It occurs to me, cradling my now hairless scrotum between fingers and thumb, that the phrase “he’s got some balls” could have two equal but opposite meanings.
I’ve got some balls.
Testosterone floods my system from these spheres that, freshly shaved and showered, recoil resentfully from the cold. This testosterone inflames my passions, reminding me every day that, beneath my sensitive-new-age-guy exterior, a caveman crouches, club in hand, both predator and prey, hungry. This caveman’s got some balls. If his mate dances seductively or a foe threatens his children, he will hand the reigns to these balls, fucking and fighting and howling at the moon.
On the other hand, I’ve got sensitive balls, delicate balls.
Even when they don’t look so disconcertingly prepubescent, they require protection and care. They need swaddling like a newborn; yet, unlike newborns, they will never grow up, never make it on their own. My balls will dangle delicately between my thighs until the day I die, too nervous to let go, too sheltered to explore. Pull back the current, or, in my case, shave off the pubes, and the very organs that boil my blood turn out to be my daintiest parts.
I’ve got some balls—I am childlike and vulnerable, with plenty to protect.
In an hour, the good folks at Kaiser will lay me down. They will lift my paper-thin robe, inject each ball with anesthetic, and cut the cords. Then they will sew me up, sending me home with icepacks and codeine.
On the way out, one of the nurses, who a few minutes earlier had hovered over my manhood, will then make the connection that our sons play soccer together. Our nine-year-old sons who have no idea about any of this. Our nine-year-old sons who, on the ball field, may dabble in testosterone’s dark arts, who, at the dinner table, may carefully watch their fathers to understand what manhood means, yet who, when they wake in the night, call out for their mothers. They won’t know what it means to be a man, not yet.
Someday, if they are blessed, our sons will grow a pair. They will walk through the world with the fire and fear of manhood. They will know the beast within but they will honor fragility. They will make hard choices, like the one I made today, when I stepped back, catalogued my stumbling blocks, counted my blessings, and said, “Enough.”
Their manhood will be filled with moments like these—requiring courageous vulnerability, bold humility—moments that, if you’ll forgive the expression, take some balls.
Author: Benjamin Shalva
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Dennis Skley/Flickr