Man About Town: Why phlegm is a masculine issue

Jeremy Smith

Jeremy Smith

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Features Editor. Call me on 01865 425435

LET'S be honest shall we? A lot of men clearly think it’s big and macho to clear their nasal passages as noisily and messily as possible.

I know this because when I take a shower – at the gym you understand – there are at least two men in the surrounding cubicles who insist, often in unison, on rasping and coughing up as much phlegm as possible. And all at a decibel level equal to or greater than an audience attending the X Factor.

In fact, I don’t even know how phonetically you could spell the sounds they strangle out of their throats and noses. But I do know how to spell the climax of all their efforts... SPAT!

Appropriately enough a four letter word – all I can do is stare down at the floor tiles below me as each of the showerers snorts out their spit and wonder from what stream of soapy water their gooey effluence will eventually float past.

And I’ll be frank, it’s at times like these I hang my head in despair (lathered in shampoo naturally) and contemplate whether if – created as we are told in God’s image – this is what awaits us in the next life.

Because if it is, I want out.

Personally, I’ve never understood why men feel the need to spit.

Indeed, as far as I can tell, from a physiological point of view, men and women are no different respiratorially, and yet it’s rare you’ll ever hear a woman churn up her lung mucus.

Men on the other hand seem to relish performing this sticky stunt, often it would seem with the generous encouragement of their peers.

However, as the saying goes ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ which is why I have submitted a treatment for a movie pitch entitled The Chronicles of Catarrh in which the hero of the piece, Colt Catarrh, an astounding good-looking loner, is miniaturised and injected into the throat of the American president in order to save him from a deadly new strain of flu.

The producers of Casualty are interested as is Boots, so as long as I can dramatically explain just why football players and men with rottweilers feel the need to demonstrate their masculinity this way. After all, you rarely see ice skaters or academics leaving streams of goo on either the rink or their ivory tower.

So why do men do it? At what point in our evolutionary odyssey did we leave behind the verdant forest and stand up on our own two feet in the cradle of Ethiopia’s savannahs, only to suddenly shoot out a ‘greenie’?

Who knows, and I doubt if it’s a problem keeping anthropologists awake at night.

Suffice to say that maybe there is no answer (women, remember, can detect lies from a distance of a quarter of a mile yet no scientific evidence exists to support this fact). It just is...

As for me, I think I’ll wait ‘till I get home before showering.

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