Great Balls of Fire!

by Turk Pipkin - Originally Appeared in Playboy Magazine

 

I don’t know about you, but before I let someone set my testicles on fire, I’d be damn sure I didn’t want to have any more kids. And when you get a vasectomy, guys, that’s what they do: set your balls on fire. I’ve seen the white hot smoke spiraling from my groin and sniffed the bittersweet aroma of my burning genitalia. It’s not as alarming as the smell of napalm in the morning, but it’s close.

   On the other hand, there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. Even though I always liked the idea of a big family, after the birth of our second child a year ago, my wife and I were both in agreement that we had pretty much filled our quota. Like a lot of couples in their 30s, it had taken us years to get pregnant. That’s years of wild, carefree sex, doing it like teenagers at the drop of a zipper, whenever and wherever we felt like it. It had been almost a decade since we had to commit ourselves to any serious birth control, and neither the side effects of the pill or a wallet-full of sheep-bladder dick waders sounded all that exciting to us. To put it bluntly: we were tired of fucking with birth control. We wanted to do it the way it’s meant to be: skin to skin, but without producing any more off-spring. What’s the advantage of a fifteen year monogamous relationship in the time of AIDS if you still can’t do what you want with your own true love?

   Truthfully, it was hard to argue against it. I’m no spring chicken; and though my wife occasionally gets asked for an ID when she’s out for a drink—something she’s darn proud of, I guarantee—neither of us relish the idea of raising kids past retirement. It was never mentioned, but I imagine my wife also liked the idea that I wasn’t trying to preserve my options for a future mid-life crisis and offspring with a bimbo to be named at a later date. To top it off, the whole thing was free. Just a few years back, very few health insurance companies would pay for vasectomies, but most have now reconsidered, knowing that it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to shell out five hundred bucks once, than to pay a hundred thousand in medical and dental on just one child through college.

   Among the permanent birth controls available, a vasectomy—the permanent cutting of the vas deferens which carries sperm from the testicles to their appointed destination—is clearly the simplest and safest. A tubal ligation, by contrast, involves surgical entry through the woman’s belly button, which—much as I hated to admit it—sounded even worse than messing with my balls. Still, mention a vasectomy to most men and they’ll double over in mock pain like someone mentioned the word “castration.” Get over it guys, sometimes a man’s just got to be a man, or half a man, if that’s what it takes.

   My mind was already made up when my buddy Harry Anderson came into the picture, and that’s when the going got weird. After Harry’s sitcom “Dave’s World” filmed an episode about Dave getting a vasectomy, Harry told me he too was ready to subject himself to the unkindest cut, not on his stage nuts this time, but on the real ones. And as long as we were both going to suffer, Harry reasoned, why should we suffer alone. The next thing I knew he was suggesting a road trip to Vegas for double vasectomies on the Fourth of July, our very own declaration of Independence.

   This so-called vasectamathon would be performed by a fan of Harry’s, a gonzo urologist by the unlikely name of Dr. Rod, and Rod’s busty, I mean trusty assistant, Nurse Kielbasa. Surely, I thought, Harry was yanking my chain with some grand practical joke, but one call to Dr. Rod’s office confirmed that we were in for a road trip worthy of Hunter Thompson himself. Call it “Fear of Loving in Las Vegas.”

   Despite all the dick jokes that kept popping up like erections in a boys choir, deep down in the bottom of my scrotum I had a feeling I was headed for an ugly scene. My wife, however, was so enamored of my vasectomy that when I suggested that I receive a commemorative blow job every year on the Fourth of July, she readily agreed to the deal.

I was packing my jock strap when Harry called with some shady sounding news indicating that Dr. Rod had somehow become indisposed or had perhaps even left the state (which now that I think about it, seems to happen to a lot of Harry’s friends in Nevada). Not wanting to know any more about this ugly business than was absolutely necessary, I simply had to admit that the game had been called without so much as a single foul ball.

