Those five dreaded words.
Strung together, they send fear into the hearts of mortal men — especially the married ones.
“Honey, we need to talk.”
Cue the sirens. Light the Bat Signal. This is not going to be pretty.
“So, last month, when I was pretty sure I was, y’know … ?”
“Not cooking enough?” I said.
“No, the other thing,” she answered.
“Oh, that. The Third Kid Scare.”
“Right,” she said. “I think we need to take some precautions and make sure — for sure — that whole third-child thing doesn’t really happen. I mean, I love my kids and all. But I’m done.”
Mind you, after 17 years of marriage, a grand total of zero pregnancies, several failed attempts with fertility drugs, and ultimately, two beautiful children adopted from Colombia, the only time my wife had experienced any growth in her stomach was after a reckless night of bingeing at The Cheesecake Factory.
In other words, the odds of something actually happening were slim. Then again, David Spade is dating Heather Locklear, so anything’s possible.
“One of us needs to be fixed,” she said. “And I think it should be you.”
“Well, I think it should be you,” I said.
We went back and forth for a while, until I suggested we take a vote. By the narrow margin of 1-1, I lost.
Vasectomy, here we come.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. Which really meant, “Are you sure you want to put me through this?”
We both sat in silence, contemplating the true finality of what we were talking about.
Suddenly, the answer came from above. Specifically, upstairs, when a rubber dart hit me between the eyeballs.
“Sorry,” said my son, Max. “I was trying to hit Isabelle.”
“Dad, he’s being mean to me,” said Isabelle. “And just so you know, he didn’t make his bed yet, and he called me a bad word.”
“She told me I was stupid first,” he fired back. “Hey, Dad, you promised we could go bowling today.”
“I don’t want to go bowling, and I don’t want to do anything with him,” she said. “He’s a jerk.”
“Dad, she called me a jerk,” said Max.
“That’s because you are a jerk,” she said.
I looked at my wife. “I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.”
“Or you could leave a message with the answering service tonight,” she replied. “I’ll get the phone book.”
A week later, I had my consultation at the offices of urologist Dr. Stephen Jones at The Cleveland Clinic in Beachwood.
“So this is where it all happens,” I said to the receptionist. Then I smiled and acted like I was cutting something with my pointer and middle finger.
“Fill out these papers and we’ll be with you shortly,” she said, making her the 1,237th consecutive person who didn’t find me funny.
When I was done, a nurse called my name and led me to a waiting room.
“Before you meet with the doctor, you’ll be watching this video,” she said. “It’ll help you become more informed and might be able to answer some questions you might have for the doctor.”
Like this one: “So, doctor, at what point in your life did you think holding testicles all day was the way to go?”
As she dimmed the lights and the video started, it was quickly apparent: This was no ordinary video. It was cinematic excellence at its highest level. A true, heartfelt drama: The tragic story of a man and the sad, sad loss of his swimming, DNA-carrying pals.
The acting was brilliant. (“When my wife and I decided we didn’t want to have kids anymore, I talked to my doctor about a vasectomy.”)
The plot was fascinating. (“I was afraid it would change my masculinity and desire.”)
The danger was real. (“My doctor said most men experience swelling and some bleeding.”)
It was 11 of the most gripping minutes you could imagine. And when they showed the surgical table with several pairs of small snippers and something that resembled a Craftsman chain saw, the thing I was gripping was my groin.
After the video, I was taken to another room to meet with Dr. Jones. By all accounts, Dr. Jones is a well-respected urologist. The perfect yin for my yang.
We shook hands and, after a brief discussion, our relationship advanced significantly. “Please stand up and lower your pants,” he said.
And so I did, wondering if others gave in so easily.
“Now you see right here?” he said, pulling my testicles up as far as he could, which, for the record, wasn’t very far. “I’ll cut here and cut here, close it up and, basically, we’ll be done.”
“Will I be awake for this?” I asked.
“Well, obviously, with any medical procedure, you’ll need to be desensitized,” he said.
“What are we talking here, doc, a shot to the arm?” I asked. “The leg? The side?”
“The testicle,” he said. “One in each side.”
Doctor, honey, we need to talk.
“Now when you say, ‘a shot to the testicle,’ what exactly do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, a shot to the testicle,” he said. “Trust me, it sounds worse than it is.”
I wanted to believe him. But it’s so hard to trust someone who’s only held your scrotum once.
