior, a Viking laden with the spoils of righteous battle! Medicines are then dispensed. Fluids poured. Specific instructions are given: Drink! Sleep! Read about fatty Gerard Butler! Soup is made, ladled out. And then I stand guard over the patient, ready to fulfill any request. This is how I do it. More orange juice? Another cookie? A hot water bottle? I AM ON IT.
For some reason, this satisfies some deeply primal need in me. To take care of the ones I love. Or at least, to hunt and gather the things needed to care for those I love, then hold a quiet vigil over in the corner. I sometimes worry that I utterly lack the ability to “nurture,“ or to soothe. I sure as hell don’t like to be fretted over. But if I ever breed, and have to stay up with my sickly demon spawn, I hope I have it in me to go “cootchie-coo” and not just say, “Look me in the eyes: we will defeat this microscopic monster inside of you, with the help of baby aspirin, juice boxes, and cartoons!”