Bein' sick stinks

I'm sick. Well, I was sick; I'm mostly over it now. It's my second cold of 2010, which is pretty obnoxious when you consider the fact that I've been known for an otherwise sturdy immune system. My wife, though? Not so much. If I get sick, she gets sicker. She gets mad when I give her my colds; she'd positively kill me if I gave her the flu or something really nasty.

These infectious tête-à-têtes (head colds-to-head colds?) between the two of us makes me think about social biology and genetics. Humans are social animals and we tend to find ways to smudge the edges of individuality just a little when we're in packs. Menstrual cycles sync up between women who live together for long periods of time. (Ahem. Pun not intended.) (EDIT: Or not. See comments.) And our immune systems, long thought of strictly in that sense, turn out to play a key role in the way we pair off for romantic relationships.

I think the connection between these pseudo-pheromones is fascinating. I love that there really is a basis for Fabienne telling Butch in Pulp Fiction, "I like the way you stink." And even if my immune system isn't a lock-and-key fit with my wife's, she still likes to wear my t-shirts to bed. They smell like me, and she's cool with that.

So it'd be nice and warm-fuzzy if our immune systems dovetailed neatly, the way they're "supposed to" if two people are a "match" for one another. One gets sick, the other doesn't, and vice versa--and the offspring get the best of both parents' immunities. Personally, I'd bet that very few couples match up that way. And I think that those whose immune profiles are less than mirror images--like mine and my wife's--slowly start to sync up over time. One person plots out the course of the illness, and then gives it to the other. How generous! What's mine is yours, honey.

So I'm just about done with my cold, I've run the marathon; meanwhile, the wife is just coming to the 13-mile mark. But babe, I'm right here at the finish line, and I'm rooting for you! And I stink.