There is evidence that memories carve little electronic channels in the moonscape of our minds. Why does it seem that that electrochemical scar tissue is most difficult to ignore when it’s a foul memory that prompted its recording? For example, it’s been a fistful of years since I invited a medical professional to clamp, cut and cauterize my nether parts, but my goodness, can I readily summon up that exquisite combo of anxiety, nausea and resentment that still presides over the event.
Unlucky for you, then, that I’ll have to use the crude and common tools of complaint and terror to describe my vasectomy. Stay with me now—it’s not a good time for me to be alone. I’m sure it’s not necessary to delimit the steady rainfall of sound, intelligent and well-conceived pronouncements presented by Puff Adder, my girlfriend, over the long, steadfast (and to that point, non-surgically invasive) course of our relationship, but in summation, it went like this: if I really didn’t want children, why didn’t I put my money where my maleness was and (in the words that can’t carry the responding primeval howls), "Snip, snip"?
So I dodged, ducked, eluded and evaded. It’s not simple cowardice (though cowardice has its place in any sensible man’s repertoire). There’s been more than a little talk through time that men think with their genitals, but that’s a perception that stands correcting: the matter is that men know that their genitals don’t have brain in their little heads, and that somebody’s got to protect them. I happened to be the one closest to the issue—or tissue, as it were.
Remember that line about the steady rainfall of persuasion? Well, soft as water is, its relentless application will wear down the most resolute rock, and after a few years of hearing the argument, I was more oatmeal than granite. I called; I made the appointment; and honest, I only shivered a bit after I put down the phone.
The day drew near, and I was calm: I considered quick escape flights to Brazil sixty or seventy percent of my day, max; I was still able to make sandwiches and answer the phone without sobbing. The trouble is, you hear those facts that are supposed to reassure you—you know, "Less than one percent of vasectomies result in impotence; it’s a quick and easy process and complications are rare."
Anyone in their right minds knows that those words are a paranoiac’s (read: every man about to have a vasectomy) siren song—one percent! That’s horribly high! I’m doomed; not only won’t I be able to have sex, my testicles will probably look like frog legs, or drumsticks or something worse. I’ll wake up and look like Zac Efron or some other teen androgyne. All reasonable thoughts, to be sure.
But equally as bad as the imagination’s ravings are some of the actual procedures. Big on my list was shaving my scrotum, pretty much all the way up. Remember how we’re told in life to trust our instincts? Taking a razor to your scrotum is one of those instances where your instincts say, “What? Shave it? Are you insane? Why not rest the TV set on it instead, or toast it in the barbecue?” And I wasn’t calmed at all by the diagram that the doctor hand-drew regarding the area to be shaved: he penciled in what appeared to be two sloppy circles with a slightly smaller sloppy circle above that. Those three miserable bags were intended to represent my testicles and penis; it was not artful and it was decidedly not confidence-inspiring.
With morbid dread, I let Puff in on the procedure. She enthusiastically applied blade to tender flesh, while I stared at the ceiling and thought of England (and what those bloody, er, damn British did to my Irish ancestors). So far so good, I supposed—I still needed to see the doctor, since Puff hadn’t eagerly gone ahead with the full vasectomy with any ill-timed strokes.
To the doctor’s we went, and the first thing he says to me after he looks at my freshly shaved privates is, “You didn’t shave it high enough. But that’s OK, because you have a long scrotum, so I can work with that.” I puffed up a bit—long scrotum, eh? Hey, that’s got to be a good, manly thing, eh? But then I considered it: do you mean long, droopy scrotum? The grandpa kind of thing? But I just shut up, and tried to imagine all the scrotums of the English being led to the stockade. OK, I’m only half-Irish, but it’s my better (lower) half.
I won’t go into depth about the procedure, which is remarkably quick—about nine hours, I’d say, though everyone in town was in on the trick, and turned the clocks back so that they read that only about 20 minutes time had passed. The operation is a fine thing, if you like someone prodding and poking your particulars, then cutting, sewing and cauterizing, all jolly good, a procedure surely invented by a well-mannered Nazi. As I said, certain impressions are so hard to convey. You had to be there, and I wish you were, instead of me. The good parts were only beginning.
The doctor told me I shouldn’t even look at his work; the poor things can turn vivid shades of purple, blue and green, and even a strong man might think that Satan had replaced his jewels with graffitied apples. I say apples because swelling is inevitable—even with the six hours of ice you have to apply to the tender zone afterwards. Did I say the Nazi had good manners?
So I didn’t look. I couldn’t really: I had been sentenced to be encased in a jock strap for three days straight. No showering. Just me and my big balls, all trussed up and nowhere to go. Suffice it to say that I was moving real slow for the first few hours. Puff had told me that her girlfriend’s husband had played basketball the day after his surgery, but I knew that she’d misunderstood. Her girlfriend’s husband felt like he was carrying basketballs after his surgery.
Now the long scrotum thing was suitable, because I now felt that I was practicing for old age: the shuffling walk, the easing in and out of a chair, the sighs and grunts. I reached down and checked things out every little while or so, to make sure they were still there, but no way would I look. Ladies, it’s not that men are obsessed with their little toys, it’s just that they get used to them, so that any major changes prompt a little insecurity.
And you never realize just how secure a jockstrap is, until you wear one for three days and then take it off. Whew! Elevator with a cut cable! It’s hard to describe that breathless kind of low nausea that occurs when you’re hit in the balls, but it gets your attention, just like this did. Taking the jock strap off made me want to sit right down, on a chair of down feathers, and not get up. That sensation occurred with intermittent merriment over the next seven days.
I was advised that I wasn’t supposed to have sex for ten days anyway. Perish the thought, doc—the way I felt, I didn’t want to have breakfast for the next ten days, much less sex. It was a bit peculiar trying to adjust to the prickly hair growth, but since women do complain that men grab their business in public all the time, I feel I can adjust myself without surprising anyone. Maybe they thought I was a professional ballplayer.
The doctor told me that the age range of his patients is from about 25 into the 70s. According to him, most often the younger men already have lots of kids, and the older guys have married a younger wife, and have had a child or two with them and want no more. I’m somewhere in the middle, but haven’t any kids at all. This article is about what happened rather than what might have been, so I won’t address my mixed feelings of fixed fatherlessness; I’ll leave that to my mental musings. But really, I’m feeling better. Now. I’m able to look at women’s underwear ads with my customary confidence.
So, I’m fixed. I was worried that I’d get fat and stupefied, the stereotypical neutered male cat staring dazedly out the window, but it worked out OK. But next time, keep your hands to yourself, doc.
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