Archived Story

It’s hard to be scared of a man with a cold

Published 7:50am Sunday, February 19, 2012

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

Allow me to begin this column with a brief qualification. I try not to stereotype. There are only two groups over which I happily I throw the blanket of generalization: people who appear on reality television and cats. One of those groups scares the heck out of me and so does the other.

I didn’t want to stereotype my husband, Graham, when he came home from work earlier this week and said, “My nose feels funny,” but I couldn’t help it. He was getting a cold and I knew what that meant. Graham was checking out and his alter ego, the one who requires special popsicles and lotiony Kleenex, the one who goes to bed at 6:30 p.m. and is incapable of saying two syllable words, was checking in.

Now, I don’t think all men are like this, but in my small circle of experience, the symptoms of the common cold reduce men to mere shells of themselves. Shells who ask, “How much cough syrup do I take?” so often that I’m tempted to answer, “Half a cup.”

Graham is no weakling. He never complained when he flipped his bike and snapped three ribs. His recovery was so fast I thought he was bionic. It wasn’t until I saw him running and didn’t hear the “Six Million Dollar Man” music in the background that I believed he was human. So why does a cold have such a devastating effect on him?

I first noticed this tendency to regress in the face of nasal congestion when I was a child. If my dad appeared in his blue bathrobe, sat down in his chair, folded his arms in front of him, closed his eyes and lowered his chin to his chest until his neck completely disappeared, we knew he was sick. He never took medicine unless you count his “hot drinks” which were a little water, sugar, lemon and a lot of whisky. All of my father’s colds were sponsored by Canadian Club.

We were ordered to be on our best behavior when Daddy was sick because this man, who could yank a snowmobile from a ditch with one hand, might not make it through a head cold unless we turned our house into a cathedral. I’m surprised we weren’t forced to light candles and offer our weekly allowance to the patron saint of mucous.

I never had a problem being good until Jesse came along. My nephew, Jesse, and I loved one another very much, which is why we were constantly trying to kill each other.

One afternoon Jesse and I were on the floor watching cartoons. We weren’t supposed to argue or make any noise because Daddy had a cold, but we couldn’t keep our affection for each other under wraps. We whisper yelled for a while. “Shut up, Jesse!” “No, you shut up, Ali!” “Daddy’s going to hear your big mouth!” “Not if he hears your bigger mouth first!”

Then Jesse picked up a wooden coaster and flung it, Frisbee like, at me. At that second the hall door leading to my parents’ bedroom opened and everything slowed way down. I heard the coaster go woosh woosh woosh as it passed my head. I saw Jesse’s eyes widen and I turned just in time to see a flash of blue robe and my dad’s face as the coaster met his forehead. Beaning Daddy in the head was bad enough, but Daddy had a cold.

More than 30 years later there are differing opinions as to what happened next. Daddy either yelled, “You kids $#&*@#$% or I will @#&*%$ all the way to Canada!” or, “What the %&*%$# is going on in this @#$%&*% and we’ll see how you like it in Canada!” For some reason Canada always entered into threats of punishment. No wonder I steer clear of that place.

It’s kind of hard to be scared of somebody who’s so congested that all his swear words end in B. Still, we got the point, and that is when I learned that a man with a cold is a sleeping tiger. He’s all purring and docile until you smack him with a coaster. The best thing to do is cool his fevered brow, tell him he’s pretty and hope that by the weekend he’ll be able to take out the garbage and walk the dogs because I’m pretty sure I’m coming down with something.


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at