Friday, January 3, 2014


It's been at least three years since the missus and I went to a New Year's Eve soiree. Unlike my younger days, when the whole idea was to get as drunk as possible and still make it to midnight, now it was simply to stay awake, then get the hell home by 12:10. New Year's Eve, it took me many years to learn, was no different than any other night except to make you feel bad that you didn't get a party invitation, and, if you did, force you into a frenzy of having fun with loud people that, for the most part, you wouldn't socialize with for another 12 months. 

For a few years we were getting invitations from a couple we knew through our respective kids' school. Every time I'd ask my wife, "Who are these people again?" And every year, I would resist going. I have certain routines in my life that I don't like disturbed, and one of them is not going out of the house after 7:00 in the evening. Oh, there was a time when I was quite the social animal, and looked forward to the occasional wingding. There was always the chance of meeting new people (i.e. women). New Year's Eve itself had a certain cachet, appearing more sophisticated than, say, celebrating a birth or parole. And if the women believed that I really was the editor of Atlantic and would love to read their memoir about how the death of their first goldfish led to several years of therapy, so much the better. I wasn't in this for the cocktail franks, you know.

Over time, age took its toll, which, as with the New York bridges, rose considerably over the years. Marriage, too, played its part. What was the point of going to New Year's Eve parties, when the whole raison d'etre -- meeting gullible women -- was now officially on the shelf for the foreseeable future? Of course, I never couched it in those terms. It was more along the lines of, Why do we gotta go? We saw the same people last year! Fortunately for me, those regular parents-of-the-kids parties ended a few years back, right when my wife decided that bolting the doors and windows on New Year's Eve now seemed a good idea. It's a lonely thing being ahead of my time.

We had our 2013 send-off all planned with Champagne, caviar and a nice meal provided from one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. What we hadn't counted on coming down with colds. Mine started first, a couple of days after Christmas. (Remember what I said about being ahead of my time?) Then on New Year's Eve day, I received a phone call from my wife. I knew her office was closing at three, but she had an even better idea for cutting out early. "I've got a cold," she said in a distinct phlegmy tone, "I feel terrible." I felt bad for her, but even worse for myself. Our daughter was going to be out with friends for the night. This was our cue to ring in 2014 in what I had hoped to be an especially feral manner for a couple our age. Instead, we had to content ourselves with yet another go-round on CNN with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. This was the year, by the way, I finally broke down and accepted the entertainment value of the broadcast by reminding myself that Cooper, despite his furrowed brow, isn't a serious journalist, and that Griffin is our generation's Martha Raye. I look forward to her Poligrip commercials.

Yes, I felt bad for my wife, as many people do when they consider that she's been married to me for over 20 years. While most of my colds haven't been bad since I started getting an annual flu shot, this particular one hit me a little harder than normal. My wife always had a sneaking suspicion -- sneaking, hell, more like explicit -- that I was behaving like your proverbial pantywaist when laid low with illness. The aches and chills -- as she dreaded to hear me say, my grippy feeling -- were apparently self-induced delusions exclusive to men. Me, in particular.

So while my wife was stretched out on the couch on New Year's Day, Kleenex box at one hand, miso soup at the other, it was my pleasure -- no, my duty -- to hand her the iPad in order to read the following medical bulletin:

For years, women have cried “man flu” when men make a fuss over a few sniffles.
But a new study suggests men may actually suffer more when they are struck down with flu — because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response.
The study by Stanford University School of Medicine examined the reactions of men and women to vaccination against flu. It found women generally had a stronger antibody response to the jab than men, giving them better protection against the virus.
Vindication, thy name is Stanford University School of Medicine! My wife's reaction wasn't what I had hoped, but, due to almost a quarter-century of couplehood, completely expected: "That doesn't mean anything!" accompanied by a flick of the wrist.

I could have put up a fight, but I knew from experience there was no winning this one. When my wife makes up her mind on something, it takes more than scientific studies to change it. I had hoped her near-grippy experience would open her eyes to what I go through. No dice. I'll have to continue suffering in silence, while my high testosterone will have to wait for another time to be put to good use.



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