It had been years since I'd had a head cold. I've had a couple of sinus infections that laid me out, but somehow I'd managed to avoid the common cold.
I hate colds. I've had broken bones and I've had colds and I can stand before you and say, without fear of contradiction, that I'd rather have a broken bone.
There's really no contest when you think about it. With a broken bone you can breathe and eat at the same time, you don't sound like a foghorn on steroids when you blow your nose and people don't treat you like you've got the plague and smallpox all at once.
With a broken bone, sometimes people even encourage you to stay in bed for a while.
They bring you lunch on a tray.
They even have special get-well cards for broken bones.
Not with a head cold. There aren't any get-well cards for colds. Stop complaining, everyone says. Don't be a wimp. Just take your antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, throat lozenges, some Tylenol, and go the heck to work (where you probably caught the cold to begin with).
Raising three kids, I spent the better part of the 1970s, '80s and a good portion of the '90s with a cold. Germs hitched a ride home from school on the kids' dirty laundry, coats, backpacks — all of which I had to pick up.
Of course, they never got sick. By eighth grade, kids develop immunities to everything from the common cold to hoof-and-mouth disease. They're impervious.
Women aren't supposed to succumb to colds. We're expected to keep on plugging as if we weren't drowning in our own bodily secretions; to go to work, do laundry, run errands, cook and drive carpool.
It isn't until night, when everyone's asleep, that we can lie down, blow our noses till dawn, and plan our own funerals (just in case).
My recent bout of rhinovirus was no exception. All the chicken soup in the world couldn't cure that cold, yet I was merely a puffy-eyed, runny-nosed, coughing malingerer bent on shirking my responsibilities and acting like a big baby — or so my husband, Doug, thought.
I was shuffling around the kitchen in my bathrobe, with tissues crammed up both nostrils.
"Suck it up," Doug admonished, "it's just a cold. Hey, is dinner almost ready? I'd like to eat before midnight, you know."
Really? I thought. Then go get us both some carry-out.
I considered breathing on his food, but not seriously. For one thing, I'm too considerate; and it was inevitable that he'd catch it at some point anyway. No amount of hand sanitizer will prevent a cold spreading from one adult to another in a closed house in winter.
So it was no surprise that this week, just as I was starting to feel human again, Doug came down with it.
"I'm going to die," he whimpered pathetically.
"You aren't going to die," I assured him. "It's just a cold."
"Just a cold?!? Are you kidding me? This is horrible!" he insisted. "I need the TV remote, but I can't move. Take my temperature. I need more tissues. Rub Vicks on my chest. Will you bring me some soup? I want my mommy!"
They say if you treat a cold, it lasts 14 days; but if you don't, it lasts two weeks. Either way, the next couple of weeks are going to be tough.
I'd almost rather have my cold back. Or a broken bone.