When my wife Melissa first suggested that I get a vasectomy, I thought she was joking. (We’re all comedians in my family; I’m just the only professional one.)
“I’m not doing that,” I responded, though it actually sounded more like, “HEEEEEEEEEELL NO! Why would I do that?!” A vasectomy? It sounded awful. And surgery is a big deal. I’ve had several, and they were always the last measure taken after all other options were evaluated. Shouldn’t we at least consider other options? Also, I DON’T WANT A KNIFE NEAR MY GENITALS!!!
Don’t get me wrong: I was firmly in camp “no more kids” along with Melissa. We have three incredible daughters, who are seven, four, and 11 months old. But with our lives, schedules, ages, we knew we were done. And For fifteen years, my wife had been altering her body chemistry for my pleasure while I just got to be footloose and condom-free.
My first problem was that I didn’t know anyone else who’d had a vasectomy. Men don’t really talk about their private parts with each other: I can’t think of one time in my life that a man has come to me to ask for help figuring out a situation with his penis. Luckily for me, my wife talked to one of her friends and found out that her friend’s husband had a vasectomy.
When ideas seem ridiculous and/or dangerous, I have to figure out if they are actually ridiculous and/or dangerous or if I’m just afraid and I should challenge myself. That’s how I ended up first getting on a rollercoaster when I was a full-grown adult; wearing the color orange; and visiting with the KKK in season one of United Shades of America. This is also why I’ve never gone bungee jumping.
After I thought about it, getting a vasectomy seemed much less life-threatening than bungee jumping with the KKK.
I also had to figure out if any of my manhood was caught up in my ability to reproduce. I don’t have dreams of being like actor Tony Randall, who had a child with his wife at 78 years old. But I’m also not immune to the “locker room conversations” where men often encourage other men to completely define each other by size and potency.
I think this is most likely because as a kid, I would go home to my single mom who was great at deprogramming — or maybe reprogramming — me after those conversations. She, and others, helped me understand how to separate my sense of identity from what society says a man should be. I’m not pitching myself as some sort of evolved, new age man. I’m just aware that because of how I grew up and who was around me, I have always been able to separate who I am from what I am.
My ability to procreate is not connected to who I am or how I define my manhood.
By W. Kamau Bell, sociopolitical comedian and host/executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning CNN original series United Shades of America.