I don't like to brag but, for someone who has not yet turned thirty - or forty, for that matter - I've had quite a few prostate and rectal exams. As a result, I now approach the prospect of undergoing such exams with relative ease. I also fancy myself something of a connoisseur in the domain of bowel movement regularity as a "haver" of IBS. In fact, a separate blog entry may have to be devoted to this topic exclusively, as my knowledge of dietary fiber sources, stool softeners and laxatives, as well as of coping with cramps and flatulence, can hardly be contained in the confines of a modest paragraph. Those of you who cannot bear to wait for my next article to be enlightened by my scatological expertise are encouraged to contact me privately. Please include the phrase "help me shit" in the subject line of your email.
But I wasn't always the self-assured man I am today; I was once seventeen years old. It was summer and I had a lot of time on my hands. A slight but promising ball ache invaded my field of being one day and, thus, my otherwise unblemished regimen of eating imported foods from Trader Joe's and watching Internet porn was rudely interrupted. I may have been young but was, nevertheless, a seasoned hypochondriac, having managed by age seventeen to experience appendicitis, contract meningitis and to be struck by a mild heart attack - all in my head.
This, however, was different. Actually, every hypochondriacal thought process begins with that observation so, from the point of view of sanity, one could argue that my bourgeoning anxiety was wholly unwarranted but this pain was different by virtue of being isolated in my nuts and I was damned if I was going to let a summer pass without a visit to a specialist anyway. Plus, I grew up in Palo Alto and, I admit somewhat bashfully, my balls and ass have been spoiled by the most delicious physicians that Stanford has to offer - truly a hypochondriac's dream. So I saw my primary - a balding man with a curly pony tail whom I at one point christened "Curly-Pone" - and he referred me to a urologist at Stanford.
The nurse who interviewed me when I arrived at the urologist's office - a sexy interrogation of sorts - could not have been more attractive than if she had been cast as the lead in a porno directed by a fourteen-year-old boy. At one point, it occurred to me that my balls had receded so deep into my body from nervousness that I questioned whether or not an exam would even prove fruitful in that state. I had not yet learned to converse with attractive women, let alone about the potentially pathological status of my testicles; it was was a harrowing undertaking. As an otherwise articulate person, I never would have expected to be so perplexed by the question, "What brings you here?"
"I have some pain," I said, probably without making eye contact. The nurse was kind enough not to, you'll pardon the pun, probe any further and left me in peace. Eventually, a man who seemed a little too carefree and jovial to be responsible for the welfare of my reproductive organs entered the room. What follows is not exaggerated even the slightest bit, though my seventeen-year-old self probably would have wished that it were.
"Sit down," the doctor said, "you're making me nervous. So, what seems to be the problem?" "I...um...," I responded without skipping a beat and then looked at him as though my response should have thoroughly answered his question, which I subsequently was shocked to learn that it actually did. "Seventeen years old, eh?" the doctor continued, smiling. "Oh, shit," I thought to myself, "he knows." "Sexually active?" the man asked. "No, still a virgin," I said, not unlike a young, albeit more Semitic, Tobey Maguire. "Saving yourself?" he asked earnestly before adding, "I'm just messing with ya. What kind of pain and where?" "It's in the area between...and sometimes right on the um...it sometimes happens after I..." "Say no more," the man declared. Let's do some tests."
Now, I had undergone tests at this juncture of my life: tests at school, driving tests and medical tests of various kinds. What it was that I was about to endure I could not yet define but it sure as titties wasn't a goddamned test - that much I know. Tests, as far as I know, don't require the tester to question why he or she was born while writhing in agony and to wipe him or herself off afterward, among an unholy host of other traumatic rituals.
I've had routine prostate exams and this wasn't one such exam; it was unadulterated evil. "Pull your pants down to your ankles," the doctor said as he positioned me such that I was bent forward, with my torso supported by the examination table and my nether regions facing the heavens, ready for sacrifice. Later, at a certain point during the course of the test, I thought to myself, "Aren't I supposed to be wearing a gown or something?" When I think about it in now, it occurs to me that the whole scene had a very unofficial, somewhat medieval quality to it.
When the exam was well under way, I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad! Now I know I can handle a prostate exa- " at which point my brain was interrupted by a heinous sensation and I realized that the doctor had one hand inside me and the other holding a glass plate below me. It's very difficult for me to describe the sensation I experienced. The closest I can get would be to suggest that if ejaculation had an evil cousin, the experience would have that quality. Like, if ejaculation had a cousin who, at a very early age, while other kids were playing hide and seek, would torture small animals and draw stick figures of people burning and being impaled.
Something came out of me and, to this day, I have no fucking clue what it was.
When it was over, the doctor handed me some tissues and said, "Okay, I'm going to go run a couple of tests. You can wipe yourself off." After doing so, I got dressed and wondered if I should treat myself to some ice cream on my way home, like Jennifer Jason Leigh did in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when she was picked up by her older brother after getting an abortion.
When the doctor returned, surprisingly swiftly, he stated, in his usual undecorated manner, "Your test showed an elevated white blood cell count." I knew that this wasn't good news, having, as any hypochondriac would, taught myself quite a bit about cancer, so I furrowed my brow. The doctor looked at me completely deadpan and said - and it bears repeating that this conversation is quoted, not paraphrased - "Your penis will probably fall off."
I wasn't worried at this point but I also didn't know what the hell to say so I continued to stare at him. "I'm just messing with ya again," he added, "you're fine." "Well, that's a relief," I said, "because I was starting to worry that something was seriously wrong or that - " "But you have been masturbating too much," the doctor interrupted me, "so you might want to take it easy for a while." "Oh," I said. "It's more common than you might think." "But," I protested, "I don't think I really do it that much." "And while I appreciate that you think that, I can assure you that you definitely do," he said. "So, what should I do?" "You should not masturbate as much." "And?" I asked. "Look, there's nothing wrong with you," he said, "it's really just the masturbation." Then, after attempting a reassuring smile, he left me to contemplate how much I would eventually have to pay for the honor of learning that I play with myself too much.
When I walked back to my car, I was determined to turn lemons into lemonade by reasoning with myself that, if nothing else, even though I lacked sexual experience, I was ahead of the game by determining resolutely that I did not enjoy being sodomized. "That's good to know," I told myself, "that's good to know."