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Style Magazine

Insult to Injury

Feb 24, 2010 06:33AM ● By Wendy Sipple

Illustraton by John Stricker

My friends and I are beginning to resemble cars after a demolition derby.

Name one of them and I can tell you his ailment. Robert? Torn hamstring. Pat? Bad hip. My brother? Needs new knees. And I’ve had a lingering groin pull, which is embarrassing to even write. We’re all active guys, but time and recreation leagues have ways of wearing us down. It does give us something to talk about though.

Now, most guys would never admit that they enjoy talking about their injuries, but the fact is they don’t mind. Limps, bandages (as opposed to band-aids…big difference), casts – they draw attention in ways the gaudiest Ed Hardy shirts never could. In fact, I’d argue it’s genetic, as much a part of our DNA as eye color or the inability to notice that the carpet needs vacuuming. Example: My 13-year-old recently twisted his ankle (the fact he did it while trying out a dance move is mildly disappointing, but I digress), and when it swelled, you’d have thought it was Christmas. With hope in his voice he asked, “Do you think…we should…see a doctor?” Ultimately, a trip to the hospital wasn’t necessary, but that didn’t stop him from adjusting a pair of crutches we’ve had since my last injury (which wasn’t due to a dance move), before hobbling off to school. I’ve never seen anyone actually skip on crutches, but he came close.

It’s a badge-of-honor thing. An injury says you’re out there trying; you’re breaking a sweat. If a guy ever hurt himself say, napping, I guarantee he’d keep that to himself. But there are rules. Like, don’t complain too much. The best know how to give a Clint Eastwood wince but shrug off any concern. The wince/shrug combo says, “Thank you for noticing that I am in some discomfort, but now watch as I bravely play through it.”

The difference, of course, is when the ordinary guy winces – it’s from a tender knee. When Clint winces, it’s because he’s been shot. On the flipside, while those expressing concern are sincere – especially if they’re going to be teamed up with you – they don’t want gross details. If you go past the wince/shrug and start getting into how much fluid the doctor drained off your knee, they will check out faster than Randy Quaid from a four-star hotel.

The exception to the above is when it’s a really cool injury: broken leg from skiing, or a shattered cheekbone because Urijah Faber made mixed martial arts training look fun. Also bordering on awesome are job site injuries. My brother-in-law, a contractor, fell three stories from the roof of a house he was building and jacked up his back. That was five years ago and he’s fine now, but I still ask him to tell me about it, like a little kid with a favorite bedtime story.

Another rule: Discussions should be limited to damage incurred as a direct result of some sort of intentional, realized risk. For example, if you’re 45 years old and you decide to try snowboarding, you know there’s a chance you’ll wind up with a broken coccyx. If you work on one of the “Deadliest Catch” boats and a crab pot crushes your hand? Well, you chose to hit Captain Phil up for the job. But more serious injuries or illnesses garner genuine concern, not fawning or envious admiration.

Lastly, the most important rule: Never, ever discuss any of this to or within earshot of wives. The saying goes that, “chicks dig it,” and that may be so when you’re 18 and a football hotshot, but when marriage happens – women cease pretending to be impressed. Fact is, they are utterly incapable of sympathy or concern. Why? Because they give birth. And in terms of toughness, that’s game, set, match.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my groin and I have to hobble out to the living room. Vickie just pointed out that the carpet needs vacuuming.

Editor’s Note: As this issue went to press, we learned of the passing of Captain Phil Harris. Style would like to extend our condolences to his family.

Find more of Tom's Takes here, and make sure to catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.