I’ve Been Played

Janelle Hanchett essays

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Since it’s the beginning of flu season, I have a question for you: How is it that a mild head cold somehow manifests in my husband as the bubonic plague?

No really. I want to know.

My kids and I get the sniffles for a couple days, drag for an afternoon or so, sneeze, maybe go to bed early a couple times, and move on. We drink some peppermint tea or honey lemon water, take some Tylenol, and, I repeat, move on.

My husband? OH NO.

He’s dying. Presumably he’s been hit by the same bug, yet he’s somehow rendered powerless. He’s like curled in the fetal position wailing. He’s sure it’s over. Life, that is. Angry, sad, full of existential angst, he’s been smashed by the mother of all colds, struck down in the prime of life.

Okay fine maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but seriously, I do not understand this phenomenon. First of all, the man is an ironworker. A worker of iron. A welder. A foreman ironworker welder guy. He builds steal buildings and uses fire to melt stuff together, sometimes in the air. Are you feelin’ me here?

The man is, hands down, the strongest human being I know. He runs fitness trails with our 3-year-old tied to his back—ON PURPOSE.

He has a skull and snake and roses and stuff tattooed on his forearm, and a mustache that looks like that of a 1970s police officer porn star. (The mustache is on his face, not his forearm.)

People with mustaches like that are not allowed to act like 200-pound babies when faced with the sniffles. It’s one of the most common rules of life.

And yet this guy, when faced with a cold, morphs into a tiny delicate wilting flower.  Like the wing of a butterfly. Don’t touch him! He might break! He may never fly again!

You know what happens to me when I’m hit with a head cold? I do everything I normally do with a damn head cold.

My husband? Yeah, sorry, he’s incapacitated. All movement must end. He’s rendered nearly dead. His whole body evidently refuses to function, unless it’s to go to work. He will go to work in any state because the man would sooner shove bamboo in his fingernails than miss a day of work. Which reminds me, how come he will go to work being a worker of iron and all but the second he walks in the door, or (god help us) gets sick on the weekend, the only thing the poor soul can do is shuffle around the house with a look on his face that cries “somebody help me. I’m dying here.”?

Of course I look at him and respond “Dude what the hell’s wrong with you?”

(Oh come on don’t look at me like I’m evil, I have THREE kids demanding my nurturing nature (which is slim to begin with I assure you), I can’t possibly give it to my husband too.)

Also, he got me into this mess. He’s my partner in crime. HE MUST SUFFER TOO.

He looks at me with big sad eyes. I respond “Take some freaking Dayquil or something.”

He wakes up in the middle of the night. “I’m so cooooolllllld.”

“Take Advil. Stop waking me up or I will cut you.”

I mean come on people, I’ve been suffering with the same cold and I’m not waking anybody up moaning in the middle of the night. I’m dealing with toddlers and bigger kids and not waking husbands up because they have to work in the morning. So I take some Nyquil and hope for the best (can we all take a moment of silence, please, in grateful appreciation of Nyquil? Okay thanks.)

He knows my feelings on this. I make them excessively clear. I inquire as to what exactly happens in his big ol’ man body wherein a head cold nearly knocks him dead every single time. But you know what, not only does he know it, I think he’s rather amused by it. I think his amusement may actually increase his “OMG I’m so sick I can’t function and I think I’m going to die so please take care of me in my dying moments, honey” routine.

And the more I whine “Are you serious dude? IT’S A HEAD COLD.” the more his shoulders droop, the sadder his eyes fall, the slower his gait becomes, until finally I’m all “JUST GO TO BED!” and…wait. Oh my goodness. The man’s a genius.

He’s been playing me all along. If he acts sick enough I yell at him to go to bed.

I want to go to bed! I want to go to bed when I’m sick! I want to bask in the glory of sheets and a Nyquil buzz while he wrestles insane children through a nightly routine.

Oh goodness I’ve been doing it all wrong.

Haha! Bring it, flu season. I’m ready for you.

I’m ready for you AND my wilting butterfly ironworker husband. This family’s about to see wilting butterfly mama, hopped up on Nyquil and snoozing at 5pm in her big ol’ empty bed. Oh honey, two can play this game.

About the Author

Janelle Hanchett

Janelle Hanchett is a freelance writer in northern California and mother of questionable disposition to three children. You can join her in the fight against helpful parenting advice at her blog, .

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