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Friday, April 10, 2009

Vasectomies Rise During Recession



(image via themidlifecrunch)

Sociologists of the future may look backward and come away with the conclusion that vasectomies rise in proportion to recessionary hazard (The Corsair sips a peppery cognac). Guys, of course, don't really like to talk about reconnoitering their apparatus. We have never had a conversation about this procedure without the customary low ("ooch"!), existential wail coinciding with bent-over looks of unnatural agony coming from deep inside our entrails. We men are so sensitive about the subject that even mental visualization requires the same abrupt physical recoil that would attend a robust "nut-punch (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment)." And although the effect is comic, the expression is oh-so-not.

It is in fact an unwritten man-law that any discusion of vasectomies has to be accompanied with contortions of unmanned pain and gutteral, primordial growls. Even as The Corsair reads the following, rest assured that we will be in a slumped posture looking thoroughly cross. From The New York Times, an intresting tale:

"LAST November I learned, to my great surprise, that I was pregnant. At age 47, I was not exactly trying to conceive.

"Another baby — how wonderful!

"Another child — how stressful! How risky! How expensive!

"With the economy in a free fall, this seemed no time to have a baby.

"When the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at seven weeks, we were sad. But also relieved. My husband’s only half-joking response was, 'It’s time for a vasectomy.'

"Turns out we were not alone in our thinking. Urologists and clinics have noticed an uptick in recent months in the number of men requesting vasectomies.

"It is too early to proclaim a bona fide trend in elective sterilization, because no organization regularly tracks the number of vasectomies performed on an annual or even a monthly basis. The most recent comprehensive data come from a study published in The Journal of Urology in 2006, which estimated that about 527,000 vasectomies were performed in this country each year.

"But the recent anecdotal data, if they hold, would have a historical parallel in the Great Depression, when the birth rate fell sharply."


Although the subject of vasectomies is not on the surface particularly amusing (particularlywhen accompanied by an jerky cutting motion of the hands), it is instructive to review how American television shows have broached the issue.

Maude, a program that seemed intent on breaking every sexual and social taboo with the most physically unattractive cast humanly possible, tackled the issue of the unkindest cut. In Part two of the infamous double episode dealing with birth control, Walter -- played by the greatly unhandsome Bill Macy -- considers getting a vasectomy. In the Season 5, Episode 6 of Home Improvement, Jill wanted Tim to get a little snip-snip. "Not a good episode at all," commented a melancholy fan on TV.com. In a "very special" episode of that significant cultural artifact "Reba" also tackled the issue. Debra of "Everybody Loves Raymond" wanted Ray to get one, to which he replied, "Don't listen to the crazy lady. No snip snip."

There are, to be sure, hacky cliches in dealing with The Vasectomy. The laugh track usually falls silent during the episode. If the husband goes through with the vasectomy, he usually comes back from the hospital looking all shell shocked and woozy and haunted. Something is gone from his swagger. The husband also always makes a great show of the effort needed to sit down on the couch (what's up with that?). It's really all rather gross and suggesty of all sorts of uncomfortable trauma drama. The TV wife is usually very nice to him (It goes without saying that he took one for the team), maybe even offering him a cup of tea and a sympathetic ear.

The most famous TV sitcom dealing with this "delicate matter" is All In The Family. In Season 7, Episode 14 after a false pregnancy scare, Gloria and Michael Spivek adopt more effective methods of birth control.

The TV Vasectomy also usually involves a pregnancy scare at a socially inappropriate time. Carmella in The Sopranos, for example, warned Tony that his tom catting with Club Badabing might result in a bald Soprano. She had a point.

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