Sunday, July 15, 2007


In Which I Have Bagged My Limit (and vice versa)...

Friday morning, I tottered into the family room, then ever-so-gently eased myself onto the sofa with much wincing and a face that looked like I was auditioning to be poster boy for the Lemon Council.

The Brownie and Thomas watched my slow transit across the room with commendable silence. Then Thomas said, "Um, Dad? What the heck happened to you?"

As Thomas said this, I should note that he wasn't looking at my face. He was looking at my shorts and the beyond-conspicuous bulge that rested there. It wasn't a flattering thing; the bulge made it look as though I had taken a side job smuggling winter clothing, or had perhaps suffered a hernia involving my entire digestive tract.

"That," I said, finally settling myself, "is an ice pack."

"Did you get kicked in your baseballs?" the Brownie asked, perhaps remembering just such an instance a while ago.

"They're not baseballs! It's just balls!" Thomas sagely informed her. Then he turned to me. "Didja, Dad?" he asked earnestly, and with no small amount of fellow-feeling. Thomas knows all too well the difference between baseballs and the other kind, ever since the former contacted the latter as he was going for a bouncing grounder in little league earlier this summer

No," I said, although it sure as hell felt like it. "Daddy had a...procedure today."

I don't like to lie to my kids, so instead of telling them I'd thrown out my back again (the lie I had no problem telling my coworkers when I said I would be out on Friday), I attempted to explain to them that Mom and Dad were so happy with the three kids they had, they decided to stop right there and that Dad had--that very morning, in fact--undergone a little operation to make sure he and Mommy were all done having kids.

Thomas nodded in apparent understanding, or as much understanding as he allowed his 8-year-old brain to have (kids are wonderfully self-selecting about certain kinds of information). He knows the birds and the bees, more or less, and he was satisfied. The Brownie, not so much. She continued staring at me, her little mind trying to articulate another question that would make sense of this.

"Is it like the operation Blazey had so he wouldn't run around all crazy and have puppies with girl dogs?" she finally asked. Blaze, as always, was lying nearby, and he thumped his tail at the sound of his name.

"Yes," I said, and braced myself for a harder question. But the Brownie promptly turned around and began watching TV again, and I let her do it. Hey, no need to tell them how to make a watch when they just want to know what time it is.

This has indeed been a long time coming. Not long after the miscarriage of a year ago, I actually came within about a week of getting this done before we reconsidered--something I'm sure will one day cause the Éclair to come over faint and thank her lucky stars--and over the years there certainly have been plenty of times that I made Her Lovely Self angry enough that she was ready to do the job herself, if she could just find the kitchen shears.

But now, three months after the Éclair's arrival, and with the knowledge that my health insurance wouldn't cover the same procedure as fully next year, and with a certain cynical wondering whether or not it actually was possible to feel any worse than I feel after the events of the past few months, I called up a urology practice and got one of their doctors to agree to, er, handle my needs. For some strange reason, he had a lot of appointments open on Friday the 13th, so I took his first one, at 8:30 in the morning.

Exactly ten years ago, in my book (the one known in China as I Am the Sex Man), I was pretty cavalier about the whole topic, as only a young man--a young man who's never had a vasectomy--can be.

Despite what you think, a vasectomy is not the unkindest cut of all. Yes, sure, there's the cutting of sensitive parts--of your scrotum and the vas deferentia, the tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to the rest of your reproductive equipment. But hey, it's not like the procedure really cuts into your manhood. After the fact, your testicles will still continue to produce testosterone, the hormone that makes you a man. Remember, you're getting sterilized, not castrated.

But try telling that to some men. If you're like most guys, reading the above probably caused an immediate and involuntary contraction of various lower abdominal muscles and triggered a crossing of legs in a reflexive attempt to protect your boys from harm. As surgical procedures go, though, vasectomies are fast, simple, and largely complication-free. Honestly, there are far more harmful procedures that one could undergo.

Just ask any woman who's ever had her tubes tied.

I mean, that's abdominal surgery, man, under general anesthesia, about 40 times riskier than a man's 20 minutes under the knife.

When you look at it that way, deciding to get a vasectomy is pretty beneficent. You're taking one for the team. That makes you her hero.

And I guess I still feel that way, but I'm not quite as jocular about the whole experience now.

Shaky would be a better word to describe my post-vas state.

Because you're conscious for the whole thing, you know. And being conscious, you watch the doctor--a total stranger, mind you, someone you just met 10 minutes ago--giving you a little shave and then jabbing you with needles in a place you don't ever ever no never want to be jabbed with needles. And that's just for openers. He hasn't yet picked up the sharp instrument with which he will punch not one but TWO holes in your--YOUR--scrotum. He hasn't yet fished out your own personal vas deferentia--two pale cables that are in a very real sense (and certainly as far as my three children are concerned) so important as to be called lifelines--and snipped a quarter-inch length out of each of them.

While. You. Watch.

