We’ve all done it haven’t we? Wrestled with our hard as nails Protestant work ethic at 6 a.m from under the duvet, in the half light, mentally practising our poorly voice for the dreaded phone call to the boss to croak that we are are ‘not coming in’ today due to either a) some dubiously over exaggerated minor ailment that almost, *almost*, allows us to justify a day under said duvet watching terrible telly, ignoring emails and getting half- assed sympathy from loved ones, or b) a completely fabricated Ferris Bueller bear faced lie of an illness that requires a fair bit of creative licence to plot and is so exhausting to execute that it almost spoils the delicious thrill of an extra day off.
My finest throwing of a sickie EVER was getting a friend I worked with who used to pick me up every morning, to drive to work and inform the boss that she had called round to pick me up as usual only to find me bedridden and so green of gills that she had told me to go back to bed immediately. He bought it. In reality, I was, at that very moment that she was sombrely describing how close I was to death’s door, smugly sipping a cafe au lait watching the sun rise over the Champs Elysee in gay Paris courtesy of a cheap flight, a friend securing last minute tickets to a Manic Street Preacher’s gig (in Paris! I know, quelle adventure!) and the kind of reckless spirit we only tend to have in our mid twenties.
If I’d have done that in my mid 30’s or 40’s I’d have been so wracked with guilt that I would have choked on my croissant and skulked so guiltily around Paris that the whole thing would have been ruined. In fact, thinking about it, I can’t actually remember the last time I legit ‘threw a sickie’ as in not a real sickie, just pretended to because I couldn’t face the inbox or another bloody meeting about a meeting.
With age comes caution. With age comes an even more crippling sense of what is right and wrong, and age can also bring parenting, and with that comes the dreaded ‘role modelling’ and that ruins the joyful subterfuge of a sickie forever. Once a parent, it becomes impossible to justify feigning illness. How could I stand in front of my ailing child, running a genuine temperature (not a hot water bottle induced one) who’d been throwing up all night, and being a proper brave soldier insisting through her tears that she is well enough to go to school, when given half the chance, that kind of vomit episode plus a bit of artistic voice work, could have given me a good three days worth of paid leave under a blanket in front of This Morning, Loose Women and fittingly perhaps, Pointless.
And also with age, comes a distinct likelihood that you too will become ‘the boss’ and you’ll become the person actually fielding the morning sick calls, and then your patience will be truly tested. Then, not only does the pale faced ghost of sickies past come back to haunt you, you also find you have developed with age a finely tuned bullshit detector that enables you to spot a phony poorly voice within a second and you are able to give nothing but very short shrift to anyone citing the following:
- The old ‘I ate a dodgy prawn’ chestnut
- Car broke down/flat tyre and had to get towed home and garage can’t fix until later
- The rather philanthropic and therefore vaguely admirable if it wasn’t a lie ‘I’m staying off because I don’t want to infect you all’
- I’m exhausted (aka snowflake syndrome if you are Piers Morgan)
Whilst my older and wiser self simply has no truck with the sickie I do however think we need to be increasingly mindful of scenarios which warrant genuine compassion. If we are sick we are sick. It’s not illness I am having a pop at, it’s the perpetual mickey takers who steal its thunder and ruin it for the rest of us when Norovirus genuinely does come to call. It’s a yes from me to mental health days when we are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or unbearably anxious; yes also to menstruation days when we are crippled by the cramps and/or an emotional irrationality that could cause a corporate meltdown if you are allowed within a hundred foot of your gmail account, but I am afraid it is a big fat miserable and unsympathetic February the 4th ‘No’ to faking it for no good reason.