My 15 minutes of shame

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TVme: Uncool and the gang in a warehouse somewhere in Dublin.

I was meant to have a vasectomy two kids ago.  My wife and I had what is known as ‘the gentleman’s family’ – a boy and a girl – and we were officially done. She went back to work, and while her wage, combined with my salary, wasn’t a king’s ransom, things were going to be ok. We talked about our sadness that we weren’t going to have any pitter patter of tiny feet in the house, but we knew it was the best to keep it to two. I made vague plans to get meself fixed, and we continued with life, and life continued with us.

One month into her new job, she felt a bit odd. Odd in a familiar way. Another little person came along nine months later.  Which was fine, it was going to be grand and I’d get that vasectomy someday soon now. A few months later, she started to get that familiar odd feeling and hey presto, welcome to People Carrier Town, population me and my four kids. I am now at the stage where when I tell people how many children I have I sometimes add ‘with the same person’ at the end, as it sounds like I might be a feckless Jeremy Kyle-style Johnny Appleseed, roaming east Cork knocking people up. Four is a crazy number of humans to create – when I told a friend of mine that my wife and I were expecting again his response was ‘dear god man, she isn’t a clown car you know’.

So this was the point where I actually picked up the phone and booked a vasectomy. The Catholic in me would say the procedure was atonement for forcing my poor wife into four pregnancies, but really it was more like the moment in Se7en when Kevin Spacey’s serial killer character walks into the cop station and asks to be arrested. So to help me go through with it – and to help pay for it, as the procedure is 450 –  I wrote about the whole experience. You can read the entire lot here, it is quite hand-wringy and po-faced, but it generally covers all of it – including some basic guidelines for shaving your genitals. See kids, newspapers still got it.

The features editor liked the article and sent it off to media outlets ahead of publication. I’m not sure why it took off the way it did – it was possibly that this is an issue that most men don’t talk about, despite it being incredibly common. For whatever reason, this was the point where my 15 minutes of shame began.

First was the Ray D’Arcy show on Today FM. Ray was on holidays, so it was Paddy from the Undertones instead. Teenage kicks indeed. It went fine, I even got to reference The Simpsons when talking about the squirm factor of talking about the procedure – ‘it’s like when you see someone getting hit by a football in the groin, even if you’ve never been hit by a football in the groin’. Well, the sound engineer got the reference anyway.

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A gift from Today FM. Apparently this is meant to look like Ray D’Arcy.

Then it was on to Red FM, where I was interviewed by Neil Prendeville, because if you’re going to openly discuss your genitals with someone in the media, he really is the ideal person. Neil was great, we laughed about the whole thing, which is the sometimes best way to approach sensitive topics like this. I assumed at this point that this would be it – one national and one local radio station had covered it, so the others wouldn’t be interested anymore, right? Wrong. Later in the week I had the sublime pleasure of going on one of the most listened-to shows in the country, Today With Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1. On I went, along with a relationship expert and Dr Andrew Rynne, who is a bit of a pioneering legend when it comes to vasectomies, having once been shot by a former patient.

At this stage I was an old hand at being on radio, and afterwards I trundled back to the office to enjoy the hate hoots of co-workers and slump back into total obscurity. Not quite. I was asked to go on Ireland AM on TV3, because nothing says ‘breakfast TV’ like an old guy talking about his sausage and eggs. We agreed a date – November 7th, which as I’m sure you know is World Vasectomy Day.

The researcher told me they were trying to get an expert or two on with me as Mark Cagney was away on holidays, meaning it’d just be me and the lovely Sinead Desmond talking about my junk. The seventh arrived, and as my dawn taxi slid through the grim industrial estates of Dublin’s hinterlands, I thought ‘this must be what it’s like to get trafficked to a snuff movie’ – and, much like a snuff movie, TV3 only paid my taxi fare one way. We eventually got to TV3’s studios, which is basically a big industrial unit in the middle of several other industrial units. I was greeted by an intern who was running up and down corridors trying to do seventy million jobs at once; she told me she was also interning at a radio station in the evenings. Life in the media: Non-stop glamour.

