Claudia Winkleman: Take It From Me

'Oh no. We have entered the months of man flu. The first signs of a sniffle and it's panic stations'
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The Independent Online

It's getting a bit chilly outside. A few fireworks have been let off in the local park. Mince pies are on the shelf at the supermarket. It can only mean one thing.

Oh no. Not that it's time to rake some leaves in the garden. Not that we have to start planning another overpriced, eerily disappointing time slot for Santa's Grotto. No sirree. It means we have entered the months of man flu.

'Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Sure, unless you've got a penis. If you are a bloke, it's the season to sniff a lot, stir cups of Lemsip and complain about achy limbs.

Man cold. Possibly the un-sexiest character trait a man can have. I think I'd prefer to find my husband fully dressed in a leopard-print corset and fishnets and doing the cancan rather than sitting on the sofa wiping Vicks Vaporub all over his chest. I know which one makes him manlier.

Moaning incessantly about slightly swollen tonsils? It's just not cool. Women have a sore throat; they down some Day Nurse and don't even bother to tell anyone. They fall over and break three ribs and they fit in a trip to A&E between meetings and the school run. There's no time to worry about a slight temperature and a bit of excess mucous.

Men, on the other hand, fall apart. The first signs of a slight sniffle and it's panic stations. Words like "influenza" and "emergency callout" are screamed while oranges are manically squeezed and scarves are hurriedly put on. Try reasoning with a man who's in the middle of an "I might actually have to blow my nose in a minute" fit – well, you'd be better off talking to someone who's underwater.

The drama of finding a tissue and making sure that it's the right tissue often has more twists and turns than the plot of an episode of Lost. "Babe, you know I hate the small ones..." Um. Really? Like, does it matter? "Seriously hon, I'm not being funny but can you spend a little extra and get the ones that have balsam in them?" What? Come again? What is balsam exactly? It's just a bit of soft paper, right? "Coochie coo, let's just get the man-size Kleenex from now on, eh? I need a strong tissue if I'm going to get rid of this virus."

I once went out with a boy who cried when his temperature started to rise. Seriously. He was good-looking, successful, not totally rubbish in the fumbling department, he owned his own flat and had a BA miles card. It was all going well until, one November, he sneezed and put his head in his hands and started gently weeping. He made his apologies, got his "blankie" out from the bottom of his sock drawer and called his mum and asked her to bring him chicken soup.

I know. I almost threw up on myself too. I never saw him again. Turns out he married a doctor. Go figure.

My friend Lucy has to move into mine when her husband gets ill. He whines all night and wears socks in bed. She can put up with everything – the coming home at 5am smelling of cider, the alarmingly, um, friendly texts to his PA, his lack of talent for impersonating animals (their three-year-old still thinks a duck says "moo"), but she can't live with him when he has a cold.

So, I was not surprised when, this week, my husband called from the office. "Hello?" I said. Nothing back. No "Howdy". No "How are you?" Just a dramatic pause and then a small dry cough. "You OK?" I enquired, although I knew what was coming. "I don't think so," was the reply.

I decided to go through the roleplay (if I can be a Czech female plumber who's left all her clothes in the van and come to check what's behind the back of the radiator, then I can do this). "What's wrong baby? Did you break something? Are you extremely ill?"

"Um, I think you should buy some Lockets, love," was the only reply.

Three days in and I've made soup, I've had to listen to his chest (using a Babar stethoscope, I might add, but it makes him feel better), and I've had to rub his back until my hands have gone numb. Still, he says he's really sick and we shouldn't make plans for Thursday week in case he can't leave the house.

In amongst all of this, my four-year-old son has caught a cold and I've done what every other mother would do. I have stroked his head, sung him lullabies, let him watch CBeebies 24/7, and I'm pretty much giving him ice cream for breakfast. He's slept in my bed and I've taken him to the doctor. I've informed his grandparents that he might need nursery rhymes sung down the phone and I've bought him five Kinder eggs in two days.

So this morning, as they both sat at the table in their Snoopy pyjamas (you think I'm joking?) and complained that the milk was a bit too cold and the toast was a bit too hot, I realised that my son is only 20 years away from man flu. He has boy flu right now, and I'm not going to help his future girlfriends. I've stopped the non-stop telly and the double chocolate muffins and the foot rubs. I've sent him to school, and the older one has been forced out and back to the office. Who's to blame for man flu? Uh, we are.

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