It is a fact of life - men die younger and earlier than that other gender. Also, a bigger gaggle of diseases simultaneously make the bodies of men their home, than they do the females, from head to toe and across all organ systems. Of the top ten causes of death, men die at higher rates in nine. And this is true for not only the yang of the Homo sapiens species, but also for the yang of all the species Created by Him / Her / It on this planet Earth. For all his outward posturing of machismo and brawn, the creature from Mars is a very, very vulnerable creature indeed.
There must be something about the male's chemistry that makes him so vulnerable. What is it about the strong, aggressive, go-getter spermatozoon that causes it to decay and die earlier than the passive ovum? Perhaps it is his strength that paradoxically becomes his weakness? Metaphysical and philosophical pondering apart, it is also an observed fact that men do not see physicians for a physical exam as often as women do, which means preventive action, in time, is almost invariably bypassed. Somewhere on the way of growing up, it perhaps gets drilled into the male psyche that to suffer silently, to maintain a stiff upper-lip, is the sign of the perfect male.
The process of growing up for the typical male is also fraught with confusion and contradictions. Somewhere in this process he learns that he has to be good at table manners, and that he has to be particularly careful that he scratches his belly and touches his organ and gives himself the permission to burp without inhibition, only when no one is looking, especially when the female of the species is not around and not looking. He often finds himself in the crossfire of advice from peers about what image to project: should I keep the hair carelessly tousled, or should I comb them neatly back?
And as he grows up, he finds himself having to learn the fine balance required between social grace and aggression which will help win the mate who makes his heart stop and his knees weak. Competition for a mate has become more gentlemanly since the time of the caveman, who just had to smash the rival's head and drag the woman to the nearest cave -- and never mind what the woman thinks about him. To behave like a statesman with the lady or to genuflect and go down on all fours? To play Don Quixote or to be the Don Juan? To be a saint, or to be an all-out sinner, and who's worried about where it will lead to? Dating forums are full of questions from anxious Adonises - aged from teenage fourteen to very adult sixty - on appropriate behavior.
The transition to adulthood begins with a new competition: this time for resources. Resources that will help him set up his house - the four room house with a lawn in the front and a car in the garage -, resources that will help him pay his bills on time every time, resources that he can safely stash away when the time comes for him to hang those boots. The male warrior spends his entire lifetime in this ultimate battleground where he fights to gather and loot as much of the resources as possible, from the world, in as short a time. It is this battleground where he also begins to play host to the gaggle of diseases we were talking about earlier. The cultural drilling of deferring the visitation with the physician till it becomes absolutely necessary, doesn't help, either.
After this competition is through, the man faces the next competition: the competition for status. To be known and respected by peers. The next higher rung on Maslow's ladder. Somewhere deep within the now-oozing-now-ebbing testosterones, the urge to be given some sort of a testimonial of a Life Well-Lived. Depending on the resources garnered during the lifetime, the urge may range from having his own statue erected in some Hall of Fame somewhere, to getting a street square - or an entire village if possible, why not - named after him, to setting up a Trust or a Foundation with a dignified-looking logo, to engaging some ghostwriter who will write the memoirs, to getting his photo on the front-page of some high-profile magazine, to getting some award or prize from some society or organization comprising other distinguished peers, to... well it all depends on how big the ego has ballooned till that point of time.
Competition for mates; competition for resources; competition for status --- tell me, with an entire lifetime spent in nothing but competing, is it any surprise that this creature gets to die before time?
Ladies! If you have a male in your life in whatever form - be he a granddad, a father, an uncle, a brother, lover, husband, soul-mate, a son, or a grandson -, despite their I-can-take-care-of-myself act, deep inside they crave your love and care, and you know that, don't you, and so it might do this fellow a world of good if you discreetly find out when it was last that he visited the physician for his checkup. June is observed as Men's Health Month, and if you are in the U.S., June 15-21 is observed as National Men's Health Week --- you might want him to benefit. A male who is healthy is, you will no doubt agree, always good to have around. And go careful around the male ego, please. The balloon is very delicate and tender, and even the hint of a needle can prick it.
[While on the subject of males and competition, it is interesting to see the spirit of competition alive and kicking even on the deathbed. Two friends, the best of pals from childhood, compete with each other for one last race: who gets to embrace death first. Read this poignant short story here: "The Newspaper Is Put To This Use, Too".]