The hardest part was shaving my balls. Before you go in for your vasectomy, the literature says, you should hop in the shower and shave all the hair off the surgical area. I called the office the day before surgery to confirm that I had to do this.
"Where do I shave?" I asked the receptionist.
"Can I drink the night before? Like, have some wine?"
"(laughing) You can drink, sure."
So I drank a bottle of wine that night. After dinner, my son kicked me in the balls. From a swing. Like, he swung INTO my balls and just obliterated them. Seemed like an omen.
Nevertheless, come the next morning, I lathered myself up real good and had a shaving party. Face first. Balls SECOND. I was terrified of nicking my scrotum, so I was as delicate as possible. I tried to think of it as a very sexy thing to do, to lessen the anxiety. And yet, even with time and care, I did a horrible job grooming myself. I dried off and there was still hair shooting out all over the goddamn place. A scrotum is essentially just a giant dust bunny. When I got to the ambulatory surgery center, the nurse asked me if I had shaved.
"I did my best," I told her.
Then she laid me down on the gurney and lifted up my gown. "Oh, you suck," she said. "I dunno where you shaved, but it wasn't here."
It says a lot about both babies and rubbers that a man would willingly pay someone to cut open his scrotum to ensure he never has to deal with either entity ever again. You know how protective men are of their genitals otherwise. Every man's worst nightmare often involves some kind of testicular injury and/or genital mutilation. Whenever someone threatens me with a kick to the balls (happens all the time), I get mad IN ADVANCE, because all I have to do is think of the kick to feel it. I know that pain better than any other pain. No, thank you. Don't joke about it. It's like making a bomb joke around a TSA agent.
But I already had three children, and I did not want any more. And unlimited unprotected sex is the biggest selling point of monogamy, so I never wanted to shell out money for overpriced Trojans ever again, either. A vasectomy would take care of both those nuisances. Sure, I could have asked my wife to go back on the pill or get an IUD or something like that. But YOU try asking a woman who has passed three babies out of her body to make yet another physical sacrifice on your behalf. It goes poorly. The vasectomy is meant to be a kind of equalizer when it comes to family planning. "OK, big boy, I had my genitals torn to pieces. Now it's your turn, you bastard." And it's hard to argue against that.
So I went to get snipped.
Every urologist is a fucking comedian. I went for my consult, and the doc had to bend me over and check my prostate. When he stuck his finger up my ass, I squirmed a bit, which is a logical reaction to a stranger poking around inside you. When he pulled out, he joked, "Well, you wouldn't do so hot in prison." HE SAID THAT. Swear to God. I bet that was the most well-worn quip in his arsenal.
I didn't blame him for adding a bit of levity to the proceedings. I'm rarely casual about my genitals. They're either hilarious (resting state) or deadly serious (bedroom). I even laugh when I see other dudes get hit in the balls, because it represents such an easy way to take a man down. Here comes the man, all big and strong and chesty, and all you gotta go is tag his balls to RUIN HIS SHIT. It's great for humility. Of course, if it were ME getting hit in the balls, I wouldn't find it funny at all. I'd be mad as shit. So these doctors probably have to kid around a bit, so that you feel more at ease when they have to go rooting around inside your ass and go cutting into your scrotum.
Because a set of dick and balls is an inherently ridiculous thing. You're walking around with a fucking miniature elephant trunk hanging off your body all day long. And the balls are just sitting there underneath like a couple of jokey sidekicks. Yeah, cock! Let's go get 'em! They do the henchman work while the dick gets all the glory. It's an insane setup. No wonder we have an entire industry built on dick jokes. So when you talk dicks and balls with friends or even doctors, the default is comedy, because dicks and balls are funny.
But now we come to the serious part, which involves making a small incision on either side of the scrotum, pulling the tubes out of your scrotum, and then snipping them and cauterizing them and stuffing them back in. Not so funny anymore. When I told my friends I was getting snipped, two of them—grown men with college degrees—both asked me, "Hey, what if they slip and cut your balls off?" As if that were a common occurrence. As if going in for hand surgery means you have a one-percent chance of having your arm amputated by accident. No, I told them, they won't cut my balls off. I'll be groovy. The doc gave me a prescription for Valium (just one pill) to take prior to the procedure, if I wanted it to calm my nerves. I declined. GRRRR I'M ALL MAN GRRR COME CUT MY BALLZ.
