A very male kind of illness

I’m rarely very ill. In more than fifteen years of working, I’ve probably had no more than twenty days off sick. That’s not to say that I don’t get sick at all – it’s just that I’m likely to drag myself into work despite various aches and pains, in some kind of martyr-ish attempt to prove that I’m either Superman, or a leading contender for the two luncheon vouchers (or subscription to Anglers Monthly) on offer for the employee of the month.

Of course in reality I’m no superhero. To be around me when I’m not feeling very well is to truly know sorrow. Not my sorrow, I hasten to add – just the aching sense of misery brought on by watching the melodramatic whining of somebody who is old enough to know better. The reason I’m not ill very often is that mankind (and more to the point these days, The Special One) wouldn’t tolerate the inhuman moaning that I can muster in response to, say, a paper cut.

The strange thing is that when I feel vaguely ill, it’s almost as if I step out of my own body. Not in a ‘moving closer to the light’ kind of way, although by the groans of perceived pain coming from me, you could easily be confused into believing that I might be on the verge of death. Instead, I’m just able to hear myself complaining about my latest malady and inwardly wonder why I’m making such a fuss about nothing.

The last few days I’ve been genuinely ill, with my body performing all manner of emergency evacuation procedures in an attempt to get rid of toxins brought on by a stomach flu. The bathroom has been my near permanent home, and I was virtually nil by mouth for 36 hours. I felt pretty bad, I have to admit. But I’m sure the consistency and voraciousness of my vocalised pain was such that alarmed passers-by would have been convinced that I was having my wedding tackle sliced at with Samurai swords every five minutes.

I’ve come to the realisation that it’s not the pain that upsets me though. Instead it’s just the fact that I – and most American residents, to be fair – only get to take five days off sick per year before they cease to be paid for their time away from the office.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never once taken off five sick days in any year of my career. I could probably be given five days for every two years and still not use them up. But it’s the principle. In Britain, I always had the comfort of knowing that I could be off for four days in a row at any point without even needing a doctor’s note to explain my absence. Find yourself struck down with a four day illness in the US, and you’re suddenly taking every preventative treatment known to man in an attempt to ensure that you can afford to pay your rent.

I’m thinking about fighting for some kind of constitutional amendment enshrining the inalienable right to sickness. If the powers-that-be don’t agree, I’ll threaten to step up my moaning every time I get even slightly ill. That’ll get them on the back foot, I promise you.

10 thoughts on “A very male kind of illness

  1. Almost American

    Five days? My DH only gets 2 sick/personal days a year!

    OTOH, I get 15 and unused ones carry over to the next year! I had to use 9 my first year in this job – 1 for me and 8 for the kids!

  2. Silverback

    Yes the whole idea of sick days/personal days in the US has always puzzled me. I guess I was very fortunate with my job in the UK (and assumed every job had the same benefits) where I had 4 weeks holiday from day 1 and I didn’t need a sick note until I’d been off for over a week and the one time I was off for a longer period (almost 3 months) after my bypass surgery, I was paid for all of it.

    Of course now I’m retired, I just don’t bother getting sick at all !!

  3. Sarah Playle

    Think yourself lucky you are not “down the pit”, or a stay at home mum. We don’t get personal days either. You northern wuss!!
    Hope you are feeling more human soon.
    I am enjoying reading your stuff, but I do draw the line at bodily evacuation stories. Really!!!

  4. Nat

    Five days. That’s unreal. I know that most people don’t take anywhere near that much time off sick – but it would be terrifying to know that the ‘safety net’ wasn’t there. Hope your ‘flu goes soon.

  5. Karen

    Over here in Iceland we are “allowed” 2 paid sick days a month. More than 2 in a row and you need a doctors note.
    I rarely take more than three a year, but as you say, it is great to know they are there.

  6. Jan

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been ill, I hope you’re feeling better now.

    And you’re lucky, you at least get a few sick days. Sickness isn’t allowed at all at the company where my hubby works.

    It never ceases to amaze me that Americans put up with such crappy amounts of leave and sick time. I know, I know! In the present economic climate, one should be glad one has a job, blah blah.

  7. lisa

    Sorry to hear you’re ill. I hope you feel better soon!

    I have something like 30 days of “off” time. This includes national holidays (believe it or not), sick days and vacation time.

    So far, I’ve managed to avoid getting sick. I’ve been lucky!

  8. Expat Mum

    I personally think you should get sick more often if it makes for this kind of post. I nearly wet myself laughing.
    In my one and only corporate job here, we only got two weeks’ vacation (after you’d worked there for 6 months) but 11 sick days. And guess what everyone did – took them all of whether they were sick or not.

  9. Alasdair


    At this time, I have a bit over 41 WEEKS of accumulated Sick Time available to me … at an American employer – mostly because, over the years, I’ve only used a few weeks (my diastasis repair had me off for 2 weeks, just by itself) …

    My employer still wants an explanation when I’m off sick for 3 or more days, but that’s mostly to ensure that I’m not bringing Ebola into the office as part of my effort to have over 1 year’s worth of sick time accumulated unused …

    Are you sure you’re not an MDeity ? They tend to make terrible patients (with a few exceptions (smiles fondly and sincerely at SWMBO)) …

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