Penkava: When men push the wimp factor

I freely admit it. When it comes to being in pain or being sick, compared with women, we men are wimps.

I used to think this was because women were designed to better tolerate pain and had a higher pain threshold, but recent scientific studies have shown the opposite: Researchers now say women have a lower pain threshold and tolerance. In other words, a woman’s Pain-o-Meter is more sensitive and more intense than a man’s.

Our male ego does not reflect well in these findings. We used to be able to say, “Honey, you don’t understand. I have man pain.” Now that we know the painful truth, our wimpiness is even more pathetic. Our amazing wives have become even more amazing as we contemplate how incredibly manly they can be as they tolerate sickness and pain.

Take the stomach flu, for example. Recently I had a bout with it. As I lay in bed with my wife/nurse sitting faithfully beside me, it was all I could do to summon up the will to make one more trip to the bathroom.

“Mike, do you need to go again?” she compassionately asked.

“Honey … is that you?” I whispered pitiably.

Somehow I survived that experience. But when my wife later got the flu, it was a completely different story. She doggedly marched back and forth to the bathroom like a firefighter to a fire. In between trips, she cleaned the bathroom, straightened up the bed, and I believe she also did three loads of laundry. This in comparison with me, as I could not even reach the handle to flush, crawled my way back to the bedroom and had to be lifted by the “weaker sex” into bed, all the while mumbling, “Honey … is that you?”

I can’t even fathom how women tolerate childbirth. I had previously thought they had this special built-in extra strength gender-specific pain reducer that kicked in for times like that. Thus, it was easy for us men to say, “Honey, just read a book or something. It’s OK.” Now I can only imagine how great and powerful they really are.

In contemplating childbirth, I cannot envision a male counterpart of this experience. The only thing that even comes remotely close is our annual prostate exam. And that experience has us men spontaneously Lamaze breathing just anticipating hearing the dreaded words, “Drop your pants.” Geesh.

Heaven forbid if we men were the childbearers of the species. Someone once said that if men could give birth, there would be a cure for that by now. That or on-demand C-sections.

And don’t even mention surgeries. After seeing my wife bravely endure four births, I had to buck up for ACL reconstruction surgery. But my wretched pitifulness surfaced as I recovered at home. I remember a conundrum I had in the bathroom.

“Honey, could you help me?” I called through the bathroom door.

“What do you need, dear?”

“I can’t seem to pull up my underwear.”

“Honey … is that you?”

“Come on … I’m serious … I need help!”

Yep, I can see the headlines now … “Hockey player has Fruit of the Loom dilemma as he recuperates from lower body injury.”

So I want to officially concede bragging rights on this matter to our wives. How do they do it? They feel pain sooner and stronger, yet they handle it with strength and grace. On the other hand, we men have a higher threshold and a greater capacity for tolerance, and yet we crumble like soda crackers in Wonder Woman’s fist.

OK. We’re wimps. But I say give a woman a prostate gland, and we’ll see how brave she is. 

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He invites all men to watch the Internet video of two Dutch men who undergo electro “childbirth” stimulation. He can be reached at

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