Men do not get a lot of compassion – not as a gender, and not toward one another or even ourselves. We are the more impulsive, less refined gender that has – admittedly – not progressed much since our cave-dwelling days. We learned to use and appreciate toiletries since then, however, and we pretend to enjoy chivalry and using a fork. If there are lingering doubts regarding the lack of evolutionary progress by man, I welcome you to any men’s gym locker room where one can catch a glimpse of man in a natural setting. Here you will find an array of males nearly stuck in time – similar to the Paleolithic era. Within this environment, excessively unkempt men can be seen in primordial displays of behavior. Some will be standing cloaked only in a towel, staring at their feet while scratching their asses. One will surely be plugging a nostril and blowing snot into a sink or shower through the other side. You may also spot one or two men with a foot atop an otherwise clean counter, while using the club provided hair dryer to blow-dry their genitals. Some can be seen chewing-off and spitting fingernails directly onto the carpet, while others can be viewed in the sauna with their bare, sweaty asses un-sanitarily affixed to the wooden plank benches. Seeing men in this communal, artificial habitat is like peering behind the curtain of the mighty Oz – it should not be done unless one is ready for the shocking truth: That behind the expensive suits and silk ties, we are still chest-pounding, poo-flinging monkeys. Oftentimes, I find my own gender abhorrent. That said, my love for peeing most anywhere while standing, and never experiencing a menstrual cycle completely outweigh any shame for my fellow man.
Sadly, men are often perceived as an expendable lot, regularly sent in to do life’s dirty work, such as military combat, unclogging municipal sewers, dismantling bombs and IEDs, ice road trucking, delivering pizza in bad neighborhoods after dark, repossessing tractors, or mining for coal and ore miles below the earth’s surface. When duty calls, somewhere a willing man is answering. We also have the intrinsic propensity to take stupid risks. I am adorned with the scars from 13 orthopedic surgeries to attest to my own wanton disregard for general logic … or, gravity. Add to this our overall ignorance in avoiding hospitals, or healthcare in general, and we face a dirt nap much sooner than our female counterparts.
The chain of misfortune begins early on. Boys are born with genetic encoding for exploration, discovery, and mayhem. As soon as a boy can crawl, he is in search of his own demise. And, he will usually find it, whether in the form of a girl or an electrical socket. And, once he becomes a teenager, there is an innate feeling of invincibility combined with a remarkably steep learning curve. The cast of Jackass I, II, and III made millions capitalizing on the sharp learning curve and poor judgment of the average male. And, they did it with just enough swagger, finesse, and laughs to distract us from our own morbid stupidity. I don’t know which is sadder: The fact Johnny Knoxville has to warn his male viewers “Not to try this at home“, or that I have actually tried numerous stunts from Jackass I with my friends at home. The survival of a boy is akin to a baby sea turtle leaving the safety of its beach nest for the open ocean – it’s a total crap-shoot based on an indeterminate amount of skill with a heavy dose of luck. It’s no help that teenage boys are so lazy and complacent that most don’t tie their shoes. Which is why whenever there’s a news story of an injured or killed teenage boy, the camera invariably shows only a shoe lying somewhere in a street, always untied.
Across the industrialized world, women still live 5 to 10 years longer than men. The disparity in the U.S. is approximately five years. Equally startling, is that among people over 100 years old, 85% are women. That’s a whole lot of “jaguars”, “pumas”, or whatever predatory animal coincides with the 100+ female subset. According to Tom Perls, founder of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, “There are maybe three things men do worse than women. They smoke a lot more. They eat more food that leads to high cholesterol. And, perhaps related to that, men tend not to deal with their stress as well as women. They may be more prone to internalizing that stress rather than letting go. Nonetheless, stress plays a very important role in cardiovascular disease for men.” I guess what we lack in longevity, we can continue to make-up for in denial.
