It’s the same with dentists. | SERGIO PEREZ

Although men like to strut about with chest stuck out, talk a good game and brag about almost anything; deep down, we are total cowards. Who says so? Well, basically the whole of the medical profession i.e. doctors, dentists, nurses, carers and anyone else who occasionally might have to impart bad news to us chaps. I know for the average woman I am telling them nothing that they didn’t know already, but sometime we blokes, for all our macho bluster, might at least tentatively accept this fact as true. We are not just talking about that well known male malady known as man-flu either - it is a proper medical fact that men have a lower pain threshold than women. Most men think that giving birth probably stings a bit, but generally don’t know what all the fuss is about. However, given a reversal of roles at the business end of procreation would be squealing like stuck-pigs at the onset of the first contraction. In saying this, I am not a traitor to the male cause, just a realist who is well aware of my genders shortcomings when it comes to any type of pain. If a woman feels unwell, or has an unexplained pain she will hot-foot-it to her GP. A man will not. He will grumble at every opportunity about feeling ill until his partner in life could cheerfully ‘swing-for-him.’ Yet nothing could ever induce him to visit the family doctor, as he doesn’t really want to know what’s wrong with him and if he ignores it, it might just go away.

It’s the same with dentists. Those chiselled jawed men in white coats, face-masks, and cruel glasses, always employ perky and pretty receptionists to lull a fellow into a false sense of security as they provocatively pout at him, knowing full well the horrors that are to confront him. I have to say that I’ve rarely felt relaxed going to the dentist and it all stems from the 1976 film called Marathon Man. Laurence Olivier played an unpleasant Nazi dentist and a young Dustin Hoffman his patient - “Is it safe?” he would ask and then jab a molar in Hoffman’s mouth with a nasty looking spike thing - “Is it safe?” No, it’s bloody not, not if you ask me. Anyway, I think you get my general drift don’t you? Generally, women actually enjoy going to the dentist or the doctors; it’s true, they just do, they practically look forward to it. Men, not so much, in fact never, unless it’s something obvious like a broken bone or blood appearing where it shouldn’t appear. You see, men do not like not knowing what’s wrong with them, this is at the crux of why we don’t like going to see anyone vaguely medical. “What do you think it is Doc?” we whimper, as he prods us about hoping to hit something that really hurts; If you have a female GP this problem of communication is multiplied by the problem of a chap having to appear both nonchalant and unerringly sexy for a man of his age. This is not easy I can tell you, even if you think you are, as almost certainly you are not.

What we have here is what medical researchers call the “fear of finding out.” Recently it appears that two-thirds of men would put off seeing a GP in case they were told that they had a serious illness, which if you think about it, rather defeats the whole point of the exercise. In fact, those of us who have perceived “bad lifestyles” i.e. those who smoke, drink heavily and are obese, are all less likely to want to hear bad news about their health, which I suppose is weirdly logical. Have you ever visited a GP’s surgery and thought to yourself - I wonder how many of these people here are actually properly ill? It seems to me that there is a great divide in medicine as to those who are not ill (not in the strictest sense of the word) and want to be - and those who are, or might be - yet because of all sorts of factors are in denial of the fact.

So, back to my original premise. Is it true that most men are cowards when it comes to visiting a doctor? Of course it is, but perhaps it’s a little more complex than that. It seems that we blokes are a funny lot and although at the moment we are not feeling our best - we are not that keen on our GP telling us to moderate some of our excesses. Apparently, guys can adopt an aggressive ‘fatalistic’ attitude towards illnesses such as prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. All sorts of things will put us off visiting medicos, including “fear-barriers” such as being physically examined, appearing weak and embarrassingly intimate treatments that many men will avoid at almost any cost. Put it this way, I wonder if men are not so much cowards in the way that they approach their own health, but are victims of our own inherent macho values and embarrassed and discomforted by the feeling of a loss of control and dignity. For instance, anyone who has had to wear one of those backless medical cover-alls when being prodded about in hospital will never forget that feeling of humiliation as you limp about a ward with your arse exposed - trust me, these things matter. Then there is the whole business of explaining why you want to see the doctor to a gimlet-eyed receptionist with an attitude problem, or via a mere ‘slip-of-a-girl’ who went to school with your kids. Thanks, but no thanks!