October 14, 2007
THE ILOCOS TIMES - OPINION

IN-DEPTH
Juan L. Mercado

Lethal words and worry

(This week’s mail is about conflicting medical opinion, worry and words women use – with lethal effect. Enjoy – JLM)

Should a new hospital wing be built? officials asked their doctors. They got conflicting medical opinion. Here they are:

Allergists voted to scratch it; but dermatologists advised no rash moves. We have “a gut-feeling about this,” gastroenterologists admitted. The neurologists felt the administration had a lot of nerve. All “labored under a misconception, the obstetricians said.

The ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted; “Over my dead body”, the pathologists yelled. But the pediatricians advised: “Grow up!”

The psychiatrists thought the idea was mad. The surgeons washed their hands of the plan but the radiologists saw through it while the internists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow;

“This puts a whole new face on the matter”, the plastic surgeons said, although podiatrists thought it was a step forward. Still, urologists felt the scheme wouldn’t hold water. And the whole idea was a gas, anesthesiologists commented. The cardiologists didn’t have the heart to say no.

In the end, the proctologists left the decision up to some asshole.

All physicians agree on the value of exercise. And they endorsed the following no-nonsense “Daily Exercise Program For Writers (Senior or Otherwise)”:

Beat around the bush. Jump to conclusions. Climb those walls. Wade through the morning paper. Drag your heels. Push your luck. Make mountains out of molehills. Hit the nail on the head . . .

After catching your breath, bend over backwards. Jump on the Band Wagon. Run around in circles.

Toot your own horn. Pull out all the stops. And add fuel to the fire . . .

Don’t stop there. Open a can of worms. Put your foot in your mouth. Start the ball rolling. And go over the edge.

Now, you’re in homestretch. Pick up the pieces. Kneel in prayer. Bow your head in thanksgiving. Lift up your hands in praise. Hug someone and encourage them. Hold your breath then—break out laughing.

Now, begin all over again.

The psychiatrists and psychologists drew up a checklist of words that women use that signal: Danger. These include:

“Fine”: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up. “Five Minutes” is relative. If she’s getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is five minutes if you’ve been given five more minutes to watch TV game before taking out the garbage.

“Nothing”: This is the calm before the storm. It means something. Don’t let your guard down. Arguments that begin with “nothing” usually end in – “Fine”. “Go Ahead” is a dare. It is not a permission. Don’t Do It! Only fools will rush in.

“Loud Sigh”: This is actually a word which men often fail to grasp. A loud sigh means you are an idiot. And she wonders why she’s wasting her time and arguing with you about “nothing”. (Refer back to above paragraph for the meaning of “nothing”.)

“That’s okay”: This is probably one of the most dangerous statements a women can make. ‘That’s okay’ means: she thinking hard before deciding how and when you’ll be brought up short for your mistake.

“Don’t worry. I got it”: Another lethal statement meaning: you’ve been told several times to do something but now she’s doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking: “What’s wrong”? And the response? You guessed it: “Nothing”.

Don’t worry, doctors also say. But a friend e-mailed: “Is there a magic cutoff period when children become accountable for their own actions? When do parents become detached spectators and shrug off their children’s lives?

In my 20’s, I waited as doctors put a few stitches in my son’s head. I asked: “When do you stop worrying?” The nurse replied: “When they pass the accident stage.” My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

In my 30s, I sat in a classroom and heard how one of my kids disrupted the class “Don’t worry,” the teacher said. “They all go through this stage. Relax. “My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

In my 40s, I spent a lifetime waiting for the car to come home. A friend said, “They’re trying to find themselves. In a few years, you can stop worrying. They’ll be adults.” My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing.

By 50, I still worried over my children. But there was a new wrinkle. There was nothing I could do about it. I fretted over their failures and was tormented by their frustrations. My mother just smiled faintly and said nothing. My friends said that when my kids got married I could stop worrying.

Are parents are sentenced to a lifetime of worry? Is concern for one another handed down like a torch to blaze the trail of human frailties and the fears of the unknown? Is concern a curse? Or is it a virtue that elevates us to the highest form of life?

One of my children became irritable recently, saying to me: “Where were you? I’ve called for three days. No one answered and I was worried.” I smiled. The torch has been passed.”

(E-mail: juan_mercado@pacific.net.ph)

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