It is our own culture that depicts men as the stronger sex. This is probably true when it comes to opening new bottles of ketchup, or scaling a tree trunk to save a kitten. But, in her book, Why Men Die First, Marianne Legato, a specialist in gender-specific medicine at Columbia University, states: “Men are genetically and biologically fragile to start with, and societal norms that encourage and even demand risky behavior by men put them at risk.” Yeah, she said, “Fragile“. Legato highlighted seven interesting reasons why males die prematurely:
Males are burdened with natural genetic deficits: While every cell in a woman’s body has two large X chromosomes, men have one X and one smaller Y chromosome, and the Y is half the size. Looks like we’ve got “DNA envy”. The “spare” X chromosomes allow women’s bodies to compensate when faced with damage in ways that men’s less robust cells cannot. The X chromosomes wear the pants in this relationship. Furthermore, mutations are three to six times more likely in a Y than an X chromosome. This reminds me when ice-skater Tonya Harding and her husband hired a thug to break competitor Nancy Kerrigan’s right leg during a practice session for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Similarly, men can’t even compete. The womb is more treacherous for boys: Baby boys are one-and-a-half to two times more likely to die at birth than girls. How’s that for a welcome-wagon? And, who did we piss-off to warrant such a disadvantage? The primary causes are a weaker immune system, a tendency for immature lung development, inadequate blood flow to male fetuses, and high vulnerability to maternal stresses. Ironically, despite the inhospitable environment of a woman’s “innermost workings”, men spend the rest of their adult lives finessing their way back into them. Males are more likely to have developmental disorders: An article published in the British Medical Journal notes that a variety of disorders, including reading delays, deafness, autism, ADHD, blindness, seizure disorders, hyperactivity, clumsiness, stammering, and Tourette’s syndrome are three to four times more common in boys than girls. This is more than bad odds – this is pestilence and plague of Biblical proportions! Dare I remain committed to my preference to pee while standing and not shedding a uterine wall over this growing list of male afflictions?? For now – “yes”. Males are biologically more prone to risky behavior: Slower development of the area of the brain that governs judgment makes males – especially adolescents – more likely than girls to die in accidents. The statistics are grim and quite skewed against us. I will be so bold to state that men would not take half the risks if not for the biological need to impress and win the affection of women. Heartache; competitive selection; how hard we work ourselves; and the crazy lengths we will go while putting ourselves in harm’s way to impress and win a woman’s adoration are just a few manifestations. Any man that has dated a beautiful woman can testify to the stress associated with keeping her happy and … present. This is why my older brother always told me to marry an ugly girl. “You will be happier, and she will never leave you,” he said. That was the best advice I have ever ignored.
In mentally reviewing my own adolescent behavior, it’s a wonder I am around to write this article. I had alcohol poisoning at 15 from multiple bottles of booze I stole from a drugstore hours earlier; I was caught trying to light our next-door neighbor’s house on fire at 8; I smoked as many cigarettes throughout my childhood as I could steal; I rolled my truck at 19 into an irrigation ditch; I regularly feigned illness to stay home sick from school where I would then burn stuff – like the neighbor’s house; I ingested powdered dish washing soap at age 5; One of my high-school hobbies included creating homemade fireworks which resulted in some nasty flash burns to my face and arms; and, one night during college, I drank enough tequila in one sitting to temporarily lose my vision while sitting in the back of a parked Camaro. I blame the car. Nothing above board goes on in the back of Camaro. A “suck-it-up” culture means men often languish with depression: Although women are more likely to make suicide attempts, the ratio of men to women who actually kill themselves is nearly 4 to 1. For men ages 20 to 24, fully 15 percent of all deaths are suicides. I’ve always said, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” Clearly not in this case. I would prefer that we sucked at this – as we do at things like dusting, vacuuming, or dressing ourselves. Men choose more dangerous occupations: The bulk of sailors, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and farmers are men. And, men still do the vast majority of the fighting during military conflicts. In all fairness, we’re also the ones who start them. But, my guess is that most international conflict also has something to do with someone needing to impress a woman. For example, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Paris should have stopped at borrowing Menelaus’ lawnmower. Finally, Coronary artery disease strikes men earlier than women: According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States and is a major cause of disability. The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. Interestingly, estrogen seems to protect women from heart disease until they are well into midlife, but it is common for symptoms to begin in men by the age of 35. This is egregious! While women are hitting their sexual peak, our hearts are beginning to choke-off and die. Making matters worse, men have naturally low levels of protective HDL cholesterol. The result is that between 70 and 89 percent of all sudden cardiac events occur in men, and men die three times more frequently of coronary artery disease than women. Maybe paying extra for haircuts and mutilating one’s own feet by cramming them into expensive shoes in the name of fashion wouldn’t be so bad after all. Sadly, I’m no longer feeling the upside of being a man. I need to go pee on something and feel alive again.
