Men don’t get a lot of compassion – not as a gender, not toward one another, and not toward ourselves. We are the more impulsive, less refined gender that has not progressed much since our cave-dwelling days. We have 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 his natural setting. Here you will find an array of males similar to those of the Paleolithic era. Within this setting, unkempt men can be seen in displays of primordial behavior. Some will be standing cloaked only in a towel, one leg propped on a stool like Captain Morgan, while grunting spasmodically about their favorite sports team. Another will be seen with his naked ass unsanitarily affixed to a bench, while shaking a can of anti-itch powder onto his feet and floor. One will be plugging a nostril and blowing snot into a sink through the open nostril. Others can be seen chewing-off and spitting nails and cuticles indiscriminately. And at least one carefree gent will designate the wall-mounted hand dryer as his own crotch dehumidifier.
Seeing man in this communal 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, booger-flicking chimps. 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 gender.
Sadly – and, perhaps due to our ruffian status – men are often perceived as an expendable lot regularly sent to do life’s dirty work like unclogging municipal sewers, diffusing IEDs, ice road trucking, repossessing tractors, or mining for coal and ore miles below 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 scars from 13 orthopedic surgeries to attest to my own wanton disregard for logic and gravity. Add to this man’s overall ignorance in avoiding hospitals or general healthcare, 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 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 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. This is why whenever there’s a televised news story of an injured or killed teenage boy, the camera pans to a lone shoe lying in a street, always untied.
Across the industrialized world, women live 5 to 10 years longer than men. 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, men tend not to deal with their stress as well as women. Stress plays a very important role in cardiovascular disease for men.” I guess what we lack in longevity, we make-up for in denial.
It is our own culture that depicts men as the stronger sex. This might be true when it comes to opening new bottles of ketchup, or scaling a tree 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.” Yes, she said, “fragile.” From before birth through every stage of life, men are more likely to die than women. 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. The “spare” X chromosomes allow women’s bodies to compensate when faced with damage in ways that men’s less robust cells cannot. Furthermore, mutations are three to six times more likely in a Y than an X chromosome.
- 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? 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Men choose more dangerous occupations: The bulk of sailors, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, and farmers are men. The fatality rate from workplace injuries is more than nine times higher for men than for women. 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 I also don’t believe we were made to be corralled in beige cubicles like caged veal while fed raisin bagels and industrial coffee.
- 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.
While women are hitting their sexual peak, men’s hearts are simultaneously beginning to choke-off and die. To worsen matters, 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. I’m no longer feeling the upside of being a man. I need to pee on something to feel alive again.
During labor, the pain is so great that a woman can almost imagine what a man feels when he has a fever.
Based on the overwhelming evidence, men aren’t so bad-ass after all. We’re just good at faking bravado. Personally, I’ve always known we were the weaker gender. Consider childbirth. Would a man ever endure such a direct assassination to the nether-regions 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 and lengthen our lives:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t fear digital rectal exams. 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 a conversation piece.
- 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 … like a non-concussed Kanye.
All this news regarding the frailty of my fellow man serves to remind me that life is too short to eat soy, date the wrong woman, or wear Khakis. Because even if men adopt the healthiest of lifestyles, the odds and genetics are seemingly stacked against us – with our heart being the weakest link.
My goal is to become an old man. Seniors dress snappy, they’re incredibly respectful, and they’re filled with vast amounts of knowledge. I don’t care if they smell musty, or their noses whistle when they chew. I will gladly beak-whistle to the internal peace that will accompany me into senility.