Blinded by the Obvious

So I spilled my coffee on my newspaper again this morning. The offending headline that caused this calamity read, “Men more likely to pass out at dentist, study shows.”

Well, as Garfield would say, “big fat hairy deal.” This is what passes for news? Tell me something I don’t know.

This is like reading that, “Most men fear male pattern baldness.” Of course we do. We don’t know what it is. Sure, we know what baldness is, but patterned baldness? They may as well ask men if they’re afraid that hair fairies will descend on their head while they’re asleep at night and pluck out enough hairs to leave a pattern that reads, “I hate my boss.”

Of course men would be afraid of that. And of course men are more likely than women to pass out at the dentist. This is because men, despite all our bluster and chest-thumpery, are big fat hairy wimps when it comes to the concept of pain.

Just ask my father-in-law. Now here is a strong man, a man who has worked hard all his life to provide for his family, a man of wisdom, practically a sage, yet he faints not just at the concept of pain, but of being in actual pain.

Here is a verbatim transcript of every one of my father-in-law’s visits to his doctor:

Nurse: “I just need to draw a sample of blood for your tests with this eensy blood drawing needle.”

Father-in-law: “I’m going to faint.”

Nurse: “Now don’t be silly, a big strong man like you isn’t going to faint.”

Father-in-law: “Thud.”

Then the nurse calls a “code flat.”

Fear of pain is why most, if not all, fathers are deaf in their left ear. This is because, during childbirth, most men are now expected to participate in the delivery process by actually being in the same room as the person, their wife, delivering the baby. I know that we men learn how to participate in the process by attending mandatory government legislated pre-natal birthing clinics, but these are a waste of time because, after viewing movies showing the excruciating joy of child birth, all the men are stressing over the possibility that they might have to endure this pain.

So what actually happens in the delivery room is this:

The man senses that his wife is experiencing the most intense pain imaginable.

The man wishes to calm and soothe his wife’s anxiety, while at the same time, not placing himself in a position to see any blood.

Depending on which side of his wife’s head he is standing, he strategically places the appropriate ear on her mouth to obtain a blood-free sight line of his wife’s nostrils.

The wife can then scream about the extreme joys of childbirth directly into the man’s ear.

This is repeated for every child that the couple has. If the man is foolish, he will forget to alternate ears. This is why, after speaking to one side of her husband’s head for an hour, and having not even received a single “mmm-hmm” from her husband, she will huff at her husband, “What are you, deaf in one ear?”

So, it is not exactly earth-shattering news to me that men are more likely to faint at the dentist. What really gets my gourd is all the time and money that is wasted conducting these surveys, asking questions that have only one obvious answer. I could save them all their time and money by simply providing them with my phone number (555-555-5555, if the editors didn’t change it) and they can call me and I will give them the obvious answer.

For example, say my phone rings one evening during dinner, and I engage in the following conversation:

Me: “Hello?”

Phone: “Are there any male teenagers present in your household?”

Me: “Yes.”

Phone: “Do they leave columns of squeezed out toothpaste all over the counter, mirror, floor, walls, and inside the vanity drawers?”

Me: “Yes.”

Phone: “Upon completing a shower, do they leave their towel in a scrunched up sopping wad on the floor behind the toilet seat?”

Me: “Yes.”

Phone: “Upon completing a shower, if they forget to close the bathroom door, does the dog, who is thirsty because your male teenager forgot to give him some water, creep upstairs and climb into the bathtub to lap up the left over shower water, and then leave muddy paw prints all over the floor, walls, and inside the vanity drawers?”

Me: “Yes.”

Phone: “Upon completing a shower, if they did not forget to close the bathroom door, did they forget to turn on the vent after their 20-minute steaming shower, thereby trapping all the steam in your windowless bathroom for four hours until you opened the door and were knocked backwards by a moist fog so thick that mould actually grows in the air itself?”

Me: “Yes.”

Phone: “Thank you.”

Then, in the newspaper the next morning, you would read the following headline: “Survey finds that male teenagers leave bathroom in unholy mess.” You would also have the requisite statistical summary stating that the survey was based on a sample size of one, with a margin of error of 0%, 20 times out of 20.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and is the principal behind the services of Statistics Courses. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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