“How’s your scrotum?” asks the doctor. Even though I’m standing there with my pants down, the question catches me off guard. Only much later will I realize that my answer should have been, “Hangin’ in there!” But I wasn’t ready for the question. After all, this is my first vasectomy.
Actually, it’s just the consultation before the procedure. They make you explain your motivations (which would seem pretty obvious), and they in turn explain what’s in store. I planned to remain mostly ignorant of the mechanics of the operation, but then the doctor jauntily says, “I’m going to make an incision on the side of your scrotum, pull out your vas deferens, snip ’em, then cauterize each end so they don’t grow back together.” I think I heard as far as “pull out your…” and then barfed and passed out. No, not really. But figuratively, I barfed and passed out.
Some people will tell you that vasectomies are safe, routine and mostly painless. Those people are called “women.” But when you talk to guys who’ve had them—well, if you’re thinking about getting one, just don’t do that. Because the range of outcomes I hear about varies from, “I drove myself home afterward,” to “I know a guy who died.” It is probably not a coincidence that I heard the latter story before any others and it subsequently took me several years to schedule my appointment.
Once I begin talking to friends about what’s in store, I learn that seemingly every guy I know already had a vasectomy. That would be encouraging but for, of course, all the stories. One friend insists that the word “grapefruits” best describes his post-op swelling. Another—a white guy, as it happens—tells me that afterward, “My junk got really big and turned black. I got worried and called my doctor to complain about how everything was turning black, and as I was talking it occurred to me that my doctor was, and presumably still is, a black woman. There were a couple of awkward moments after that. I didn’t call her again.” Another friend says that his wife was in the room during the procedure and his doctor offered to let her do the snipping, like she was the mayor at the ceremonial opening for a new bridge. I don’t go to that doctor.
I do, however, go to the pharmacy and avail myself of my prescription for one Xanax, which I’m instructed to take an hour before surgery so I can chill the hell out. Again, friends put that fear in me. “I’d take that plus a Valium,” says Grapefruit Guy. Another friend, a psychiatrist, also opines that I probably need a higher dose. But ultimately, as on so many other occasions, I’m both educated and reassured by hip-hop lyrics. Specifically, I’m at the gym listening to Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” when I hear the line, “Did half a Xan, 13 hours till I land, had me out like a light.” That’s totally encouraging. Why, I’ll be taking twice as much Xanax as Travis Scott requires! I’ll take a whole Xan and not care about my glands, uhhh. Yea. Huh.
On the appointed day, I present myself at the doctor’s office and soon I’m laying back, softly shrouded in a benzodiazepine haze while a nice nurse shaves my scrotum. I’m sober enough to realize that the fact that I’m not self-conscious about this situation must indicate that the drug is working. When she’s done manscaping, the nurse slaps a metallic pad on my thigh. “What’s that?” I ask, and she tells me it’s the electrical ground for the cauterizer that will soon be used to burn my delicate insides. No problem! Then the doctor comes in, and I forget to ask him if I should reschedule my jumping-jack competition for later in the week. I wanted to show him I’m not one of those uptight vasectomy patients, but I’m too preoccupied with what’s about to happen. Local anesthesia is a miracle, but it still comes from a needle.
The procedure is quick and mostly painless. I try not to think about what the zap-sizzle of the cauterizer signifies, and I’m mostly successful. Then a friend drives me home, I eat a pile of drunken noodles and take a three-hour nap atop a bag of frozen peas. For the next two days, I’m never far from a bag of vegetables. At one point, the bag breaks but I don’t realize it until I stand up and find that my pants are all wet. I’m a mother hen to my frozen peas and my eggs hatched.
The rest of the recovery is pretty easy. As I write this, it’s been 10 days and I’m almost back to normal, even if I probably still wouldn’t want to hop in on a spirited round of double Dutch. And my friends have been so great and supportive. I was barely home before one of them texted, “How you doing, you sterilized bastard?” Aww, you know. Hangin’ in there. ◆
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