Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Paging Dr. Snipowitz. Dr. Snipowitz to Urology

Once Matthew was born, Kara and I knew that was going to be the extent of our brood. Our kids were bookends, one of each, a boy and a girl, so it seemed even and entirely practical to keep it to just four people in our family. Kara only had one sibling and I only had one, so we each came from a similar mindset that the perfect family numbers in four. Decent cars are made for four (unless you like riding the hump). Kitchen tables come with four chairs. Disneyland rides are designed for four. Strollers come in tandem configurations, and we only have three extra bedrooms in our house… one of which is my office.

If another mouth to feed... I mean, bundle of joy were to enter our lives, it would be like starting over again. Matthew’s nearing the self-sufficiency stage in his life where we don’t have to rent a small cargo trailer every time we want to go somewhere, an extra diaper in the backseat pocket of the truck and we can go anywhere without all the paraphernalia associated with infants.

Plus, I’m not getting any younger, not that that has a lot to do with it, but the older I get, the less time I get to spend in my children’s lives and the less time I get to be a grandparent (hopefully)…not that I’m in a hurry…you hear that Natalie?!?

About three months ago I submitted the appropriate paperwork to get a vasectomy, a shockingly easy and inexpensive thing to do, thanks to Kara's insurance plan (a reversal, however, isn’t so easy nor is it so inexpensive). There are many reasons why I would want one, the primary one you could probably guess pretty accurately, but a vasectomy is a permanent solution to an ever-present problem. Namely, the many times that Kara and I thought for a few days that a third little life was going to grace our world, but when we discovered that it wasn’t to be, neither of us wanted to admit that we were relieved.

The alternative birth control methods are unattractive, inconvenient and disruptive to the “moment,” so it was decided that me getting a vasectomy was the safest and most accurate solution.

Tonight, I had to attend the mandatory class to discuss the procedure and ask any pressing questions. The room was filled with about 40 men of varying ages, all interested in having their most sensitive of parts get very close to the one of many things we’ve spent most of our lives protecting them from. The guy across from me and I exchanged the usual corny pleasantries that two men experience when in a semi-uncomfortable situation (lame jokes about the video we were about to see and a couple of snide comments about a “group discount” because of all the people in the room), but mostly because the nurse that was organizing the paperwork and the initial instructions did nothing but confuse everyone.

Apparently, we were supposed to highlight our name on a check-in list to prove that we had taken a class, fill out a form where our names were highlighted and not fill out part of the form that was equally highlighted. In addition, if your form had a red x mark, you needed to see the doctor after the class for reasons she wouldn’t explain, but if you had a yellow check mark, you were fine. When making these checkmarks and x marks, they may have failed to notice that the paper was yellow, so the red highlighter looked orange and the yellow one looked green…for some reason.

The doctor missed many great opportunities to make the class fun, as me and the guy next to me (Eric was his name—I looked on his form) exchanged a series of puns and one-liners to pretty much every comment he made. The doctor wrote everything of importance on a white board and then he proceeded to read it to us… for the benefit of the truly stupid, which was a relief they were taking an active roll in not passing on any more genes into the shallow end of the pool.

Then they played the video to alleviate any questions we may have about the procedure. At this point, let me remind you that Kaiser is a multi-billion-dollar facility with state-of-the-art equipment capable of the most remarkable medical procedure. With that in mind, I was expecting an impressive video presentation, one worthy of at least an Emmy equivalent in medical arena. The video—I was surprised it was on a DVD and not a reel-to-reel—was from 1978. I was five years old when they first started to inform men about the benefits of a vasectomy, and here it is, nearly 30 years later, and I’m watching it.

It was an insult to the intelligence of the dumbest guy in the room. It starts off with a guy barbecuing on his back deck. He’s wearing a pastel IZOD shirt and those too-short OP shorts with the white piping running along the seams. Next to him, his quaint family is swimming in an above-ground pool, his blonde wife complete with a feathered Charlie’s Angels hairdo. The IZOD guy started his canned spiel about how he was done having children and wanted to insure that his wife won’t get pregnant again. This is pretty much when I stopped listening, and I—along with every other man in the room—hoped this video would end with a little 1970s bow-chicka-bow-wow music so as to display the efficiency of the results. However, it wasn’t to be.

Then we had to suffer through the father-tells-his-son-about-sex scene, as they explained in excruciating detail the magical trek of the lone and brave sperm as he traverses the fallopian tubes in search of his quarry, the elusive egg. We knew all of this. We learned nothing from the diagrams of a naked man. We gleaned no knowledge from seeing the stereotypical cross section of an eternally flaccid male genitalia and cartoon journey of our hero, the sperm, that would embarrass Hanna-Barbara. We understand reproduction...that's what we were all there!

The man narrated the 10-minute film, explaining his deep desires not to lose sexual function, activity and interest, and every time the question of sexual desire came up, they flashed to the wife, attentively and actively listening to the doctor as he read his lines. She raised a single eyebrow when the doctor said the word erection, which I thought was hilarious.

The best part of the video was the end, after the man came home (in their late 70s Plymouth hatchback), he sat with some ice on the couch where his wife patted his back and looked empathetic, and it showed him slacking off at work, making his coworker unload a giant bag of mulch while he grabbed a little lunch bag from the trunk, and finally… finally, they addressed “getting back into action,” the fruits of the whole ordeal.

It involved a waterbed, an actual honest-to-God, 1970s-era waterbed. I believe the term used in this situation is"ocean motion," but I might have read that in a history book somewhere it's that freakin' old.

I kid you not, the bed sloshed around like a kiddy pool when the wife sultrily laid down into it and planted on him a kiss that could only lead to a thorough testing of the newly disconnected pipes. He smiled at the camera and said something to the fact that he was happy he could really now express his love without fear of his wife getting pregnant. He reached up and switched off the light and rolled over to meet her in the middle of the gushy bed. The scene faded out to black and a recap, for those that weren’t following it closely enough.

What a waste of time. The whole 45 minute class contained nothing I hadn’t known before, nothing I hadn’t read in the introduction packet they first sent you when you expressed interest in the procedure. It wasn’t like I went out of my way to get information either, because it is a straightforward process: they cut two holes in you (in places you sooner avoid getting holes cut), they snip a tube on either side, sew you up and send you out in the world to “go forth and not procreate” with a bag of frozen peas on your crotch.

And why did I have to go to this class? Well, thanks the State of California which decided that the responsibility of an individual to make a decision about the course of his life should be the responsibility of the elected officials. They need to hold our hand, make sure we are well informed about the future of our testicles, and that we don’t sue because we went down a road that ended with a knife in our nuts when that’s not exactly what we expected would happen.

Funny enough, the people who should be sterilized from passing on their idiocy to the future genetic makeup of the world were conspicuously absent from this class. I looked around and it was mostly respectable looking guys—something of a rarity, an anomalous collection, the celocampth of men. I guess we decided early on that our wives’ uteruses were not clown cars; having 10 kids is best left to our ancestors who didn’t expect half of them to survive and they had acreage to plow come spring and needed to borne a workforce. And that was back in a time when going on welfare was a shameful thing, now its how many kids can I have to boost the check from Uncle Sam?

So says Harvey Danger: "Only stupid people are breeding." And here I am, trying to back out of the race.

Meanwhile, I'm sure I'm going to catch hell from my mother, ever armed with a deluge of "what ifs."

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