Small Clever Rooms
A Different Kind of Freedom February
My employer Bonanza has an interesting employee benefit called “Freedom February,” where during that month every employee gets a week’s worth of free days off and some cash to offset the cost of using those days to take a tropical vacation should they desire to do so. Generally, several months in advance, employees decide on a few specific destinations and those who want to travel with their co-workers choose one from among them.
As a generally travel- and planning-averse person, I opted for the easiest destination, and then watched helplessly as it hemorrhaged people until there were too few to make it worth the while of anyone still nominally on board to plan. That scheme having fallen through, I resolved to use February to do some #adulting and take care of some imposing tasks that I otherwise foresaw myself putting off as long as possible.
The first of these was doing my taxes, probably earlier in the year than any time in the last decade. It was boring and this post will not mention it again.
The second was getting a vasectomy, which I had “wanted” to do ever since I found out it was a thing but been putting off pretty casually for probably about ten years and then more aggressively for another five once I got to a place in my life where it actually seemed like a viable option. Those last five years started when I got a mandatory pre-procedure consultation and then balked (and balked, and balked) purely because of the small-scale practical considerations.As opposed to uncertainty or doubt, which I never experienced in those fifteen years.
First among these considerations, from one perspective, was the doctor at that consultation telling me I wouldn’t be able to bike after the procedure for two to three weeks! Cycling is my primary way of getting around, and this seemed like just an insurmountably style-cramping restriction on my mobility: a big enough disruption to my normal life routine to require significant planning around it. But during Freedom February, pretty much everyone who didn’t zip off to a tropical paradise at least works from home for most or all of the month. So my excuse of having my commute borked was irrelevant.
With that excuse gone, though, I saw the looming procedure from a new perspective: one from which the previously insurmountable obstacle of negotiating transportation seemed utterly trivial next to the real and imminent prospect of having a complete stranger (1) focus their attention intensely on my scrotum for a half hour and also (2) cut it and certain of its contents with a knife. I have only recently become even mildly comfortable being seen naked, even in contexts like locker rooms where it’s 100% standard, so even the first part was going to take some getting used to, to say nothing of the second. But I knew if I gave myself too much time to get used to it, I would never get it done.
I guess that my ambivalence and anxiety about all this is not uncommon. Insofar as I have a purpose in writing this, it is to reassure any other bashful and anxiety-prone male-bodied people who are considering getting a vasectomy that while their anxiety about it isn’t exactly misplaced, it’s probably not as bad as they imagine or fear.
I decided to go to Planned Parenthood to have the procedure done, because I believe they do important work and I wanted any money that I (or my insurance) had to pay to go to them. Having done so, I recommend them wholeheartedly. Based on my experience, the whole process goes something like this:
Either because it had been years since my last consultation about it, or because that consultation wasn’t with Planned Parenthood, I had to have another one. The consultation is sort of like easy mode for the actual procedure. There will be some rather frank discussion of your genitals and what will be happening to them: somewhat like a more intimate version of the reproduction part of your high school health class. If you are a prude like me it will be somewhat uncomfortable, but you’re not in high school anymore, thank God, and everyone will actually be a grown-up, which is good because they will also need to look at your penis. This will probably be near the end of the consultation and I guess it is to make sure there’s nothing going on down there that would complicate the procedure? I don’t know. Possibly due to my own mild neuroses, my theory is they’re making sure that you’re mentally prepared to drop trou when a doctor tells you to, because otherwise you’re probably gonna have some difficulty when the time for the actual vasectomy rolls around.
Speaking of which, if you finish the consultation and haven’t changed your mind, I recommend you schedule the procedure before you leave. This will keep you from putting it off for another several years and thus requiring another consultation later, ultimately reducing the number of strangers who have to look at your penis by one. These are the kind of optimizations that I, as a now-seasoned vasectomy expertPer 2015 statistics, I am in approximately the top 10% of “married or in-union” American men in for number of vasectomies achieved, which makes me an expert by any reasonable definition.
, can help you achieve.
In the interval between your consultation and when you scheduled the actual vasectomy, you will definitely not think or feel any anxiety about it, so I’ll proceed directly to the day of the main event.
You will have to arrange some transportation. If you currently have a partner and they’re available and on board with your decision, look: I’m not the boss of them or you, but I think it would be very reasonable for them to be your chauffeur for the day.
At the consultation, you will have been told to shower. They might also have asked you to shave your scrotum. My above claim to be an expert does not apply here, but I can tell you that if you use a double-edge (or “safety”) razor on your face, you’re in for an interesting experience.If you normally use a straight razor, you’re probably in for an even more interesting one.
Just remember: unless you do something absolutely catastrophic, any cuts you inflict on yourself will probably be shallower than the one you signed up for later today!
