Monday 31 March 2008

Men, sheds and 'wedding vegetables'

Saturday, and a weekend away with my whole clan of in-laws, for a family wedding (Congratulations again to Rob and Jean: believe me when I say that what is about to follow is in no way an appropriate tribute to your special day, for which I apologise in advance).
Given the occasion - where the mood was festive, the drink flowed freely and the plates were piled high, and everyone in the room was celebrating the unbridled joy of the marriage union - the conversation turned, with a hateful clockwork inevitability, to the ever-popular topic of my testicles. To be more specific: Isn't it about time I stopped mucking about and went and got myself a vasectomy?
I am not sure what you and your relatives like to talk about at a big family get-together, but for my part, I am now so used to having to defend the currently uncauterised state of my vas deferens that I am not sure that I am capable of discussing anything else over dinner any more. (So pervasive is this topic of conversation that I fear have lost any capacity for dining smalltalk on any other subject - in fact I am now distinctly uncomfortable talking about anything else:
"So, Paul, the credit crunch. Worried about the housing market?"
"I really don't know - please can we talk about my gonads instead?")
It is Ninis' Sister-in-law, Tina, who leads the charge on this topic. For a while, Tina used to ask us "So, when is number three coming along?" but when she finally accepted that no, two children were quite enough for us and Nini had "shut up shop down there" (as my Grandmother so eloquently put it) she switched almost immediately to saying "Snip snip!" and making threatening little scissor actions at me with her fingers. As a result I am always wary discussing this with Tina - she gives the impression that she would cheerfully do the job herself with whatever was to hand, and they give you a lot of cutlery at a wedding...
"I think I owe it to the world to stay fertile", I say defensively, as the main course arrives. "In case the Apocalypse comes, and they need the seed of Great Men to repopulate the Earth."
Nini looks pointedly at our children. Neve is howling because she has pulled the entire bowl of her mothers soup all over her arm, and Amelie is carefully colouring in some of the upholstery on the dining chairs with a 'Bratz' glitter pen.
"I think the Earth will cope without it" she says.
"Aren't you worried it will make me fat and lazy, like an old house cat?"
"No, in fact on that score I'm fairly sure I won't notice any difference..."
"You just need to stop messing about get on with it" says Tina, as if the possession of a functioning pair of testes is in some way a frivolous adolescent indulgence that I really should have grown out of by now. "It'll be fine. It was fine for Ben. Wasn't it, Ben?"
Like me, Ben is also the only male in a household of women - only he has three daughters, and two of them are six-year old twins. He looks at me with the sad dark eyes of a trusting Cocker Spaniel that was told it was time for 'walkies' but then woke up at the vets with a confusing new scar in its 'special place'.
"Oh, yes" he says slowly. "Fine." And then, quietly, so only I can hear: "You think they've got you beaten now? Wait until they take your balls..."
"It didn't hurt though, did it? Not really?"
"Not on the first day, no. There was still some residual anaesthetic in my system..."
"And on day two?"
"Ohhh, yes. Hurt like a bastard. But not as much as the operation itself..."
"But you just said you had anaesthetic..."
"Not enough, at first. But when I started screaming wordlessly he realised I needed a bit more.."
I look down at Amelies dinner, where she has hacked at her Cumberland sausage with all the grace and delicacy of a chainsaw maniac. Her whole plate seems to consist of truncated pink gristle and ketchup. I swallow nervously. "Maybe I'll do it next year" I announce, hoping that might move the conversation on.
But I have clearly set Ben off; he still has an axe to grind. "After the op, I thought: well, that's it - they've taken everything else now, I might as well officially give up, go the whole hog and get myself a shed. A little hideaway with my stuff in it, somewhere to keep my tools, with a chair and a radio..."
"Right..." I say, remembering that Ben originally trained as a cabinet-maker and clearly still hankers for the smell of sawdust even now.
"So I got a shed, and what happened? Tina set fire to it. While I was on the toilet."
"It was an accident! I was burning leaves" says Tina.
"Oh, leaves, yes - along with eight fence panels and my shed."
"You got a nice new shed in the end. From the insurance"
"Yes. I did. It's just a pity that I've got nothing to put in it, because everything melted in the old one, isn't it?" He turns to me "Do you know what the worst part was? There am I, trying to put the fire out with this piddling little trickle from the garden hose, when a Fireman taps me on the shoulder and says 'Stand aside, Sir', then lets fly with this high-pressure jet hose from the Fire Engine. It made me feel..."
"Inadequate?" I ask. "Somehow less of a man?"
"Yes" he says.
There is a short pause. I scratch my chin thoughtfully.
"Is the fireman and his hose a vasectomy metaphor?" I ask.
"No" he says sadly. "She really did burn down my shed..."

1 comment:

Max Halliwell said...

under no circumstances have the snip or as the ladies like to describe it "that nothing of an operation" Several of my ,mates have had the op, all of whose experiences are similar to Ben's, some far far worse. The other problem is that everytime its business time, you'll know its just a blank and won't feel like a true man. Just say NO to the JAFFA club!!