He hasn't yet done these things, oh no. But after he does, it's understood that you might be shaky. Oh my yes.

And it doesn't help that he's telling you stories the whole time he's doing this.

"Well, sir, you're doing an excellent job holding still, just excellent. I'd say about every other guy does a pretty big jump--some even go off the table--when I hit the nerve with the local. That's if they're still lively. You'd be surprised how many fainters I get. I had one guy pitch right off the exam table just from looking at the informational brochure. And you know, occasionally you'll get a hurler. When I was just setting up practice, I had one poor guy, you know, vomit on...himself. From the waist down. I ended up having to irrigate the incisions and...well, it wasn't pretty. Hey, are you okay? You're really perspiring over there."

And of course you ARE perspiring, because let's not forget that you have an unnaturally high resistance to local anesthetics. Let's not forget that by the time he's finished with your left side, you're starting to get some sensation back. Just in time for him to start on the right side.

So you try to distract yourself with your own stories, but all you can think about are things like Alvin, your aunt's cat, who was the feature player in the only neutering you've ever witnessed. Until now, that is.

Okay, melodrama aside, it really was over very quickly. It takes me longer to walk to Starbucks for coffee than it took the doctor to render me biologically redundant to the species. Within 15 minutes, I was back on the street, waddling to the car as fast as I could manage, desperately wanting to get home to my ice pack. I had opted for the no-scalpel vasectomy--the NSV is far less invasive and is said to minimize pain and recovery time, although I think that notion is extremely relative. The doctor had given me a prescription for some light- to medium-duty painkillers, but I hadn't bothered filling it. Everything I read about the NSV said most men could manage with over-the-counter analgesics. And anyway, I wanted to get home and bask in the afterglow, such as it was.

Here's what The Sex Man has to say about that part of the experience:

Typically, a weekend of sitting on the couch with some ice and lots of personal attention should be enough for you to recover. Which is why you should schedule your vasectomy for a Friday morning or afternoon because, buddy, if ever you deserved a three-day weekend, it's now. Prop yourself up on the sofa, keeping the remote within easy reach. Ask to be brought food and drink at regular intervals. Wince from time to time, even if you don't feel like it (although that's unlikely). Bask in the resulting sympathy.

"So you're still going to walk the dog, right?" Her Lovely Self asked later that day, just after she'd retrieved the Éclair from her afternoon nap.

"What?" I moaned. I had just got up from a nap myself. A sweaty, fevered nap during which I could find no comfortable position for love or money. Whatever minuscule numbing effect the local had had on me was long, long gone. I woke up with a dull ache in my lower abdomen and the sensation that some weighty Quasimodo and been using my generative organs as a bell rope. Every slight movement of my legs set off claxons and red lights in my brain, and elsewhere. Standing upright, let alone walking, was agony. It was like there was a toothache in my pants.

I looked over at the dog, who should have been part of the whole basking scenario, bringing me my slippers, the paper, a beer. Instead, he sat by the door expectantly, staring at me unsympathetically. He had a look that seemed to say, Now you know what it's like, buddy. Or maybe it said Hey man, at least you still have something left to lick.

We tottered out the door, two big ol' neutered males about to survey the territory. It was a gorgeous afternoon and children were playing everywhere on the street. Thomas and some friends were riding bikes down the block. The Brownie was over in a corner of the front yard, playing with a group of kids.

Well, not playing so much as talking.

And not talking, so much as holding a press conference.

"My Dad had an operation today. The doctor cut his balls off!" she said in a loud and carrying voice.

(I'm SO glad Thomas corrected her terminology.)

All eyes turned to me, now standing frozen on the doorstep.

"What'd he do that for?" one inquisitive little girl asked, oblivious to the fact that I was within earshot.

The Brownie shrugged. "I think Mom made him do it, so he wouldn't run around the neighborhood and make all the ladies pregnant."

Ah, children. Won't be having any more of those.

Since then, you'll be pleased to know I've done nothing but feel better. As the weekend unfolded, HLS did do plenty of pampering, later bringing me cold drinks and a little bottle of Darvocet, having filled my doctor's script for me, and from that point on, the toothache lessened considerably.

Not that I've bothered to tell anyone that. No indeed, I'm going to keep wincing at least through tomorrow. After all, it's not everyday you get a vasectomy, you know. I intend to milk this for all it's worth.

Er, in a manner of speaking.

From Somewhere on the Masthead


Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Breaking News...

Well, how's this for an epilogue?

No charges filed against trucker who caused crash that killed eight

Associated Press

— ELKHART, Ind. ‹ No charges will be filed against an Illinois truck driver who was trying to recharge his cell phone when he rammed into stopped traffic on the Indiana Toll Road, killing eight people...(full story)

Her Lovely Self has been fielding calls from the media all morning, which is how we learned of this latest development in the case, such as it is.

I've been trying to reach my brother, but he isn't answering his phone, which is probably just as well. I pity the first reporter who gets to BB. I shudder to think how he will react.

That's really all I have to say about this.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

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