March 1999
s m u g
by Todd Levin


Modern Health

When your health is truly suffering, it is almost reflexive to begin questioning your mortality. Summarizing your life, your virtuous deeds and confidential sins, and the actual weight of either of these in a universe of ungraspable size and history. And how will you ultimately justify the remainder of your existence? You might turn to religion for answers. Worse yet, you might turn to one of the stupid religions for answers. Or perhaps you will invest your faith in medicine, as you openly challenge your mortality with rituals consisting of expensive drugs and chemical therapy, all suffered through in an effort to postpone the inevitable.

Recently, my health took a surprisingly sharp decline with extremely mysterious origins. After I traveled down all possible roads toward complete consciousness and came up with no answers (is anyone interested in purchasing a nearly mint copy of Dianetics?), I prepared myself for an agonizing battery of tests which I feared would only result in accelerating the deterioration of my physical health. I became slightly delusional, projecting my own image captured in a glorious tribute through urban mural, painted alongside the rest of history's great martyrs -- Christ, Job, Joan d'Arc, that lady who kissed the sores on people's feet. So you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered the breadth of my medical tests involved masturbating into a plastic cup for science.

The reasons for this personal humiliation are still somewhat unclear to me. I was assured the test would not be the answer to my problem but was necessary in the investigation of a potentially unkind symptom of my diagnosed ailment. I reacted to this recommendation with a significant amount of discomfort. Sure, like all young men, I had entertained the idea of masturbating into a cup, but never a plastic cup. The whole affair just seemed somewhat déclassé to me. Toting a plastic cup (handed to me by one of the doctor's female assistants) to a strange laboratory on the upper West Side, abstaining from sexual contact for a full 72 hours prior to my reluctant donation. Worse still was the "Sperm Count Defense Mobile Unit" I was instructed to wear for the following weak to avoid "spermatic constraint and heat damage".

(The doctor assured me this was a common medical precaution and it was designed by a fertility think tank in Oslo, but I have to admit I was skeptical. The "unit" looked more like a standard light blue sweatsuit -- the type that could be purchased in any WAL-MART across the continent -- with a message reading "Possible Low Sperm Count" printed across the chest and funny little illustrations of sperm running up and down the sleeves and legs. The sperm looked suspiciously hand-drawn, with little sad frowns and eyes that were crossed out, as if some of the sperm were dizzy or unconscious. Needless to say, I wore the suit somewhat begrudgingly.)

For the benefit of any curious readers who have not volunteered (their own) sperm for the benefit of science and an impatient Austrian nurse, here comes the big surprise: it's not very sexy. Personally, if I ran lab that offered such services I would have changed a few things to encourage better results:

1. Replace sterile plastic plant-life ("sterile" is generally not an appropriate mood to set at such facilities) with hand-carved cherry wood towers of burning incense, preferably something earthy like Sandalwood or Hairdresser on the Rebound.

2. Address patients as "Admiral" or "Wolff"

3. Prohibit nurses from knocking on the door every few seconds to tell me there's a phone call from my mother.

4. Post-coital paper smoking jackets and plastic meerschaums

5. For the love of patient to a room, please!

I knew that fluid extraction was their business but that fact alone did not ease my nerves. Nor did the nurse's recommendation that I try a "smaller cup". Or the fact that the laboratory shared its waiting room with an international modeling agency. None of these circumstances made this already excruciatingly difficult task (difficult by context only, ladies!) any easier. OK...well, the pornography helped.

Here is the only exciting thing about this embarrassing field trip: upon being led into my private chambers -- an odious little room which appeared to double as storage space for outdated medical equipment (there was a stack of filthy, empty jars labeled "LEECHES" in one corner), and was furnished with a table and chair, both wrapped in butcher's paper -- I discovered that the room was also equipped with a small monitor playing an endless loop of filmed pornography. The sound was muted, which was practical but personally disappointing. It is essential to appreciate this necessary union of science and seedy, and one should relish the idea of one of the doctors, nurses, or lab technicians picking out or approving this film for its intended purposes.

Below is a sample of imagined dialogue that might have occurred during the selection process:

Dr. Esteban Diaz: Lab technician Ricky, please show me the candidates for sperm donation a/v stimulus.

Lab Technician Ricky: Here they are, Doctor. I believe I've found made excellent choices. Our patients will never want to leave the facility! (LT Ricky, ominously underlit, wrings hands together and laughs maniacally) MOO-HOO-HOO-HOO-AH-HAH-HAH!

Dr. Esteban Diaz: (adjusting his spectacles) Let's see what we've got here: "She-Male Smorgasbord", "Hermaphrodite Barbecue", "Transsexual Hog Roast", "She-Male Smorgasbord II: Sloppy Seconds"? Lab Technician Ricky, if I'm not mistaken, these titles are of a very specialized subject matter, all featuring individuals with both male and female sex characteristics. I'm not sure this is appropriate for our patients...

Lab Technician Ricky: Before you dismiss these tapes, Doctor, I think it's important that you know I lost the sales receipt for them.

Dr. Esteban Diaz: Yes, well, I see. In that case, I have no choice but to donate these tapes to you and send you out for more "mainstream" viewing material. As I recall, we had discussed something involving gay clowns. Now, be off, you rapscallion, before I thrash your bottom bloody!!!

(Exeunt Lab Technician Ricky)

The pornographic film was, admittedly, obvious bait and I deliberately chose to tastefully avoid, opting to thumb through a stack of seriously dog-eared pornographic magazines (I actually wondered why there was no gay material available but then quickly surmised that fertility was a less significant gay issue). Still, my eyes kept wandering back to that tiny monitor, printing bits of pink across my retina. It was a cheap trick, but it worked like a charm.

The only problem, aside from having to walk through the waiting room with a cup of me, was the catch-etiquette. You see, at this lab, the best methods for actually procuring your sperm were never properly explained. And a plastic cup is far less flexible than, say, a gym sock or Lambchop hand puppet. I won't reveal my on-the-spot methodology. Suffice it to say, while I was not pleased with the appearance, I was completely satisfied with the outcome.

Now, as I wait for that important phone call to let me know how my "date" went, I can't help but think perhaps I was a bit neurotic about my own illness. While the illness itself was not imagined, perhaps its genesis and the seemingly inevitable tragedy which I was convinced would result from it were somewhat exaggerated. In a sense, no matter how uncomfortable I was about donating sperm, it's not something I haven't done before. And, knowing the worst possible outcome, it still pales compared to the gallery of afflictions I had conceived on my way to understanding. I think there is only one thing I will miss about my personal anxiety surrounding my ailment. Now that I know, more or less, I'll be OK, I'm going to have to abandon the construction of my suicide machine.

And a man is nothing without his hobbies.



back to the junk drawer

and such
and such

·feature· ·net worth· ·ac/dc· ·smoking jacket· ·ear candy· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·back issues· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·archive·


copyright © 1996 - 1999 fearless media