Yes, I’m back with another installment of The Novel Cure: MAN FLU. I warned you I’d post it. That I do so when my entire left arm–shoulder to throbbing, immobile, red wrist and achy fingers–shouts, “Bloody hell, woman, are you mad?” shows my tenacity in the face of flare. Something to ponder the next time all ye men of low pain threshold start to sniffle.

AILMENT: Man Flu. NOVEL CURE: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

“Infinitely worse than regular flu, and not to be confused with the common cold (which is hard, as the symptoms are identical), man flu is a miserable illness not just for the victim but for all concerned. Bed rest is essential, and the patient–indeed, “victim” is probably more apt–will require a great deal of sympathy. The victim should be propped up on soft pillows and provided with mugs of tea, heating pads, meals on trays, the remote control, and messages of support and commiseration from family and friends brought to him* regularly. Visitors to his bedside must take great care when making conversation to stick to the subject of the victim and his suffering. Do not venture into matters pertaining to the outside world or indeed the domestic (household chores and responsibilities), as this will agitate the victim and prevent him from focusing on his suffering, and so begin the long journey back to full health.

Our “cure” (term used loosely) is Victor Hugo’s classic novel of human torment and suffering, Les Miserables. Your patient might consider himself too ill for the application of a novel cure–he may even urge you to turn to the entry in this book on dying. However, it is important to have a firm hand in administering it, despite his resistance. Within a few pages he will have lost himself completely in the woes of Jean Valjean and Fantine, Cosette and Monsieur Marius, Eponine and police inspector Javert, recognizing his own sufferings in theirs, and taking great comfort as a result.

Because of its great length, Les Miserables may on the surface seem like a punishment. In fact, it will help the victim to find the patience and stoicism to endure his enforced inactivity–the most pernicious cases of man flu have been known to incapacitate for up to a week. Those responsible for nursing the victim, a round-the-clock job, will find him to be less talkative while taking the cure, thus giving everybody a chance to recover and delve more deeply within themselves to find unending supplies of love and sympathy. In the most effective cases, the cure might even enable the sufferer to forget about his symptoms completely and bring about a return to good humor, vivacity, and pleasure in life–even interest in others–which will seem quite miraculous when it occurs.

If the patient does not finish his medication before recovering, do not panic. Those prone to man flu are likely to experience recurrences of the illness at regular intervals throughout their lives, and an unfinished dose of the medicine is useful to have at hand. Being familiar with the medicine will mean the patient is more likely to be receptive to it and will agree to taking it the instant symptoms appear.

See also: Cold, common; Dying; Hypochondria

*Scientists cannot explain why this ailment affects only men, but it does.” (238-239)

**Could someone lift my left arm off the laptop? Hello?


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