Only a few things in the world can beat the resilience of the novel coronavirus. One of those things is the optimism dads all over the world have about their own health.
My dad is averse to sitting in the same place for a long time, often to the point of lampoon. Notoriously ants-in-the-pant-sy. I knew the day the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown was announced that he will have a tough time staying put. I wasn’t wrong.
Day after day, my exasperated mom complained about my dad’s daily jaunts, half of which are completely unnecessary.
“In the 40 odd years we’ve been married, he has never been so upbeat about buying groceries. Yesterday, he stepped out thrice,” my mom groans.
I was naturally bothered about his safety since he’s pushing 70 with a host of health problems that put him in the high-risk category.
“Your dad is tougher than that.”
“I have a great immune system. I haven’t caught a cold in years.”
“You know how your mom exaggerates. She’s a nag.”
Getting my dad to abandon his inner Dora the Explorer in the pandemic was clearly tougher than I thought, especially since we were separated by hundreds of kilometres.
But curiously, the more I talked to my friends about my dad, the more I realised that it’s a universal problem. Most of my fellow millennials had been having a hard time keeping their dads indoors during the pandemic.
“He steps out to ‘buy’ vegetables from a shop that is barely a few minutes away. But he takes at least an hour to come back home,” says one of my friends about her itinerant dad.
Says another, “He has a haldi-applying ritual followed by vigorously rubbing the body down with Dettol. And that’s supposed to make him invincible.”
” It’s impossible,” sighs my friend from Chennai who is also bothered by her dad’s recklessness. “And I don’t even live with him. I have just accepted that it’s difficult to get him to change.”
My neighbour who is in his 60s has some spiel ready in case anyone questions: “Your aunty (his wife) prepares an amla (Indian gooseberry) and aloe vera juice, beta. Isse corona-worona nahi hota. (You won’t get corona if you have it.) ‘I travelled 1,500 km with my baby to join India’s fight against COVID-19’
The curious case of dads in the pandemic
Not all dads are guilty of being unnecessarily itinerant during the pandemic, of course. Some were perfectly capable of sitting still and toeing the line. Social distancing in vampire bats & other lessons in how animals stay healthy.
But the ones who weren’t, served the same drivel to their family as justification:
- They are in ship-shape so coronavirus can’t do s***.
- Say they follow all the safety rules.
- Gaslight their kith and kin to make them feel like they are the crazy ones.
- Downplay the seriousness of COVID-19
- Deny there’s a pandemic in the first place. (yes, I have heard this one too).
- Say things like, “Well, someone has to get it done.”
Now I am no psychologist, but my guess is that this peculiar behaviour stems from two different things. One is boredom and second is fear of being judged as vulnerable. Correct me if I am wrong. True Crime is a girl’s best friend.
It’s perfectly possible that older gentlemen who have been up and about before the lockdown are feeling cooped up at home. And they need excuses like buying groceries just to step outside.
Let’s move on to the second point. It’s true that men are overly confident about their own health, which explains why the coronavirus may not seem much of a threat to them.
According to a Cleveland Clinic survey, an overwhelming number of men avoid going to the doctor, close to 60%. Is it the whole ‘Men don’t get sick!’ maxim that makes men overestimate their own health?
Dr Tisha Rowe of RoweDocs told Healthline that other things like fear, superhero syndrome and disdain for vulnerability also contribute to such reckless behaviour.
An article in the BMJ titled “No man’s land: men, illness, and the NHS” said men do not tend to rely on the experience of others when it comes to health. Instead, they prefer to live life as normal as possible.
Another reason could be the risk-taking mentality of men, which makes them throw caution to the wind. In the journal Hormones and Behavior, a study titled “Sensation seeking and hormones in men and women: exploring the link” say that men show greater impulsivity, tend to be more prone to sensation seeking (which explains the ‘boredom’ angle) and engage in risk-taking behaviour more frequently than women do.
A multinational health research database using the TriNetX Network showed that among 14,712 male and female patients with confirmed COVID-19, men were older, were more likely to be hospitalized, and had a higher prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, nicotine dependence, and heart failure. Men also had higher all-cause mortality than women (8.1% vs 4.6%).
Dads, you can a lot do to ease the heartache of wives, daughters, sons and well-wishers. You can start by accepting that COVID-19 doesn’t differentiate. Now that the lockdown has eased up, please don’t try to compensate for the time lost. And yes, no amount of haldi, Dettol or amla juice with aloe vera will help. Listen to your hapless wives and kids, please.