Before the procedure starts, someone will talk you through the process. It will be more or less a rehash of what you were told in the consultation, I guess in case you forgot in the intervening time that you’re about to get your scrotum straight up cut open or that (equally importantly, in my opinion!) it will be anesthetized for the duration. At Planned Parenthood, they also offered me Xanax to help manage my anxiety. I was on the fence but ultimately accepted, partly because I had to admit I was pretty anxious but also to see if I would find out what Chance the Rapper was on about in Acid Rap.
Spoiler alert: I did not find out what Chance the Rapper was on about in Acid Rap. In fact the Xanax did not feel like it had much of an effect on my mental state at all. But considering how anxious I was about the procedure, the fact that I felt ❝pretty normal❞I’m trying to spread the convention of using these big quotes as dramatically overemphasized finger-flexion air quotes. Unfortunately they’re font-dependent and not as distinctive in this font as I’d prefer.
during it probably means that actually, the drugs did what they were supposed to. (My dosage was also a lot lower than Chance’s, no doubt.)
I consider things to have really gotten started when I was given a heating pad and told to strip from the waist down. The heating pad was to wrap around my pertinent areas: I was told it would make things easier for the doctor if they were warm — the rest of the office was rather cold — this seemed intuitively reasonable, though I didn’t care to think too hard about it. But making things easier for the doctor did seem like an extraordinarily good idea.
After I’d made myself ❝comfortable,❞ the doctor came in. I guess we exchanged some pleasantries or something. He probably reiterated the process again to some extent. To be honest, mostly what I remember is the, like, scrotum bib that he put on me: basically one of those scratchy blue protective sheets like doctors and dentists use to prevent your various effluvia from getting on things, with a conveniently-sized hole in it. I remember involuntarily thinking about that stupid damn Dick in a Box SNL short and experiencing a complicated tangle of emotions at having it thus forcibly invoked and recontextualized.
With that in mind, let’s talk about that air-quotes ❝pretty normal❞ a few paragraphs up. You might think that what I mean by that is “pretty normal, considering” or “pretty normal, aside from” and while there were admittedly a few interjections from the doctor that would be unexpected in a typical polite conversationThe most notable and unlikely of these being a bright and chipper “Wanna see your vas?” While I understood the impulse — this is, after all, a once in a lifetime opportunity, one fervently hopes — my baseline level of adventurousness had been exhausted when I accepted the Xanax.
, overall we mostly small talked about our hobbies and things. In fact I was probably at least as comfortable as I usually am when I’m cornered into directionless small talk in any other setting. At the time this seemed completely unremarkable. In retrospect it seems like extremely strong evidence that the Xanax worked.
You will, perhaps, be curious about the pain level. I haven’t mentioned it yet because it was almost too mild to bear mentioning, but since it was a significant source of my own anxiety I’ll expand on that a little. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but on at least one occasion the doctor said something like “You’ll feel a little pinch in 3… 2… 1…” and at the end of the countdown I felt nothing whatsoever. On other occasions I did feel some pain, sometimes without any warning, but not once was it worse than if I’d cut myself while shaving. Overall: extremely strong evidence that the local anesthetic also worked.
I’d love to be able to tell you that when the anesthetic wore off it hurt like hell, and that I gritted my teeth and toughed it out, like a Man. In fact: no. And not “no, I failed to tough it out,” but “no, the pain was almost negligible.” When the anesthetic wore off I was, like, a little sore. I popped a couple acetaminophen the first night afterwards, and didn’t even feel the need to bother after that. Getting kicked in the balls in Tae Kwon Do, as a child, was worse. My partner probably suffers worse and longer-lasting pain every month from cramps. In fact, By quantifying my pain levels using an adapted version of the Schmidt sting pain index — they topped out at about a 1.2 — and comparing pain sources using some basic integral calculus, I proved that the most cumulative pain I experienced as a result of my vasectomy was collateral damage to adjacent areas when the my hair started growing back and got to that point where it was all spiky. (It’s now been about three weeks and it’s actually still at that point, though it’s finally tapering off.) That couple weeks’ worth of minor, intermittent discomfort adds up to more pain than I experienced during the actual vasectomy and subsequent recovery period.I did not actually do any of the math stuff. Nevertheless I stand by my conclusion.
If you have been thinking about getting a vasectomy but anxiety about awkwardness or pain has kept you from following through, I’m here to tell you it’s probably not nearly as bad as you imagine. And it’s the responsible thing to do if you don’t want kids, far easier than the equivalent procedure for your potentially childbearing partner and more reliable than lots of other kinds of birth control. Finally, if my experience is any indication, it may even make you more comfortable discussing and taking control of your sexual health, which I think is an important thing to be able to do!
That said, in a couple months I’m going to have to rub one out into a jar, bring it across town, and hand it to another human so they can check and make sure the vasectomy worked. While my experience with the vasectomy has given me the utmost confidence that the professionalism of the Planned Parenthood staff will make this minimally awkward, please do not expect a detailed follow-up blog post about that experience. Thanks for reading???