Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II, by pop culture geek. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Despite my continued annoyance at the non-appearance of hoverboards, the 21st century is truly a wonderful time to be alive.

Contrary to the repeated attempts of 24-hour news channels to make us believe otherwise, many of us live in more tolerant and less violent societies than any of our ancestors.

Men and women are now considered equals, their differences eroded through understanding and education – except when it comes to actually paying women as if they were equal to men (I guess we still have a little more education and understanding to go).

There are of course, a couple of instances where the differences between the sexes are universally acknowledged to be apparent. Both of them are completely wrong.

1. Man ’flu

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a clear difference between people here: some will lay feebly on their sofas at the merest hint of a virus, others will struggle heroically through a workday with their insides attempting to become outsides.

It’s not a sex difference though. I know plenty of women who complain of their suffering as well as anyone, and I know plenty of men who will grit their teeth and never breathe a word about their pain.

The fact I, personally, have my flag planted firmly in the malingerers camp (or should that be deathbed?) does nothing to diminish my argument. Ahem.

2. Multitasking

multitasking_iStk-dolgachovNobody can multitask. Some people are just better at doing multiple things at once very badly.

It’s true I can spay a bitch and simultaneously sing a medley of ’80s New Romantic songs, or quote long sections of The Man Who Would be King, complete with Sean Connery and Michael Caine voices (much to the delight of my nurses), but a bitch spay is deeply wired into my muscle memory after all these years, and if anything complicated happens I go quiet pretty quickly (possibly also to the delight of my nurses).

Human brains, no matter what chromosomes were involved in their construction, aren’t evolved to do two things at once. We work in serial, not parallel. The closest we can get to multitasking is queuing up one thing after another very efficiently.

These modern myths thus debunked, where does that leave us? Are there really no differences between the fairer sex and the unfairer one?

There are. I have discovered the true dividing line between men and women – the thing that makes us forever foreigners to one another…


That’s right. Pus.

To me, an abscess is a relatively satisfying clinical problem – usually simple to diagnose, and simple to cure. The patient is instantly relieved for the abscess being lanced, and the process is not too expensive for the client.

To my female colleagues, the arrival of a “ripe” abscess in the practice is something to be greeted with the sort of ecstatic glee more appropriate to coming home to find a chilled bottle of wine and a full hot tub.

pea-green-gloop_iStk-Cristie-GuevaraWhen the abscess is lanced, the cries of joy and excitement as the pus squirts out make the practice sound like a faith-healing evangelist has started doing his stuff in the prep room.

The fuller, smellier and mankier the abscess is, the better.

I remember my wife running up to me once during a busy morning surgery and dragging me from a consulting room. “You’ve got to see this one, Nick,” she panted, her eyes shining brighter than when I proposed to her. “It’s coming out GREEN!”

What would Freud say?

The sheer thrill at the expulsion of pus from a wound is mysterious and slightly terrifying to me and my male colleagues. It doesn’t seem to be confined to veterinary staff either; I have one friend who proudly proclaims herself the “family popper” for spots her relations may develop, and my mum would pounce hungrily upon any boils that myself or my brother would cultivate growing up.

There may well be a Freudian analysis that explains why the women in the practice will fight over who gets to burst the juiciest infections that come through the door, but I am not keen to go there. It’s quite possible I’m afraid to.

All this humble correspondent can do is suggest that, if Venus really is populated by females and you land there with an abscess that’s ready to burst, you may well be mobbed to death before you can even leave your airlock.

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