As I pulled up my pants, Dr. Jones said: “From what I can tell, this will be a very standard procedure. We can do it next week. You’ll be in and out of here in about an hour.”
“Shouldn’t you take more time?” I asked. “I mean, seriously, I’m not in a rush. I can take the whole day off.”
“Honestly, I’ve done thousands of these,” he said. “I don’t want to trivialize your situation, but I could probably do this with my eyes closed,” he said.
“Please don’t do it with your eyes closed,” I said. “Especially the shot to the testicles part.”
And then I left. Quickly.
When I got home, the kids were in the kitchen doing their homework.
“Where’s Mom?” I asked.
Isabelle pointed to the office. “She’s been on the computer. And she’s laughing a lot.”
I wanted to tell her all about my upcoming life-threatening major surgical procedure.
“Hi,” I said.
She just looked at me and smirked.
I saw she was on a Web site where someone, in words and pictures, had chronicled the experience of his vasectomy.
From the photos, it looked as if his swollen, red testicles were either microwaved or had inhaled a small farm animal. Or both.
“Do you find this funny?” I asked.
She didn’t answer. But my best guess was if she had actually stopped laughing, it would’ve been, “Yes.”
Later that week, I was having lunch with Dave from my office, who told me about his vasectomy experience last year.
“It’s certainly not pleasant, but it’s not the end of the world, either,” he said. “The best part is that after it’s over and you go home, you’re pretty much king for a day.”
Which, in the case of my house, probably will amount to about 45 minutes.
“A word of advice,” he continued. “Make sure you get bags of frozen vegetables and keep them on your groin for the swelling. It really helped me.”
Note to self: Never, ever eat vegetables at Dave’s house.
We even told our kids about Dad’s upcoming separation of church and state. We sat them down, and had a heartfelt talk about what was going to happen, and why they’re the only kids we’d ever want to have.
When we finished, I gave Max a hug and rubbed his back. “Doesn’t that feel good?” I said.
“Better than a shot to the testicles,” he said.
According to the preoperative instructions for my incredibly dangerous procedure that morning, I only had one thing to do to prepare: Shave.
Since testicle-shaving did not fall under my known areas of expertise, I enlisted the aid of my trusty sidekick.
“What should we do?” I asked my wife.
“Let’s use your nose-hair trimmer,” she said. “It’s got a thin blade and we could probably get pretty close.”
“By close you mean, like, Ashtabula County, right?” I asked.
Ever so slowly, she gently trimmed the hair as I stood, helplessly watching. I wondered if this was how Lorena Bobbitt got started.
“How’s that?” she asked.
“Pretty good,” I said. “The sheep have been sheared for the spring.”
When we got to the Clinic, Nurse Renee took me into the surgery room.
“I need you to take off your pants and underwear and lie on the table,” she said. “I’ll wait in the hallway.”
I was happy to hear Nurse Renee was letting me keep my shirt on. Truth be told, like most men, I don’t necessarily use my nipples. But just in case Dr. Jones had some late-morning coffee jitters, I was glad to have the protection.
Nurse Renee then left the room for approximately five minutes.
For those in the know, it takes the average 45-year-old man exactly 3.7 seconds to remove his pants and underwear. This is a result of years of practice, which meant I had a shade under five minutes to lie in bare on the table.
(Question: What do you get when you cross a naked rear end with a semi-inclined, cold medical table? Answer: Sliding, a lot of sliding.)
It felt a lot like spinning down one of those twisting water slides at Cedar Point — except there was no water, I wasn’t wearing a bathing suit, and I was about to get a shot in my testicles.
Eventually, with the vice-grip of Samson, I managed to hang onto the sides on the table when Nurse Renee re-entered.
“OK, well, let’s get started,” she said, making it sound like a big party was going to happen. A party with balloons, music and pruning shears.
The first thing she did was take a big, blue rectangular plastic thing and stick it on my hip.
“OK, what’s that?” I asked.
“It’s an electrocautery instrument,” she said. “Basically, it’s a grounding wire to make sure you don’t get an electric shock later during the cauterization.”
Shots to the testicles. Potential bleeding. Imminent swelling. Electric shock. This is proof that, no, not every day should be lived to its fullest potential.
Nurse Renee then put a tarplike covering over my lap with a hole in the middle. This allowed her a full and focused view of the “area of treatment.”
“Oh, it looks like I’m going to have to shave you down a little more,” she said. “It’s not quite clean-shaven enough for the doctor.”
