For a number of reasons, I’ve never been a fan of testicles. Not my own, not those of others. They’re ridiculous-looking, lazily conceived; they seem to me as if God had finished the long and difficult task of designing Man when one angel or another tapped Him on His shoulder, held out the hand in which he held Man’s genitalia and said unto God, “But what, my Lord, about these?” God swore under His breath, like a man who just managed to force his suitcase closed only to realize he’d left out his toiletry case and boots. “Oh, fuck it,” said God. “Just put them in a separate bag for now. We’ll find a better place for them later.”
Aesthetically speaking, of course, they’re hideous, by far the ugliest and most ungainly of all body parts, and that’s a collection that includes crinkly elbows, pinched anuses, dank armpits. It’s a low, low bar, to be sure, but no other part on us humans, male or female, comes close to testicles. I assure you Apple would never design them that way; iPackages would be sleek, aerodynamic, integrated into the main body case, and made from gleaming titanium; sure, they’d have lousy battery life, but you wouldn’t have to cover them up in shame your whole life.
Practically speaking, testicles are a hassle, and that’s not even taking into consideration the testosterone they produce, which seems to cause so much trouble in the world. I suppose it’s fitting that the part of our body most directly responsible for war and superhero movies and Ashton Kutcher should be so ludicrous in appearance.
So, why mention this now? Because although I’ve tolerated them well enough until this point, I turned 41 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been considering, ever since, just cutting them off.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate them. They’ve given me two beautiful sons, and though I don’t for a moment think my wife married me only for my testicles, it’s not inconceivable that a lack of them might have negatively affected her decision to spend her life with me. But that, as they say, was then; we’re not going to have more children, and so, as I stood in the shower the morning of my 41st birthday—the race of my life half-run, less no doubt ahead of me than behind, one foot in the grave and the other on a slippery patch of ice—I looked down and thought, Why? Why keep them? All they’re good for now is cancer, which, I’m sure, they’re busy at already. At best they’ll continue to drop lower and lower each year, becoming ever uglier, ever more laughable until they’re slapping around my knees and cease operating at all—dead, useless, like the old Underwood typewriter I keep in my office, keys jammed, ribbon missing. And that’s the best-case scenario.
The best offense is a good defense, and I can’t figure out the slightest reason to schlep these preposterous things around for another 30 years, waiting for them to kill me. I feel like I’m carrying around a pair of terrorists in my pants. I glance back at every dog that passes me on the street, reminded by every un-neutered beast of the ridiculousness of our own similar genitalia and jealous of every one that’s been castrated. Well, poochie, I think to myself as he prances by, that’s one less thing to worry about. Two, actually.
The friends I share this idea with react as you might expect—they think I’m being extreme. But I feel I’m being practical—frankly, what could be riskier than leaving the damn things on?
My wife suggests it’s just a fear of aging, and there’s something to be said for that. I drink my Liquid Greens every morning, I ride my bicycle, I take raw vitamins and if I have bacon on Monday, that’s it for the next seven days. I’ll have a cigarette or two at a party, that’s all, and I limit my alcohol intake as best I can. But none of this is done in the desperate pursuit of youth; the truth is, I don’t have a fear of aging. I have a fear of dying. There’s a difference.
My shrink suggests this has to do with my finishing my novel; that 41 is still young, and that my obsessing about death is simply a manifestation of guilt—guilt over successfully finishing the book, of selling it to my publisher, of being (ugh) happy. And so, says the good doctor, I’m torturing myself with thoughts of death. “Besides,” he adds as the session draws to a close, “I’m 65. Go cry to someone else about dying.”
He might have a point. Anxious to get to work on something new, I’ve taken out an old story of mine, about a man who does just that—physically tortures himself. His family and friends beg him off it, tell him he’s going to get seriously hurt, that they love him and don’t want to see him permanently injured or worse. But what can the poor man do? It’s the only thing that gives him any relief from the troublesome joy that he finds, to his surprise and dismay, filling his middle-aged heart.
Shalom Auslander‘s novel Hope: A Tragedy will be published next year by Riverhead Books.