Jonathan Stack isn’t sure if he should get a vasectomy, but he’ll be documenting the whole decision-making process right here.
I’ve been talking about getting a vasectomy for a long time. So far, just talk. There have been a lot of excuses along the way, but mostly it’s because of being lazy, cowardly, and ultimately the tendency to be in major denial.
I should be highly motivated. I’ve had three children with three different women. All were unplanned, even the one I had with my soon-to-be-divorced wife. Calling it a rocky road is putting it mildly. Stupidity ruled my journey, that and a love of adventure, the unknown, and of course, risk taking. And yet, despite the stress, the dreamer in me didn’t want to give up the possibility of having a child with a woman I really loved. I asked my 84-year-old dad what he thought, “No more babies, you blew your chance.”
I guess there’s an irrational part of me that fears it’s a sign of aging to lose the capacity to make babies. I’ve done a lot of talking with experts and friends who assure me otherwise. Then there’s the question of virility: the urologist who told me that there’s a five-percent chance I’ll lose virility, the girlfriend’s ex who insisted it ruined his sex life, and the person who told me his ejaculate noticeably diminished. I told a woman friend that I was considering a vasectomy, and she said that while she’s still be willing to consider me an Alpha male, it would probably be more like ‘alpha lite.’ At age 54, none of this sounds very appealing.
Anyhow, I’m a documentary filmmaker and instead of just filming other people’s experiences, which is what I normally do, I decided to tell the story of my own journey. Actually, the full truth is that when my best friend Kenny and I decided to get a vasectomy three years ago, we thought it would be cool to film it live and put it on YouTube to raise awareness about a school he had started in the Amazon to train indigenous men and women to become environmental activists.
What’s the link to vasectomies? Well, I came up with the idea of a campaign called, MEN WHO ARE WILLING TO PUT THEIR BALLS ON THE LINE FOR MOTHER EARTH. Sure, less babies, less carbon footprint, a noble excuse to do the right thing. We were feeling pretty confident that we had a winning concept when I got the ‘expected’ phone call from the wife. Beth made it very clear: “There is no way in the world, I’m going to let my husband have his vasectomy filmed. His penis is not going live on the internet”. And then, not surprisingly, the rejoinder, “If it’s such a good idea, why don’t you do it yourself?”
And I explained why not, who cares about a documentary filmmaker who’s going to get a vasectomy to raise money for a film. It sounds too self-serving. Kenny got his vasectomy. I didn’t.
I let it slide. I was traveling throughout the world for work, including one of America’s oldest prisons, checking out the oil spill in Louisiana, the fight against malaria in Nigeria, learning about mobile money in Haiti, and teaching filmmaking in Bali. I don’t know if it’s because I had heard so many depressing stories or if I was simply getting tired, frustrated, or confused, but things in my own life started to take a turn for the worst. I didn’t have the same hunger to make films about the plight of other people and the business of documentary film seemed like a giant sinkhole.
I decided maybe I should reconsider both the vasectomy and the film.
You see, for years I’ve been making films that not only document people’s lives, but also, hopefully, tell stories that would help the characters in my films realize their own potential. I think of this type of filmmaking as personal transformation. So when my own life hit the ‘valley floor,’ I decided to turn the camera on myself, become the star of my own story, and see if I could do, for myself, what I had done for the characters in my film and turn my life around.
So I started filming my own journey and myself… and started digging deeper into the vasectomy.
Needless to say, it’s not been a straight path, and I continue to struggle, but instead of waiting until everything is great before I start writing and filming, I decided to start off while things aren’t going so well. Maybe it will help me make sense of my own life. Maybe it will help someone else make sense of his or hers.