Some people say that real men love Jesus. I know some people say this, because they say it loudly on bumper stickers affixed to Mustangs and muscle trucks. To that, I offer this retort: Real men don't advertise their spirituality on a bumper sticker. I'd like to see that on a car while I'm stuck in rush-hour traffic on the 8-East one afternoon. Yes, I would.
Since I tagged along with my mister to a doctor appointment, however, I've come to an additional conclusion about how to define machismo, and it has nothing to do with the big guy in the sky. Unless that big guy is the stork, in which case it totally has to do with him—specifically, with stopping him from making deliveries: I believe that real men get vasectomies. Stick that on your car and rev it.
The process began with scheduling, the most basic healthcare negotiation made supremely complex by bureaucracy. Pinning down V-Day took no time at all.
Scheduling one visit with Primary Care Physician for referral: Two months.
Getting consultation appointment with Urologist: Six weeks.
Scheduling surgery: Three months.
Time between scheduling surgery and finally getting snipped: Additional three months.
Having the doctor cancel twice (each time within 24 hours of surgery, once because of his Christmas vacation that he apparently didn't see coming, and again for something important, presumably a golf game with a pharmaceutical representative): Priceless.
So it was that after less than a year of waiting on hold to the tune of uncountable minutes and looped Neil Diamond Muzak, I accompanied my husband to the office of Dr. I'll Fix Your Plumbing When It's Convenient For Me And/Or If I Damn Well Feel Like It.
Steeping in our powerlessness, we sat well past the re-re-scheduled appointment time beneath the fluorescent lights of a waiting room that resembled a sanatorium. The bare walls were a sour shade of beer-diluted urine, admittedly apropos and not ironic in the least. The paint was probably once white—we were in a hospital clinic, after all—and it's unlikely that designers attempted color therapy by selecting Ralph Lauren's “Evocative Sunlight” in eggshell. Even without offensive lighting, this old paint was more closely related to yellow snow than first snow.
The limited décor was as depressed and apathetic as the two sunken-eyed receptionists crammed into their chart-cluttered cubby behind a wall of ultra-thick glass. One sat illuminated by the glow of her computer screen, eyes glassed over; the other had a phone pressed hard to her ear. Neither acknowledged our arrival.
The door leading from the waiting area to the bowels (ha!) of the misery behind it required a pass-code to be punched into a number pad to unlock it. For an hour, I watched the frowning staff sigh and stomp around, escorting mostly elderly men—in obvious states of discomfort—in and out, and I wondered at the demoralizing level of security.
It was as if we were in a detention center, not a doctor's office and I finally decided I couldn't much blame the disgruntled women at the front desk for being so acerbic. If anyone were to ask me the famous James Lipton question “What job would you least like to do during your lifetime?” my answer would instantly be: Work there.
We finally had our turn to move beyond the vault door, and, to my surprise, we weren't greeted by Nurse Ratched.
“Happy”—not her real name, but she was the only person we encountered who was—walked us to the procedure room. Cold at first, she was a seasoned and hilariously funny Filipina nurse who, for incomprehensible reasons, had abandoned pediatrics for penises.
Sam changed and lay on an exam table. I chatted up Happy about homemade lumpia and how many wieners she'd seen during her years in urology. It seemed like a reasonable segue at the time. She hooted with glee about a number too high to recall as she cloaked Sam in a blue surgical tarp with a strategically placed square hole. The only parts not covered were his head, his sock-clad feet and his limp sea urchin, if you know what I mean. It reminded me of anatomy class. It was not pretty.
A doctor walked in with a 12-year-old intern loping along behind him—neither was the guy my husband had consulted months earlier. The lead guy, who barely bothered to introduce himself, was older than Rip van Winkle and had all the personality of a health inspector with severe gastric distress and a grudge. He had a steady hand, though, and that's what matters when injecting anesthetic directly into testicles, the most painful part, as it turned out. Sam dropped a couple F-bombs, but otherwise, he was cool. Probably because he was sweating so much. But he pushed right through it. He was manly.
R.V. Winkle tossed his syringe on the table, grunted some directions to Happy and left for a while so the drug could take effect. Happy then “prepped” the “area” by washing Sam down with iodine. All over. Flippy-floppy, back and forth. And she wasn't all that gentle. She was all business, that was clear, and I could see her pulling down $1,000 an hour were she to give it all up for high-end escort service.
Given his state of numbness in that region—or perhaps it was because unfamiliar hands were fondling him—Sam began to laugh uncontrollably. Which led Happy, and then me, to break down. It was the closest thing to a threesome that we've come to in this marriage, and I gotta say, it was fun. And I was over on the sidelines with my camera. Happy did all the work. Still, I craved a cigarette when it was over.
Dr. Bedside Manner and Doogie Howser came back, the former wearing a disposable liquid-repellant apron that looked like one that might be worn in a slaughterhouse. He began the first incision and within 20 minutes, he'd snipped my husband's pearly white vas deferens with me looking on.
And just like that! Nine months, two weeks and several hours later, it was done. It was so simple I could have done it at home with a bottle of bourbon, a steak knife, a couple bag clips and some twist ties. With a bag of frozen peas and some very special underwear that Happy threw in for free, Sam made it through to the other side. He's manly like that. He's a real man who won't be telling you about it on a bumper sticker, mostly because I told you about it here.