After some awkward loitering near the complimentary muffins, and even more awkward loitering near Lovely Girl Emeritus Sinead Noonan, I was ushered down to make-up to be beautified. Having a face that is already a full-scale Dale Winton shade of tangerine, I didn’t need much pan stick, just a ton of powder to try and tone down the mirrorball effect of my skin. Then it was off to backstage to lurk behind the set and let the fear take over. Rugby legend Shane Byrne was on before me, then they cut to break and it was hammer time. I was ushered over to the couch. Shane shook my hand and said ‘fair play’ while wincing. Not sure if that was about getting the snip or just being stupid enough to go on TV and talk about it. So down I sat with the lovely Sinéad. They had failed to get anyone else on, so it was just the two of us, talking about my frank and beans, as you do. I don’t remember much from the interview, I talked about family, getting the snip, public reaction to the article, and how online comments sections are just a Fight Club for the terminally deranged. And then that was it. Somebody shouted ‘cut’, possibly ironically, and it was over. I got my pan stick and powder removed, and went off to visit a relative who was being treated in the Blackrock Clinic. I got there, and having been too nervous to eat brekkie, decided to get a coffee and non-complimentary muffin. While sitting there I felt a tap on my shoulder, and looked up to see a woman looking at me with a somewhat furrowed brow. I assumed she was about to ask me if I was wearing make-up (I was), but no, it was much better than that.

‘Sorry, but were you just on TV? On Ireland AM?’

Oh my god yes I was. Yes I was and now I was being recognized in public, like Kim Kardashian or Larry Murphy!

‘Well you were very, very good. Well done’.

I said thanks a million, that I hoped I didn’t look thick (I am), and we went our separate ways, me to bury my face in a muffin, her to whatever, I don’t care as I’m the famous one in this story. It was only afterwards I realized that I should have pointed out to her that I was in the Blackrock Clinic to visit a relative, and not to have my genitals reattached, or to transition to another gender, or anything bollock-related. Oops.

My pubic publicity tour was made all the more surreal by the fact that I got my redundancy notice midway through it all. So it wasn’t just my Johnson that was totally without purpose – soon the rest of me would be too. But it was fine – one of the reasons I wrote about getting the snip was how I feel about journalism: I feel that anyone who works in a newspaper needs to be have that bright light shone upon them from time to time, to be able to hold themselves up to public scrutiny, just as their industry does to others.

Apart from that, I felt that this was something worth talking about. A vast portion of the media obsessively talks about women’s health issues – look at almost any magazine rack and all you will see is women’s bodies being dissected, discussed, probed, analyzed – and when I was going about getting the procedure, I found very little written from the point of view of an Irish male. Maybe I blew it all out of proportion – and I’ve been told I did – but it is a big deal for men, and one that needs to be talked about openly, even if it’s in the form of juvenile banter – as long as we’re talking about men’s physical and emotional health, things can only improve, and god knows we need to do a bit of evolving in that department.

Anyway, after it all I found I was being asked crazy questions, which just show how little people know about vasectomies – so I’ve compiled some of the best FAQs – or ‘fairly awkward questions’ – here for anyone looking for a short checklist ahead of getting it done.

  1. Do you get to keep your junk in a jar to bring home or does it go to the dog food factory?

Great question, your junk goes home with you where it always was, only more shriveled than usual. Go home and spend two days in bed. Fun fact – this will be the very first time you have ever spent two days in bed without having a single erotic thought. The time will drag. Get Netflix.

  1. So….do you still feel desire?

I was asked this by the education correspondent of a newspaper. People I had previously believed to be intelligent beings asked me the most idiotic things. A vasectomy is simply the cutting of the conduits for your sperm – basically your little soldiers now end up swimming around in you, rather than in someone else. Your body then reabsorbs them; think of yourself as a recycling centre, albeit one with fewer depressed eastern Europeans working in it.

There is absolutely no effect on your desire. It’d be great to find a way to stop the endless whispering of the id in the back of your head – ‘What about her? What about her? What about him? What about all of them together like an Irish stew with extra sausage?’. Sadly, it seems that only the blessed black wings of death can silence the endless hunger and thirst of human sexuality. That or watching Oireachtas Report.

  1. Do you still ejaculate?

Seriously? Yes. Obviously. This is a question I was asked by a female co-worker, and once again goes to show there is very little knowledge around the issue, or men’s health in general. As I said already, nothing changes – you are just sterile. So zero savings on tissues, if that was your prime reason for getting it done.

  1. Do you have any parenting tips?

Yes – think long and hard about having four kids. Obviously I love all my children and can’t imagine my life without them, but there is a knock-on for all of them with each new life. As I pompously pointed out during one of the interviews I gave, parenting isn’t always about the money in your pocket, but about the hours in the day and the love in your heart. With each child, your time to spend with them individually is decreased, and while a house full of life is fantastic, childhood is a brief moment – they are only with you for a short while, and it’d be nice to cherish them as individuals as well as a family unit.

As far as I’m concerned, if even one man reads the article I wrote and feels less worried about getting a vasectomy, then I will consider my 11 years working in the media to have been a success. It is simply a bonus that I also managed to piss off someone who reads the Daily Mail.

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Pithy the fool: Middle class, sick burn dude!

All that said, I still think the best part of the whole experience was how TV3 captioned me – not as a journalist, a writer, a father, a shameless self-promoter or anything else – they distilled it all down to this:

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Amen.

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