We all know a dad who doesn’t simply sneeze. No, this dad is a dad for whom the most mundane of nasal emissions can sound like a foghorn blaring, or a trumpet sounding, or even a full-body performance of near-catastrophic machismo force, a dad for whom every sneeze would say, “practically achieve lift-off in his recliner.” It turns out that the recognizable “dad sneeze” is such a phenomenon that a Redditor, under the username hand-drawn-noodles, posed the evergreen question in a now viral thread in the r/AskMen subReddit, asking, “Dads, why can’t you guys sneeze at an appropriate volume?” Clearly, the question resonated with a lot of people, and it’s easy to see why.
u/Molten-dragon writes, (hopefully jokingly), “I have to establish dominance over everyone else within earshot.” u/Kentman1980 says, “It hurts when I try to keep the volume down,” with u/gillababe adding, “Not only that. It feels glorious to let it all out like a klingon death cry.” Sure enough. A brief and poignant debate even began, with u/LordSergio asking, “Why can’t you realize that the volume at which we sneeze IS appropriate, standard sneeze level?” and Misslieness replying, “Because it’s not. Y’all are at level 10 while a normal, non-dramatic sneeze is maybe a 3.” That last question sort of gets at the heart of the dads sneezing too loudly matter, which has in fact been studied by real scientists. And my own non-expert reading of u/LordSergi0’s query leads me to this: that a lot of dads probably feel that they have to sneeze loudly, that their loud noises are “standard,” when in fact the volume of a sneeze isn’t really dependent on biology. It’s more of a personality trait, really.
Neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Alan Hirsch once explained on NBC News that “sneezes are like laughter. Some are loud, some are soft. And it’s similar with sneezing…it’s more of a psychological thing and represents the underlying personality or character structure.” Belying the volume of a sneeze, it would seem, is the gendered and outdated notion that to supposedly be “manly,” dads have to be loud and assertive.
Although the shape and size of one’s nose does naturally affect the volume of a sneeze a little bit, a Fatherly article explains, “Making an effort to dampen or repress a sneeze is viewed by many as way dainty, certain men either lean into the absurdity of the sneeze and amplify its cartoonishness, or make the act seem so invasive and violent that bystanders should be left wondering how on earth they managed to walk away from such a nasal act of war.” In other words, a lot of dads may feel, out of habit or social conditioning, that they need to make a lot of noise when they sneeze. Science, however, says that it’s not a physiological necessity. But every once in a while, we can see how it probably does feel good to sneeze loudly, like the way that a deep sigh or a loud laugh brings catharsis. It probably doesn’t need to be that loud all the time, though.