September 2, 2007

Men don't like to see themselves as weak. Self-pity is not in their nature, and if it is, they don't tell anyone. So when do they ever feel sorry for themselves? When they're not feeling well.

There's nothing better than having the man you love be sick with a cold. Some of the best times I've ever had are nursing boyfriends who are unwell. They're usually bedridden, so they're in one place. I know where they are and they're reachable at all times.

They listen to me because they have no choice. I can talk about anything I want and they'll pay attention. And even if they're not paying attention, they can't move. I can get away with asking the same question twice and not have to worry about being snapped at. They don't have the energy to argue.

Also, they need me. And they're grateful. When else would getting a glass of water be considered a charitable act?

The perfect situation is when a man is mildly ill. A serious illness is a different matter. Ideally, he should have a slight fever - no more than 101. Any higher than that and all they do is sleep.

Even better is when they're on antibiotics. Handing him a pill makes me look useful. Being nauseous is also a plus. No matter what I feed him, I'm Martha Stewart. But he can't be nauseous to the extent he's vomiting - that's too much work.

What I really love about this situation is that, for a brief period, he's complaining more than I am. It levels the playing field. His defences are down, which makes him vulnerable; so he's sexy - but in a way that feels safe. It's hard for a man to be arrogant with a runny nose.

I know people say the true test of a relationship is going away together, but I'm not so sure. I think the true test is when he gets sick.

What constitutes "sick" is phase one. Getting a splinter and going to A&E isn't appealing. It's annoying.

A broken limb or the flu - that qualifies. As long as it's not avian flu. Or anything contagious.

Phase two is all about discovering how he handles feeling under the weather. Some men prefer to be left alone. I hate it when that happens.

Other men take it too far. Being a caregiver is a choice - not an obligation. Just because you're sick, it doesn't mean I'll do your taxes.

My ideal scenario is to have my bedridden boyfriend marvel at how caring and generous I am. I will ask if he needs an extra blanket, and just then he'll realise how special I am and decide that all of my negative qualities mean nothing. So what if I'm depressed? When push comes to shove, I'm there with the Kleenex.

"You're so devoted," he'll say.

Which, under normal circumstances, would translate to "clingy".

"It's nothing," I'll reply. And I mention how, when I'm feeling unwell, I'm sure he'd do the same for me. Only then, when he nods in agreement, I won't believe him.

The sad part is that he'll start to get better. And as soon that happens, I know it's only a matter of time before

I get demoted. Once he's back on his feet and healthy again, he'll realise that thinking I was the greatest was just a moment of weakness.