Monday, March 08, 2004

AN AWKWARD FIX: Ruth Sheehan has a twice-weekly column in the Raleigh News & Observer. Today in her column she went public with her campaign to persuade her husband to get a vasectomy. (I won’t link because the N&O puts columns behind a pay wall after a week or so.)

“It's an issue contemplated by so many couples at our stage in life. It's easy enough to agree that you have enough children, even if it's none. But what to do next? For those of us who have suffered through pregnancies and childbirth, a vasectomy seems like a small thing to ask in return.”

Yeah, yeah, it’s an issue, and the personal is political, yadda yadda. And this is Ruth Sheehan’s baileywick: kitchen-table feminism kind of like Ellen Goodman is known for. I still can’t help being mortified on behalf of her husband. She says she got her husband’s blessing to write about the subject. But I know how those getting-your-blessing deals sometimes go down between spouses.

“I told Harry I was planning to go public, to write in the newspaper about our continuing conversation. I told him he'd hear from a secret brotherhood of men who have had vasectomies, who would offer their support. Harry said a Million Man March of guys would rise up and carry him on their shoulders. We'll see.”

I wonder how many people they’re going to hear from who say, Keep your damn gonad negotiations out of the pages of my morning paper.

I raised this subject with my trusted cohorts at, and nobody shared my objections. In fact, this guy mounted a multi-part series of blog posts about his vasectomy and the aftermath. Which led me to ponder the different standards of acceptable discourse in blogs vis-a-vis a signed column in the daily paper, etc.

Maybe I’m just a tight-ass. Believe me, though, I'm not nearly so squeamish about a man's sacred precious jewels, as about TMI.

The thing is, I know this couple, sort of. In a friend-of-a-friend sort of way. (One could say that all of Raleigh knows this couple; she after all is a featured columnist in the daily paper, and her husband is a politician, he used to hold statewide elective office.) Somehow it feels as if they just marched up to me at a cocktail party, and made their respective cases, Pro-Vas and No-Vas, and demanded a ruling. Ruth – Harry – I love ya, seriously, but we just don’t know each other all that well.

When my wife and I first decided to try and conceive, I begged her not to tell anyone in her family. Because her older sister and her husband had had some fertility issues, and the family phone conversations became an ongoing Zygote Watch. When did you do it last? What position did you do it in? Stuff like that.

What. A. Nightmare. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, spare me from the day when my mother or mother-in-law occupies herself with discussions of how goes it with my sperm. So Harry, this secret brother has got to stay secret.

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