“How much shorter does it need to be?” I stammered.
“Shorter,” she said. And with that, she reached in a drawer that I can only assume is known around the office as the Testicle Hair Shortening Tool drawer. She pulled out a disposable razor and proceeded to hack away at my dry testicle skin.
Thwack thwack thwack, she went. Right before my eyes, Nurse Renee morphed into Zorro with a Bic.
“There,” she said a few moments later. “That’ll work.”
Which, in theory, was better than hearing her say, “Oops.”
Next, Nurse Renee wiped some dark yellow dye on my testicles and my thighs.
“So do you enjoy your job?” I asked.
“I try not to even think about what I’m doing,” said Nurse Renee. And as I watched her brush dye on my thighs, well, I couldn’t really blame her.
A short while later, Dr. Jones came in. “Before I start, I ask everyone the same question,” he said. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“My groinal region is a dark shade of yellow, and I’ve just been shaved by the Barber of Beachwood,” I said. “Yes, I’m sure.”
He placed a warm towel on me. “Warmth helps to relax the scrotal wall and make it easier,” he explained.
Oddly enough, getting up and running away would’ve made things easier, too.
Once he took the towel off, he reached for the syringe. I knew what was coming next.
“This should work instantly,” he said. “You’ll feel a slight pinch and then you’ll be numb.”
He picked up the half-inch needle, and I did, in fact, feel a slight pinch. It wasn’t the needle though, because he hadn’t done anything yet. This pinch came from the three-foot hole I bit through my lip.
“Here we go,” he said. And then, in it went.
I felt the pinch. I also felt a burning desire to talk to God.
“OK,” said Dr. Jones to Nurse Renee, “let’s get to work.”
In a matter of moments, he punctured a hole in my scrotum, pulled out the vas, snipped a bit off, clamped it, cauterized it and dropped everything back in its rightful place.
Then he did the same thing to the other side.
Within four minutes, he was taking off his gloves.
“That’s it, we’re done,” he said. “Renee will take you through your postop instructions and you can go home,” he said.
It was unbelievable. I survived. I survived the ordeal. After literally hundreds of seconds of dealing with doctors and nurses and hospital bureaucracy, the boys and I finally got to go home.
I never thought that moment would come.
I slid off the table and carefully got dressed. I was hoping for a wheelchair exit, but since there was no wheelchair and everybody had left the room except me, I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to happen.
I slowly walked out to the lobby.
“That’s it?” asked my wife. “You’re done? We just got here.”
“That’s it?” I said. “Maybe you don’t understand what just happened in there. I’ve been to hell and back.”
“Uh-huh,” she said. “Hey, do you mind if I stop at T.J. Maxx?”
Driving home, I sat quietly in the car, contemplating my near-death experience.
“Dammit,” said my loving wife as she saw my suffering.
“It’s OK, honey. I’ll be fine soon,” I said.
“I have to take out the garbage tomorrow morning, don’t I?” she said.
At home, I gently placed myself on our bed. Nurse Crotchety handed me the frozen peas.
“You couldn’t give me the good peas?” I said. “You buy me Happy Time generic peas?”
“There’s not a Birds Eye pea on earth that deserves to be wedged between your thighs,” she said.
Occasionally over the next few hours, I would double-check in my shorts to make sure things hadn’t cracked off because I had frozen them into oblivion.
Later in the afternoon, Max came home from school and showed his concern by asking three questions:
- How was the shot?
- Can I play PS2 before I do my homework?
- Please, can I play PS2 before I do my homework?
Then Isabelle arrived and, being the caring daughter she is, she rushed into the bedroom to see her papa.
“Hi, Daddy, how did it go?” she asked.
“It went good, sweetheart,” I said. “I’ll be feeling better in the morning. I’m excited to go to your concert tomorrow night.”
She saw me lying there with the bag of peas resting on my pants under the blanket. It looked like an anthill had formed on the top of my pants.
“Um, I hope you have a bag of peas in your pants, because if you don’t, the concert’s cancelled,” she said. And with that, she walked out.
By the next morning, I was feeling less sore and I really didn’t have any of the swelling they warned me about either.
My wife came into the bedroom to check on me. “How do you feel?” she asked.
“Much better,” I said. “Y’know, the doctor said we could resume normal activity in a week.” And then I winked.
“That’s great news,” she said, leaving the room, “because I hate taking out the garbage.”