Commentary

Shaffer: Fathers join forces to get snipped

December 15, 2013 

Four patients relax after their vasectomies Friday, a group experience intended to dull the pain and loss associated with the procedure. From left are David Sonntag, Derrick Minor, Penn Holderness and Jake Fehling. The frozen peas are intended as a soothing agent.

JOSH SHAFFER — jshaffer@newsobserver.com

— They lounged together on a puffy sofa: four pals with beers in their hands, pizza on their plates and bags of frozen peas slowly defrosting in their pants, soothing snipped manhood.

Only hours before, these brave comrades had piled into a car, thirsty for adventure, and jaunted to the urologist’s office for a group vasectomy.

They figured: Why not take a potentially negative experience and share it with friends? Why not link arms, grit teeth and stare down three injections to the groin? Why not turn sterility into a bonding experience?

“Really, it’s just about buds getting together,” explained Jake Fehling, 33.

The idea started as a conversation between Fehling and Penn Holderness, whom you may recognize as the news anchor for WNCN, or for his blink-and-miss-it appearance in “Iron Man 3,” or for the slowly-going-viral video featuring his family in their Christmas jammies, in which Papa Holderness performs a dance step that closely resembles a twerk.

Both proud and happy fathers, they thought they might hang up their reproductive spurs; fade into the procreative sunset; put the stud horse out to pasture.

“We love our kids, but we don’t have to give birth to them,” said Holderness, 39. “If we did it (the vasectomies) together, it might be more fun. I know people who’ve had this done and been really bummed out afterward. I guess it’s part of your manhood that’s not there.”

Enter David Sonntag, 33, who called one day inquiring about maybe getting together and hitting some golf balls, and then mentioned that he’d been mulling over the idea of a clipped vasa deferentia.

Then in walked Derrick Minor, 36, who ran into the group at an Artspace benefit in downtown Raleigh; he also remarked on his willingness to undergo the incision. And who should appear at that very benefit but Dr. Jerome Parnell, urologist.

“The sea parts on the dance floor, and there’s our doctor,” Holderness said. “That was the closer. That was Mariano Rivera.”

And so the Vas Pack had formed.

Not that there weren’t cold feet, even among the patients’ wives. These four men had fathered 10 children between them; but even then, you can’t help feeling nervous about nixing the chance for more kids. Vasectomy reversal is possible, but risky.

Then there’s the primal, caveman urge to populate the Earth. The caveman inside a vasectomy patient argues that sowing seeds is a man’s first and greatest role, and that he should approach the job like a genetic Johnny Appleseed.

But off to the urologist the four went, doubts behind them, only to discover that Parnell was waiting for them with a pair of hedge clippers and a drill. Chuckles all around.

Here’s the thing about a vasectomy: It takes about 8 minutes. Getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist can last an hour. But kinking the hose from which all life flows can require less time than boiling an egg.

The injections hurt the most – especially the third one, which hits square in the target. And then there’s the actual snip, which is loud enough for a spectator to hear.

But for our heroes, the experience was made lighter by the tweeting, the iPhone movies, the behind-the-scenes pictures and the doctor screaming a feigned, “Oh no!” for the benefit of people in the waiting room.

And afterward, recuperating on Fehling’s couch, they were lighthearted enough about it all to compose a song to the tune of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love,” which Holderness strummed on the guitar:

Oh, we have kids that we adore

but our wives don’t want any more

so they sent us to the snippy store

It’s Friday, we’re getting a vasectomy!

From my vantage point, the level of manliness hadn’t dipped at all among this group. If anything, it has escalated. Here were four brothers joined in a painful rite of passage, crossing the bridge to middle age like Vikings over a stormy sea.

Shaffer: 919-829-4818

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