A humorous meditation on the impermanence of things like fertility, power, satisfaction and life.
“One side effect is that you can suffer from painful orgasms,” my doctor says.
“Every time?” I say.
“Every time,” he says.
“Just to clarify,” I say, “This entire exchange revolves around my achieving orgasm in an ongoing fashion regardless, though? Correct?”
“It does,” he says.
“Then we’re probably fine,” I say.
I want to tell you about my vasectomy.
It started one day when I went into my urologist’s office. I have one due to kidney stones, poor hydration, and consuming too much spinach.
The conversation went like this:
“The problem is spinach, that and you don’t drink enough water,” my doctor said.
“Spinach though, really?” I said.
“Well, and too much black tea. And cranberries,” he said.
“I’m sorry, so it’s spinach, tea, and cranberries. Why did I give up drugs, again?” I asked.
He didn’t respond.
He’s a nice guy though, and the vasectomy went smoothly.
I should also reinforce that my vasectomy was performed right there in the office, an out-patient procedure.
“I can perform it right here in my office,” the doctor had said.
“Really, right here?”
“Totally,” he said. “It’s not even surgery. It’s just a procedure.”
“Huh? How does that affect your use of anesthesia?” I asked. I watch Grey’s Anatomy and I’m kind of an expert on medical things.
“There’s no anesthesia,” he said. “We just numb the area.”
I wondered how that’s possible. Not the numbing part, because I’d done that, right here in his sterile, freezing office, my dick in a clamp, fastened in place so he could look at my kidneys, his smoking hot young resident standing nearby as my penis shrank and I became George Costanza.
“You don’t understand! There is shrinkage!” I had yelled to little affect.
Of course, if this had been Grey’s, she would have given me a hug and a Happy Ending, albeit for purely medical, therapeutic reasons.
But sadly, this was not Grey’s, and it was not kidney stones. It’s a vasectomy: there will be a tug, a snip, and then no more sperm, no more children, no nothing, just like that.
And you can just do that in an office without anesthesia. Shouldn’t it be more monumental? Shouldn’t it at least look like it means something? I will be relinquishing my right to reproduce. Shouldn’t there be mid-tempo Gregorian chants, or at least balloons?
Because really, ultimately, if it’s just an out-patient procedure, it really doesn’t mean much, does it?
I suppose it shouldn’t bother me. It’s not like I want more children.
Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. It can be near impossible to see the little girls my boys play with and not wonder what it would be like to raise one, and then watch her play in the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four for Princeton, become a Rhodes Scholar, and eventually serve as Senator, possibly from New Jersey, though Illinois would be fine, too.
But to have another screaming baby in the house, maybe one with colic, potential speech problems, holes in their spines, SIDS, teasing, fear of school shootings, porch parties, predators, busy streets, bath salts, and on and on.
I don’t plan to be one of those guys who willingly delays his vasectomy for the moment when he’s older and finds himself married to someone younger who wants a child.
Which is possible, the re-married part anyway, and the younger woman.
Not that I want to be re-married either, and not that I have any plans to that affect. It’s just that with life decisions come possibilities, scenarios, and questions of what might be.
You decide to have children and someone says you need a will. Why is this? You didn’t before. Well, maybe you did, you just ignored it, but now you really need it.
How should your estate be divided? Who should divide it? And where should your children go to live if, in fact, you find yourself on a plane flying from Australia to Los Angeles that mysteriously crashes, and by chance of fate, you are not one of the Oceanic Six?
What then? Had I ever thought about death before that? I had not. Do I think about it now? All the time.
Which leads to another matter I never thought much about: life insurance. Why it really exists, and for that matter, the meaning of the word “insurance”. It’s there in case something happens.
I had never thought about the possibility that something might happen to me. Which isn’t to say that I thought I was immortal, not exactly. It’s just that I never thought about it at all. Why would I have?
“I think I want a full million dollars if you die,” my wife says when we are discussing life insurance. “I think it’s worth paying for.”
“Sure,” I say wondering where this is going. I’m married and so I know it’s going somewhere.
“It’s just that, I may end up alone,” she says. “The money will be really nice. But you, you won’t be alone, so you don’t need as much insurance, and why waste the money, right?”
So that’s where this is going. This had never crossed my mind before. Not exactly. I have calculated the age difference between myself and Selena Gomez many times, though only after she and Justin Bieber had clearly called it quits. They got into that thing in a nightclub. It was like a dance-off or something, right?
But had I really considered being with someone else? Not until now.
“I think you’re right,” I say, “I may not be alone, and it pains me to say this, but if by some chance I’m not, and if by some equally unlikely chance Selena Gomez is still single, and of course still young, she will have needs I sadly cannot meet, and expensive tastes, and so that full million is going to be a big help. You understand that, right?”
All of which is to say, that anything is possible, and so why not plan accordingly?
So I ask my doctor, “How do you know it worked?” How does one measure the success rate of a vasectomy without testing it the old-fasionioned way?
“You need to orgasm one-hundred times,” my doctor says, “and then you come in and we test the fluid to confirm there are no sperm cells present.”
“Whoa, one-hundred times?” I’m incredulous. It might have taken a whole week to reach that in high school. “Can you write my wife a note requiring her assistance with that?”
“I can suggest it,” he says, “but it probably won’t help much.”
Which may have been true, but I suppose it’s time for full-disclosure. I haven’t actually had a vasectomy.
Why didn’t I have one?
It could be the orgasms. The likelihood of painful orgasms is low, but is it worth the risk?
I can vividly recall the first orgasm I had after my bladder was scoped and my urologist was briefly concerned I might actually have a tumor and not a hidden kidney stone.
Luckily I was by myself, in a hotel room in New Mexico, and thinking about Georgia O’Keefe, because while the dread and anticipation was excruciating enough, the experience itself was like an explosion of broken glass.
It was the best broken glass ever, mind you, even better than Bag O’Glass, but broken glass is still broken glass.Did I want broken glass every time without fail?
My wife says she does not want that for me. She has insisted it’s not worth the risk. Which is fine, I suppose, but isn’t it my turn to carry the birth control load? She’s been carrying it for much of this relationship. So why not me, and why not now?
Why don’t I push it more?
I remember being little when my father came home one day from the doctor’s office and collapsed onto the couch with an ice pack. It was light blue and kicked around the house for years, the rubber coating slowly flaking off, the pack sure to drip all over everything as the ice melted.
Anyway, my father told me he had hurt his knee, though that didn’t explain why he was icing his balls or looked so beaten-down, like a ghost, or at least a faded version of his normal self.
He was a tough guy. He had been in a gang when he was a teenager, and though he never raised his voice with us, he still got into fights as an adult.
I wanted to be like him: tough, fearless, invincible, settling things with my fists.
But to see him like that, compromised, and then to later realize why—perhaps this has the most to do with my inaction?
There is part of me that wonders what you give up when you give this up. Do you end-up like Samson: small, weak, no longer who you were? Does giving up your seed mean giving up your power?
Because I’m not ready to feel less powerful. I have too much misplaced pride, and I am too caught up in what I think it means to be a man, to be like my dad, even if he had a vasectomy himself.
Any or all of this is possible, of course, though there’s another possibility as well.
Despite my protestations, maybe I’m not ready to never be a father again, because the fact is, there’s too much joy involved in it, and yes, too much pride as well, a different kind pride, a better pride, the pride of watching your child grow up and become something amazing. Because that’s what they do, most of them anyway, and most of the time.
And why just give that possibility up?
Photo by Smabs Sputzer.