My wife took me to the outpatient center, and the nurse brought me in the back to strip down naked and put on booties and don one of those gowns that leaves your ass hanging out the back. Then they brought me into the operating room and laid me down on a table, with my legs held up in stirrups and spread wide. Like a pregnant woman. Payback's a bitch.
The nurse re-shaved my nuts with a disposable razor. Dry. "I'm an experienced scrotal shaver," she assured me. She was quick. No hesitancy at all. I was thinking, Please slow down and don't cut off a fold, but by the time I was done thinking it, she was done shaving it. I checked out the site, since I hadn't been fully free of pubic hair since age 11 or so. It looked like I had an alien between my legs. That was not the scrotum I once knew. She sprayed my groin with "cold spray," a spray which was cold. SO COLD. OH GOD COLD BALLS.
The doc came in and gave a look. "WHOA, NICE BIG TUBES THERE, KEMOSABE!" He took out a big needle. "Gonna feel a little bee sting." I braced myself for nightmare genital pain, but truthfully, it wasn't that bad. I hardly felt it at all. He shot up the other side, and now my ballbag was completely numb, and he could go to work. There was a curtain raised at my waist to prevent me from seeing him operate, which was for the best. As he cut and tied, we talked about the news and sports and shit like that. I felt the urge to keep the conversation going. I didn't want any lulls. During the few quiet moments, I saw clamps and latex gloves lightly coated in blood and needed more talking.
"Never seen any erections on the operating table!" the doc said.
"Well, it's not the sexiest environment."
"Unless you're a perv!"
All right, then. Anyway, I was looking to be distracted, since I was fully awake and sober for all this. After a few minutes, it was all over. Easy peasy. My balls were troopers. I was super proud of them. I wanted to take them out for ice cream. After 38 years of quality service, they had finally been decommissioned and put out to dry dock. Tourists could now visit.
"If there's a mass at the incision site the size of a golf ball or larger," the nurse told me, "Call us." I assumed I would never have to.
Here is the main selling point of a vasectomy, apart from no more kids or rubbers: the vacation. The instructions for post-vasectomy treatment are universal. Go home. Put some ice on your nuts. Don't do shit. Don't work out for at least a week. Don't shower that day. Don't have sex for at least a week. Use birth control until you've had your sperm tested for complete sterility eight weeks out. You need no added incentive to obey all these commands.
So I went home and filled a cooler with frozen peas and little kiddie lunchbox ice packs (surprisingly good for genital swelling; sorry, kids) and spent the majority of the weekend watching movies and football and telling my kids to stay away from me. It's hard to explain why Daddy cannot play right now, and why he has a bag of frozen peas strapped to his dick. But I tried my best to spell it out in general terms ("Dad had to get a little shot, and now there's a bruise") and hope they didn't bother me with more annoying questions.
I wanted to scratch my balls, but was terrified to do it. When I went to go piss, there were patches of loose gauze on either side, flush with yellow disinfectant. I snuck a peek and saw little bristles (dissolving stitches) and splotches of blood. Kinda cool. My balls were indoctrinated into the club now. They were HARD. They were prison balls.
I spent a day and a half chilling out with minimal pain; I assumed I was well past the worst of it. But when I went to finally shower, I noticed the mass: a third floating body in my sack. Bigger than a golf ball and just as solid. A GOLF BALL OH FUCK. I called the doctor's answering service.
They give you a pamphlet prior to your surgery, outlining the possible complications arising from a vasectomy. I didn't bother to read this pamphlet, because a) I am lazy, and b) I didn't really want to know. Those complications include infection; a buildup of dead, inflamed sperm (which sometimes must be removed surgically); a swelling of the duct behind the testicle (known as the epididymis—say it three times fast for fun!); chronic ball pain (very low odds, but terrifying nonetheless); and spontaneous REVERSAL of the procedure, which is somehow the least desirable possible outcome. Some guys also experience a kind of post-vasectomy depression at the loss of virility, although I did not fear this, because nothing elated me more than the prospect of not having four kids.
The last possible side effect is a scrotal hematoma: a blood clot inside the sack that can build up and cause pain and discomfort. I told the doctor on the phone about my mass. That's a hematoma, he said. Come into the office on Monday.