   About to lose a lifetime of scheduled head—an unparalleled signing perk—I decided it was time to take matters into my own hand, so to speak. Harry declined my offer of a visit from the mobile vet (who was already coming out to neuter the cat), so I suggested dueling vasectomies with a legendary Austin urologist by the name of Dr. Chopp. That’s Dr. Richard Chopp, yes, as in Dick Chopp. Tell me truthfully, how could Harry decline? I’d called his elementary school Nurse Kielbasa gag and raised him a doctoral dick joke.

   After an unscheduled layover at the DFW airport bar, Harry got off the plane in Austin already anesthetized for the vasectomy, which wasn’t scheduled until the next day. He had a crazed look in his eye and a cheap bottle of warm champagne the stewardesses had given him in celebration of his impending scrotal bravery.

   “I panicked on the way to the airport,” he told me as we waited in front of baggage claim swilling the bad bubbly. “And decided maybe I should make a deposit at a sperm bank. But it was the weekend, so I had to use an ATM.”

   “Well I hope they get it in the right account.” I replied, as a nearby woman rushed her two French poodles away so they wouldn’t have to hear us act like total dicks, something we’d be incapable of in less than 24 hours.

   We’d pretty much sobered up by the time we walked into Chopp’s office the following morning, both a little apprehensive but determined to go through with it. “It’s for my wife,” said Harry, “and for me that’s the bottom line.” Of course right after that noble statement, he told the receptionist, “I don’t want you to think I’m nervous... but you can cut ‘em if you can find ‘em.”

   Harry went first, which was my idea, and not hearing any loud screams, I soon followed Dr. Chopp into his office for some last minute counseling about the dim prospects of vasectomy reversal operations. I told him I had already been informed that the procedure would not change my sexual behavior—which came as quite a disappointment to my wife—and he didn’t find anything funny in that quip, or in anything else I said. Shoot, I was hoping for Shecky Green in a lab coat doing a lounge act for my bollucks and me: “What do you say to a guy with five penises? Say, those pants fit like a glove!” Despite his name, Dick Chopp turned out to be quiet, efficient, and bordering on humorless. Sticking to a well-rehearsed routine, Chopp verified that I didn’t want to have any more children, then reassured me that a decade old preliminary study suggesting a relationship between vasectomies and prostate cancer had been recently debunked by several medical surveys, something I’d damn sure verified already.

   I would have preferred to have my family jewels lathered and shaved by a beautiful blonde—I never have found out what nurse Kielbasa looks like—but had to settle for an efficient razoring from a male nurse by the name of John Manly. With the irony of the names starting to overwhelm me, I asked Dr. Chopp how he ended up as a urologist doing vasectomies and circumcisions.

   “Destiny,” he answered in total deadpan as he picked up a long syringe in one hand and my nuts in the other.

   So I asked John Manly, who was arranging scalpels on a tray, how a guy with his moniker came to be an assistant to the nutty professor, and Manly said, “Coincidence.”

   Finally I asked the other orderly how a guy with a completely normal name came to be working with Dick Chopp and Mr. Manly.

   “I was here first,” he replied without batting an eye.

   Well, at least they wouldn’t be making jokes about the size of my unit:, as in; “Your  balls may swell to the size of normal testicles, but I don’t think we can do anything for your penis”.

   For all you guys out there who are considering a vasectomy and would like to know what specific medical delights await you, the bottom line is, if you’ve ever had a medium swift kick in the nuts—make that TWO kicks in the nuts—then you know just what to expect. After you’ve been swabbed and shaved, the Doc is gonna sneak up on you with a needle full of local anesthetic and probably tell you it’s going to hurt a bit. You may even flinch when the needle gives your scrotum a little prick—so to speak—but when the urologist sticks the needle directly into your vas deferens, it truly feels like you walked too close behind a nervous mule.

