Fathers, Stop Being Such . . . Men!

June 13, 2012 – 3:37 pm | By Michael Harris | No comments yet

June is not only for Father’s Day greetings; it is also Men’s Health Month. And if any gender needs an aide memoire to engender the self-awareness to regard and conduct its health, it would be men!

I acknowledge there are exceptions, but as a demographic, men tend to neglect health warning signs, shun preventive checkups, ignore professional medical advice and are generally reluctant to seek healthcare. Everyone knows at least a couple of males fitting (often proudly so) that description.

Do any of these tenor- or baritone-inflected men-isms sound familiar?

“I must’ve eaten something that disagreed with my stomach.”

“It looks bad, but it doesn’t hurt.”

“It’s just a headache; I get them all the time.”

“I’m just tired . . . I’ll be fine.”

I’ve watched as almost my entire male lineage has ignored cautionary or lethal health indications, and then were subsequently either afflicted with, or succumbed to, a host of diseases or conditions and ‑ on more occasions than I wish I could forget ‑ death.

My older brother lived (and eventually died too young at 58) under the misconception that doctors and hospitals killed more people than disease. His disinclination to trust healthcare and instead rely on his own intuition for years contributed to an avoidable death-by-dodged-diagnosis.

There is certainly risk still implicated in healthcare, but the industry has progressed way past the luck-of-the-draw stage.

My grandfather, who hacked and grimaced his way through 60 years of tobacco use before dying of lung cancer with his final cigarette still smoldering in the ashtray, always insisted, “Pain is just a way to let you know you are still alive.” And he usually dispensed such sage advice on most matters . . .

Swelling, pain, confusion, numbness, bleeding, uncharacteristic behavior and compromised body functions are rarely innocuous events. They usually portend abnormality.

Just because men are unemotional beings doesn’t mean we have to be unhealthy ones, with an imprudent head-in-the-sand approach to health care.

That’s the only way you’ll be around to continue to do the heavy lifting, endure the silent treatment, chip away at the “honey-do” list, enjoy your mid-life crisis Corvette after the kids are out of the house, and spend 65 of your 80 years on Earth working to provide a beyond-your-means family lifestyle and build an ample estate before peacefully expiring in your sleep of “natural causes.”

Now, doesn’t that sound better than wheezing, limping or Medicaid-ing your way through a misguided life of unheeded symptoms as a precursor to a fatal adverse event?

This year, my wife’s Mothers’ Day tally of gifts and well wishes trumped mine by a 4-to-1 margin ‑ largely attributable to the fact that all the males who sent Mothers’ Day greetings believe not sending Fathers’ Day acknowledgements is the only manly way to observe Fathers’ Day!

This being my 30th year of Fathers’ Days, I know the score by now, so I didn’t lie around waiting to be served, pampered and indulged like ‑ well, like a mother!

Men are branded and channeled to be all about the unglamorous, the stoic and the physical traits, such as reliability, provision and labor.

“A couple of creeps are at the door to date your daughters . . . release the Kracken-Dad!”

“The basement’s knee-deep in sewage. Who’s the only one here without a manicure to protect?”

“We know that your kid only graduates from high school once, but how will she ever graduate from college if we fire you today for choosing family time over overtime?”

The message is not that Father’s Day doesn’t bring the love compared to Mother’s Day; rather, the attentiveness men get from others on our one special day may just be a correlated reflection of the way we regard ourselves, specifically in matters of health.

And that explains why we get hippopotamus ties, gas station cologne and homemade cards, while moms are lavished with precious jewels, doting beauty treatments and exotic floral arrangements.

Our bodies are the most proficient medical device, committed caregiver and efficacious pharmacy of all. It’s our utmost preventive and self-healing mechanism, chemical/biologic therapeutics factory and diagnostic system. It underwrites our most reliable insurance policy, for which the primary co-pay is the application of healthy habits.

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