There’s nothing snippy about ‘the snip’

Abstract: there are certain leading figures in South Africa who could prove their manhood by having a vasectomy…

Recent events in South African presidential politics got me thinking about vasectomies and how some people, maybe many, might benefit from some people having it done. Of course, the age-old arguments against it still persist in some cultures, and normally hover around misguided notions that having the snip removes a man’s masculinity. This is of course, not true. In fact, the very opposite could be argued: that only real men have ‘the snip’.

Walk into a crowded bar and shout “Hey, who here’s having a baby soon?” and proud hands will reach for the sky. Walk into the same bar and shout, “Hey, who here’s had a vasectomy?” and the chances are few, if any, would raise their hands.

And it’s not just a ‘guy’ thing. A father-to-be will proudly place his hand on his wife’s belly and declare, “we’re pregnant”; but no wife will point to her husband’s nether region and say, “we’ve had a vasectomy”. Women don’t really warm to the idea of other people knowing their husbands have been tinkered with ‘down there’. And yet men who have chosen this path-of-no-return deserve a really big gold star on their foreheads.

As someone holding such a medal of honour, I feel that I am perfectly qualified to clear up a couple of issues; you know, just in case you’re toying with the idea. Basically, ‘the snip’ is just a snip, but there’s nothing actually ‘snippy’ about it. Confused? Well, medically speaking, ‘the snip’ is just a snip; in that nothing is actually lopped off, or should I say nothing is left behind that was once inside.

However, technically speaking, there’s nothing ‘snippy’ about the procedure. It’s not simply a case of pruning something that’s a bit too long or sticking out at a strange angle. That might apply when you’re trimming your rose bush, but when tackling stamen of another type, things are a little more delicate. In reality, the process is not so much a simple ‘snip’ as a ‘shave, numb, snip-snip, slice-and-tie or clamp, sew-sew, tug, tug, tie and snip again’.

Sure there’s a little discomfort; but if I had the choice of having a vasectomy or watching Mama Mia on DVD, I’d phone my urologist and book an appointment straight away!

So if the snip isn’t really such a big deal, why is it that more men would far rather watch Pierce Brosnan sing than embrace the responsibility of having it done? The answer is quite simple: it’s a major commitment. Although it can sometimes be reversed, there’s ultimately something final about it; and men tend to think that if they’re not spreading themselves around a bit, they’re going to fade away. So, the mantra goes: let’s make hay while the sun shines, and let’s scatter some seed, but hope there’s no harvest!

In the words of Hamlet, “ay, there’s the rub”. Men want to be unforgettable but they don’t want to leave anything behind that anyone can remember them by. And how can they do that? Is there a way a man can be a real man and leave behind many a sigh of satisfaction without any screams of regret? In the words of my urologist, “ay, there’s the snip”.

But more importantly, ‘the snip’ is the ultimate way of taking a bullet for the team, because the alternative for a woman – tubal ligation, or even ‘the big H’ – is a lot to ask of someone you love. If the snip is a walk in the park, then a tubal ligation is a backward jog up the Andes, and a hysterectomy is a 10km leopard crawl across fields of broken glass. So when, after a wife or two (or three), and after untold children, a man steps up to the plate and says, “Enough now; it’s time for me to visit the ol’ doctor of glove”, he’s taking the ultimate responsibility. He’s being a real man.

Oh sure, he’ll have to deal with the occasional teasing from ignorant peers and unschooled colleagues, and he’ll have to move among snide whispers of ‘snip’ and ‘sports model’; but he’ll be able to do so resplendent with the knowledge that no more pitter-patter of little feet will follow in his footsteps, and that, anyway, most women would choose an Aston Martin over a Toyota Hilux bakkie any day.

So, if you’re married and in love and the kids are nearly grown up, perhaps it’s time to step up to the plate and be a real man. Say you’ll have the snip. But if in your busy day running a company, or, even say, a country, you find that your irresistible charm still manages to rub off on the ladies, you need something bigger. It’s called restraint.

Originally published in the March 2010 edition of Leadership magazine