Based on the overwhelming evidence, men aren’t so bad-ass after all. We are just good at faking bravado. Personally, I’ve always known we were the weaker gender. Consider childbirth. Would a man ever endure such a level of sacrifice, pain, and a direct assassination to the crotch as giving birth!? Hardly. The typical man is laid-out by the common cold. But, why should longevity go to the prettier, genetically more robust, and better smelling gender? According to Adam Voiland at U.S. News and World Report, the following are 7 things men can do right now to strengthen our hearts, lengthen our lives, and give us a fighting chance:
Know your blood pressure no matter what your age. Exercise vigorously every day to increase naturally low HDL levels, and start getting screened for coronary artery disease in your twenties. This all sounds like too much work already. But, I have witnessed more than one young man have a heart-attack at the gym, and no one’s face should turn that shade of blue. Go to the doctor and tell him or her if you’re having a health problem of any kind. This is especially true for men who feel sad or depressed for extended periods. It is extremely common for men to internalize and ignore their problems. Seek help. C’mon, talk therapy is cathartic. It’s nice to have someone listen so intently to your every word – even if it’s because you’re paying $120 per 50 minutes for the courtesy. Men are stressed, and we rarely talk about it. Instead, we bottle it up and jump off, leap in front of, or dive under things to end it all. Watching my favorite football team blow the (AFC) playoffs for the past 5 consecutive years makes me want to kill myself. Fortunately, most of us males resort to less dire coping mechanisms and distractions, such as golf, kegerators, fantasy football, and man caves. Monitor your behavior and minimize tendencies to act like a jackass. You know better than to drive like a reckless moron, ignore safety protocols at work, or operate machinery while intoxicated. Sure, cutting corners and saving time while increasing output feels good initially, but not when you leave your fingers or penis behind on a lathe. Keep off excess weight to avoid an array of chronic diseases that will impair your quality of life. Coronary artery disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer are a few extremely common risks associated with being overweight that typically take a toll on a man’s well-being – including the ability to have an erection. Personally, anything that threatens my ability to obtain an erection is a behavior worth quitting – unless it’s beer. Fortunately, it’s called “whiskey dick”. Don’t smoke. This statement does not need a qualifier but, according to the American Cancer Society, smokers who quit by age 35 can expect to live up to eight and a half years longer than continuing smokers. Though, I definitely appreciate the extra outdoor breaks that office workers have leveraged in order to suckle at the nicotine teat in the sunshine. Don’t fear digital rectal exams. Hell, I fear the phrase alone. PSA screening for prostate cancer has been controversial because it can pick up tiny cancers that are not clinically significant, but digital exams reveal dangerous cancers that must be treated. The same goes for colonoscopies. Sure, they’re uncomfortable but, far less so then an intestinal resection, and having your rectum re-routed to an external crap-bag under your shirt. Also, malignant colon cancer and chemotherapy are socially stunting and put a serious crimp on one’s sex life. Protect your head and tell your doctor if you sustain an especially hard blow to the noggin. A CT scan may be needed. Concussions may seem harmless, but they can cause long-term brain bleeding that lead to memory problems, disrupted sleep, and personality changes that last a lifetime. I like to blame all my mood swings on knocks to my head. It’s the only time you can actually solicit compassion from someone after being a jerk.
Even after considering all the aforementioned precautions, the fact remains that the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are overwhelmingly held by men. They are as follows:
Fishers and related fishing workers Logging workers Aircraft pilots and flight engineers Farmers and ranchers Mining machine operators Roofers Refuse and recyclable material collectors Driver/sales workers and truck drivers Industrial machinery installation, repair, and maintenance workers Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
I will be the first to endorse making a living as a fisherman, logger or aircraft pilot over a cubicle gig. If, however, you’d rather play it safe, think about education, training and library occupations, which had the lowest fatality rate of any occupation – though, a few had to succumb to the dangers of bad fluorescent lighting and Liquid Paper fumes. Additionally, one must contend with those shady office types prone to stealing food from the break room fridge. And, personally, I don’t believe we were made to be corralled in cubes for days like caged veal while fed raisin bagels and industrial coffee.
All said and done, the fatality rate from workplace injuries is more than nine times higher for men than for women. As if it weren’t bad enough that 80% of people are dissatisfied with, or hate, their jobs according to Deloitte’s Shift Index. So, being killed at a job you already hate? Only a Celine Dion concert could be a worse place to die.
All the preceding statistics regarding the frailty of my fellow man serve to remind me that life is too short to eat organic peanut butter, sleep on a flat pillow, date the wrong woman, or get pissed-off at bad drivers during my commute. Even if men adopt the healthiest of lifestyles, the odds – and, genetics – are seemingly stacked against us as a gender – with our heart being the weakest link. And, it’s definitely worse for some of us than others. By way of example, consider my adopted brother, Jeff. My brother has smoked for 27 consecutive years. He does not exercise, and he drinks like an Irish sailor on shore leave. Yet, th the exception of a recent vasectomy, has not seen the inside of a hospital since birth. Whereas, I – with my seemingly lesser genes – have a rich history of afflictions, illnesses, and hospitalizations. I am a model for great intentions and horrible outcomes.
Since I love women and old people in general, I’d like to extend my life another 5 to 7 years and rack-up some ‘life mileage’. “Youth is wasted on the young.” Seniors dress nicely, are incredibly respectful and, most importantly, they’re filled with vast amounts of knowledge and sage advice. I don’t care if they smell funny, or their noses whistle while breathing and eating a sandwich. I already nose-whistle when I chew, and I welcome the internal peace that will accompany my senility.