   Once the anesthetic takes hold, your sphincter relaxes, your breathing resumes and you basically feel nothing as the doctor makes a centimeter long incision in your scrotum, then cuts and removes a section of your now numb vas deferens. Cauterizing the open ends in a cloud of acrid white smoke, the doctor also ties them off as a double safety measure, kind of like a belt and suspenders. (Despite this overkill it is remotely possible for your testicles to later undergo a spontaneous formation of a new vas deferens, which shows just how determined those little guppies can be.) Finally Doc stitches up your scrotum and then repeats the whole thing on the other side with another kick in the nuts. If you think the second shot will be less painful than the first, I’m sorry to say you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

   Despite all this, Harry and I conceded afterward that none of it was as bad as our paranoid fears. An hour after we arrived, we were laughing our way out of the clinic when Dr. Chopp, in a final burst of levity, told us to, “Hurry back, the next one is free.” Yeah, well if there was gonna be a next time, pal, I damned sure wouldn’t sober up first.

   Not eager to have any rambunctious children bouncing on our laps, Harry and I took a cab to Austin’s top-shelf hotel where we began to knock back their top-shelf margaritas—dollar for dollar, still the finest pain killer known to man or pharmacist. After three or four with no salt, we limped to our rooms, and every time we felt the slightest twinge of pain—which was pretty damn often—we ordered a couple more margaritas. At some point, the bartenders must have finally decided all that ice and lime juice was going to kill us because they finally just sent up a full bottle of tequila which we plowed into like, well, like two guys who’d just had their nuts set on fire.

   The next morning, Harry barged into my room apparently suffering no ill effects from either the vasectomy or the tequila, and seemingly ready to hit the gym. When it became clear that I could hardly walk, much less conquer the Stairmaster, Harry had a snappy explanation for his more speedy recovery.

   “I think we can attribute the difference,” he said, “to the fact that you had the surgery done, and I did not.”

   Yes, now that would be a practical joke to remember.

   Once on my feet, I felt a little better, and we made it till noon before a distinct rise in below-the-waist throbbing had us hustling for some recreational pain killers and the nearest restaurant whose name started with either “El” or “La” for some Tex-Mex and more margaritas. It was not until the following evening that we found an anesthetic superior to the frozen painkillers, and that was courtesy of Willie Nelson on his bus prior to a concert. Willie’s solution, unfortunately, is a prescription that neither the AMA nor the DEA seem willing to write for any of us.

   On day three, when I finally strolled bow-legged to the airport gate to see Harry onto the plane back to sit-com land, he had arrived at a new zen-like perspective of our experience. “Sure we had our nuts sliced and diced like a ripe tomato, and yeah we’ve been limping all over town,” he told me philosophically. “But on the other hand: we’re sterile.”

   So having killed two stones for one bird, as we finally defined the procedure, I went back to my office and tried to get back to work. Somehow between the hangover and the throbbing balls, I found it rather hard to concentrate and soon adjourned for yet another meeting with my friendly neighborhood bartender. A couple of days later I was still at it, knocking back the black and tans at a local brew pub and telling the last of my pitiful dick jokes.

   “The night before the vasectomy,” I explained to the bartender, “I told my wife she could kiss my vas deferens good-bye: in fact, I insisted upon it!”

   Of course, I’m a big enough boy to know that, in a good marriage, there’s no insisting on much of anything, but my wife, bless her sweet, beautiful heart, is still offering to honor our original Fourth of July agreement. And it’s a darn good thing because I finally realized that I’ve forever abandoned the argument that a blow job is the finest form of birth control yet invented.

   According to Doctor Chopp, I’ll be safely shooting blanks after twenty or thirty more ejaculations, and my wife and I are counting the days (and nights) in a most enjoyable fashion until that first sperm check.

   In retrospect, I realize that the purpose of the dick jokes and the booze was not only to distract myself from the physical discomfort, but also from the emotional adjustment of coming to grips with the fact that I will never have a son. Yes, I know that I embarked upon this mission with exactly that purpose in mind, and no I am not haunted by second thoughts and deep regrets; but on the first couple of nights back home, I did suffer from an ennui similar to my wife’s postpartum depression following the birth of our children.

   Ah, but there is a happy ending, and it comes to me over and over with the daily realization that my wife seems to love me now more than ever, that boy or no boy, my two little girls are already my dreams come true in a fashion much grander than I could have ever imagined. And what the fuck, if we change our minds, we can always adopt.