Sick of throwing up 2016.03.09

I was talking to my son Ben Sunday night around 11 p.m. and mentioned to him that I was tired because I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Normally, 11 p.m. is pretty early in the evening for me, but I’d had a rough Saturday night. My granddaughter Caroline turned five on Friday and I had popped down to Kentucky for the weekend. She was still recovering from illness so we didn’t have a “sleepover” until Saturday night. 

I was explaining my fatigue to Ben: Caroline had thrown up in bed in the wee hours of the morning (I’m still thankful she wasn’t snuggled up against me at that point) and I had stayed up to wash the sheets and blankets. In mid-sentence I realized that Ben didn’t want to hear about this. “No,” he said, and I pictured him shaking his head in exasperation. It brought to mind this column from February of 1995. Twenty-one years later, Ben is still queasy about the thought of throwing up.  


WARNING:  This column may make you sick. Read at your own risk.

Nearly-nine-year-old Rosie came into my bedroom Sunday morning. She approached the empty side of the bed (early bird David had already gone downstairs to get a jump on reading the Sunday paper) and said, “I’m hot and my belly hurts. And my eyes. And my head.”

That’s not my idea of an early morning greeting but I lifted up the covers and said, “Come on in.” Two hours later when her stomach ejected its contents into a container used for such purposes, she was still there. 

David came up after a while to see how Rosie was doing. When I informed him of her health status, he said, “Oh, no. Did she throw up on my side of the bed?” Luckily, Rosie was sleeping and didn’t hear the caddish remark. But I understand—David is squeamish about such matters. 

I discovered this back when I was in labor with Ben. I engaged in several bouts of vomiting which greatly troubled David. I, on the other hand, welcomed the diversion—as long as I was throwing up, I didn’t notice the labor pains.

Rosie, too, is not troubled by throwing up. In fact, she’s proud of her personal record: “The last time I was sick, I threw up 11 times,” she reminds me.

Rosie is pretty cheerful about most things and being sick is among them. Even with her aching head and eyes and body, she laughs about how she was so dizzy, she almost fell off the toilet.

Six-year-old Maddy tosses her cookies with ease. She is, by far, the neatest vomiter I’ve ever had to clean up after. She always lands everything in the throw up container. But whatever she throws up is forever erased from the already short list of foods that she’ll eat.

When we instituted a dinner-time rule that everybody had to try one bite of everything served, Maddy gamely tried lasagna. “Yum! This is good!” she proclaimed, much to our amazement. A few bites later, she stuffed in more lasagna than she could handle. With a very full mouth, she decided she didn’t like lasagna after all. We encouraged her to eat it anyway. A second later, she lost it all. Now, no amount of cajoling will convince her to eat lasagna.

I am familiar with that phenomenon. Long ago, I threw up after eating Hostess cupcakes (the chocolate kind with the swirled white frosting) and orange juice. It came out my nose and I can still feel the burning sensation whenever I see those cupcakes.

Twelve-year-old Ben, like his father, just hates throwing up: He hates doing it. Hates talking about it. Hates listening to someone else talk about it. Hates reading about it. Just the mention of it is enough to make him feel like throwing up.

Ben doesn’t like to get close to sick people. He’ll come home from school complaining about a kid who threw up in class: “And he sits right next to me!”  he laments and then worries that he’ll catch it next.

On Sunday, Ben came upstairs to retrieve the comics section from my bed. Sick Rosie was still in it, so, not wanting to catch any germs,  he cautiously creeps around the bed to the point farthest from Rosie, then slowly and carefully grabs the comics. When he reaches the door, Rosie announces, “I already touched them, Ben.” He groans loudly as Rosie and I laugh. 

After a day in the sickbed with Rosie, I began to develop a theory about throwing up. Reluctance to throw up and aversion of throw up seem to be not so much an issue of weak stomachs, as an issue of gender. 

Women spill their guts and get on with life. Men and boys, on the other hand, hold back everything—their tears, their feelings, their innermost thoughts...their vomit. 

I suppose we should be thankful.