"You look like a guy who just had a vasectomy," the doc said as I strolled in. And it was true. Every movement I took was carefully planned so as not to upset Cowherd (I nicknamed the clot Cowherd). The only time I usually notice my balls is when they hurt, or when they get in the way. And now, they were ALWAYS in the way. They were fucking huge. The left side was turning deep purple, like my balls had gotten into a fight and lost. I was walking around carefully, and my friends noticed. Normally, I tell everyone everything (hence this post), but I had finally found a boundary to my shamelessness. Hard to talk ball clots on the playground.
I drove to the doc (SPEED BUMPS OH GOD). I had been in a good deal of pain all morning, and there's something about just seeing a doctor, and hearing shit from them, and getting definitive answers … that can give you relief. I was just glad to finally get checked out after spending a week with a blood baby growing inside my nuts. The doc made me drop my pants.
"Cup your testicles in your hands, like your hands are a jock strap," he said. I did as instructed. "Do you have time for a joke?"
"My balls are out, doc."
"This won't take long ..." It was already too long. "The Pollack is at the beach—I can tell this because I'm Polish—and he sees the Italian guy with all the girls hanging out with him. So he asks the Italian, 'How do I get all these women?' And the Italian says to stick a potato down his pants. Well, the Pollack does it, and after a week, he's got nothing. So he goes to the Italian and says, 'It's not working!' And the Italian says, 'That's because you gotta put it down the FRONT.'"
"Hilarious, doc." Always with the fucking jokes. I needed serious dick talk right now.
"I told you that because it was relevant here." He gestured down at my balls. "You feel the pain receding?"
"Elevation. Keep them elevated for a while and the clot will drain. The pain will subside in a few days, but the clot will take a few weeks to dissolve." I don't know what any of that had to do with potatoes, but his little Dr. House routine helped. My balls needed to stay sky high. So I went back home and wedged a series of things under my nuts to keep them up: ice packs, balled socks, blocks, etc. Everything in the freezer has now probably come into indirect contact with my balls. We aren't gonna eat those peas. We gotta get new peas.
When I was 3 years old, I suffered a mysterious ball infection when my family was on vacation in Hawaii. I remember being in some old Trader Vic's-type restaurant, with a bunch of colorful aquariums surrounding the joint, just lying across the banquette and clutching my nuts in agony. It might be my first lasting memory, which is probably why I'm a shitty person. But ol' Cowherd down there is conjuring up memories of that kiddie trauma. I remember the restaurant more clearly now. I remember seeing the veins in my nuts bulging and aching. It was unpleasant. This is unpleasant. Right after the surgery, I was all ready to type up a five-star Yelp of the procedure. "Marvelous! Would return!" I was ready to be an ambassador for BIG SNIP.
But now Cowherd is still swimming around down here. I checked out similar cases on the internet (NEVER DO THIS), and there are many horror stories from guys who have needed their clots drained and had them come back and all kinds of other terrible shit. One guy told me his clot took months to get rid of. He couldn't work out for six damn weeks, which is not good if you have a shitty back like I do. I had a one in 100 chance of getting this complication. Those are fine odds. I guess I would risk it again. But that still leaves many, many men out there who have had Cowherds clogging up their taint. I feel for them all. And after all this, I bet my wife STILL says childbirth was a million times worse. It ain't right.
Five days after the surgery, I couldn't hold back any more. I hadn't gone that long without nutting since pre-puberty, so I went to the bathroom and—gingerly—did my business. My bag was still dark purple, but no matter. The train had left the station. I was committed now.
It took no time at all. No blood. No pain. VICTORY. The relief was enormous, mentally and physically, given that I had literal blue balls. The sensation was a BIT off, but by the fourth time around (next day!), everything was operating as normal. Back in fucking business. Nice. All I wanted was to retain the ability to nut in the toilet with my dignity intact. The clot is still down there: coagulating, pulsing, angry when touched. I ain't exactly happy to wait months for him to go away, but it's out of my control, and ultimately, I'm the one who chose to get his nuts cut open anyway. Only you can decide if it's worth the risk. All I know is that you can handle a lot of shit in life so long as you do your best to handle it with some good cheer. And in my case, it's relatively easy to keep the mood light, because my balls got killed, and balls are funny. Everyone's a fucking comedian.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter@drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew's book,Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Illustration by Jim Cooke; scissors photo via Shutterstock.
The Concourse is Deadspin's home for culture/food/whatever coverage. Follow us on Twitter.