Today I visited an old friend of mine. We've been friends since about Junior High, but haven't hung out much in the last few years. Come to find out, he got a vasectomy a few weeks back. I asked the typical questions: Did it hurt? Where does the sperm go now? Are they just swimming around in your bloodstream? Can you get a girl pregnant with your sweat?
He said the body makes antibodies, hunts the swimmers down and kills them.
"In fact," he said, "I just had my stuff tested and my sperm count is zero."
He was happy about this, of course, but I've known others for whom this news has been devastating.
I teased him about the whole process of providing a sample, and we laughed about how the doctors offices have these exam rooms made over with dimmer switches on the lights, leather recliners and dirty magazines. As if you would feel comfortable under those circumstances. "Umm, okay nurse, I'll just get you that sample right away then. I'll be in here for a few minutes looking at smut and abusing myself, and then I'll come out and hand you a little of my genetic material in a cup."
My friends wife isn't one to let her husband treat himself with this sort of contempt, so they took matters into their own hands in the comfort of their own home, then rushed the sample to the lab. They were only given a 20 minute window though, so it wasn't exactly a cakewalk. (Incidentally, I heard a morning radio show once where they were wondering how long the swimmers stay viable and a technician at a sperm bank actually called in and said she had just gotten a rather large sample and she would let it sit out and see how long it was still good. She called in a daily report for three days and those little buggers were still going strong, so I think the 20 minute window is bogus. The doctor probably just had a tee time to make.)
All this talk of male reproductive mechanics reminded me of the "maturation clinics" they held in elementary school. The girls got to have a maturation clinic in fifth grade and another in sixth grade, but for the boys there was just the sixth grade one. Some of my classmates and I wondered why girls needed to have two. I speculated that the first one was to learn about boobs and the second to learn about vajayjays. I suppose I'll never know. The girls were all sworn to secrecy about it and came away with a donut and a smug sense of superiority. "We had two maturation clinics because we're more mature."
The boys maturation clinic wasn't bad. First, there were donuts for us too. Second, it was given by Brad Wilcox. Brad Wilcox was a sixth grade teacher at the time, but he's pretty well known around here because he's since written several books for Mormon youth, he is a regular speaker at Mormon youth conferences, and he's a well-respected church leader and just generally all-around nice guy.
The things I'm about to say about him may give the impression that he's creepy or weird, but he isn't. In fact, since sixth grade he's been one of my heroes. So here goes:
Mr. Wilcox used to give out assignments in class and then while you worked he'd walk around and rub your shoulders and whisper that he loved you and that you were special. Undoubtedly this was creepy for some kids and alarming to some parents, but it was benign. And for a kid like me who felt about as valuable as a dogs' hemorrhoid, it was a positive experience. (This was back when the wannabe cheerleaders used to chant, "who's the biggest dork in the class? David Retardo!" at every recess.)
Mr. Wilcox was a positive affirmations kind of guy. He worked hard to make you feel good about yourself. This is a work ethic he brought to the maturation clinic with gusto. He explained to us that we were undergoing changes, special changes, that would enable us to be fathers one day, special fathers. He talked of special little factories working overtime to make millions of special baby seeds. He explained that those factories were located in a special, wrinkly, climate-controlled pouch where we may have noticed special new hair growing.
"You may wonder," he said, " what your body is going to do with all these baby seeds. After all, you won't be needing them for several more years. Well, when your body has too many seeds, it has a natural way to get rid of them. It's called a nocturnal emission."
He then went on to explain the process in greater detail. Words like "semen", "epididymus", "testes", "seminiferous vesicles" and "erection" were thrown around like basketballs at a globetrotters show. It was mindboggling. The best part though, besides the doughnuts, was this, "'When this happens to you, don't be ashamed or scared. Do your mother a favor and put your bedsheets in the wash, then quietly go inside your closet and say to yourself, 'Yay, My body works!'" This he said while flashing his broad toothy smile and gesturing like a guy who'd just won an international foosball tournament. As if the greatest thing in the whole wide world was being awakened from a boneriffic dream to find you'd made a mess in your tighty whiteys.
(I don't know about you, but I'd take that lecture over the modern hands-on, put-a-condom-on-a-banana approach any day.)
Now if I could just figure out what exactly birds and bees have to do with any of it, I'd be in good shape.