Columns, Opinion

MAOUYO: The fro you thought you knew

It would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, for me to legitimately claim to be a private individual. Sure, there are a few genres of emotion I keep under lock and key, and with other people’s secrets I am a veritable vault (one less susceptible than that of a sauced-up Elaine Benes), but I have trouble bringing to mind any secrets I myself have. Let’s just say I tend toward self-deprecation rather than self-preservation. Perhaps they function in cooperation because I haven’t had anything come back to haunt me. At least not yet.

Though many of my epiphanies (which might give myself too much credit) and personality traits have developed over time and are difficult to trace back to one specific event, I can more or less easily pinpoint the incident that inspired/caused/forced my openness. I was a mere 15-year-old, busy with the likes of AP classes, puberty and all the great (read: awful) things that are high school when I up and decided (well, not decided) to join the ranks of Lance Armstrong and Tom Green (and according to rumors, Napoleon, Hitler and Schwarzenegger!). Celebrity status? I think so. Oh, and if you haven’t put it together yet, you will. And that’s a promise.

On a dark (and stormy, if Snoopy had his way,) night, Oct. 22, 2005 if you care, some friends and I decided to go laser tagging. I don’t know why we decided to go laser tagging; I’d never done it, I still haven’t done it and I doubt I’d enjoy it. But when you’re below 18 and hanging in the Baltimore ‘burbs, I guess you run out of things to do. We met at the mall to grub at the food court, planning to head out from there. I, in my infinite wisdom, ordered a Crunch Wrap Supreme from Taco Bell, my first (and last) one ever, and in my normal voracious fashion, gobbled it down as would a fat kid, cake (Sorry 50 Cent).

Awful idea. About half an hour after eating, I started feeling less-than-terrific. While waiting for the rest of the group to convene, I’d have to get up and go to the bathroom every few minutes, sure that every time I came back I’d have fewer items in my stomach than upon my departure. But it just wouldn’t happen. There’s not much more frustrating than knowing that a gastroenterological revolt will make you feel better and not having it come to fruition. We’ve all been there.

Sensing my angst (which was not difficult, given my facial expressions, groans and general behavior), my friend Nik offered to drive me home. I don’t actually remember most of this ride home; I guess I spent most of it in a fitful doze while Nik shamelessly sped in an effort to get me home before my acidic stomach fluids ended up all over his car and ourselves.

Fortunately, I did get home, and as clich’eacute;s would dictate, just in the nick of time. I only made it up the front stairs and onto the porch before proceeding to dump ‘-‘- no, expel my unhappy abdomen’s contents over the side of the porch in a manner that would be categorized as ‘projectile.’ The act thus completed (for now), I managed to stumble into my home and proclaim my deed. My mother’s response? ‘Did you hit the azaleas?’ Not even kidding. So I told the truth: my emanations had landed between the lilac bush and the newly planted azaleas. I mean, I didn’t check, but I knew. Turning the flowers into casualties could only worsen my situation.

After my esophagus lost another few bouts to my stomach (in the bathroom, this time), my mom, as she’s done countless times, took me to the emergency room. Clutching a garbage can, I sat in the ER’s lobby, waiting with my typical hospital waiting room apathy. (I’ve had some serious practice with ERs. I could probably go pro.) Luckily, it wasn’t a prolific night for violent crime in Baltimore, so I didn’t get shoved behind a single stabbing or shooting victim, which is usually what happens.

Anyway, I was admitted, and the wonderful ER doctors came to the shocking conclusion that I was suffering from some indigestion. So I got some medicine pumped into me to get my digestive tract under control. And it was, until I was forced to drink two cans of ginger ale. That’s at least one too many cans of anything to be forced upon someone who spent the better part of his or her night emptying his or her stomach. But maybe that’s just me. I took up the gauntlet, though, and went home.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning with discomfort, not in my abdominal region, but lower, between my legs. Was that a swelling, on the right there? It was! But why? Not being one to worry about a little discomfort, especially after being in the hospital within the previous 12 hours, I concluded that I must have bumped the rightward part of my nether-region on something as I was stumbling around vomiting the previous night. But the swelling continued to grow as I went about my day, going to a pumpkin patch, watching ‘Children of the Corn’ (the last scary movie I ever watched) and lost a pumpkin carving competition, all while wearing loose shorts and sitting with my legs splayed out at every opportunity.

That night’s sleep was, at best, terrible. When I awoke the next morning, I looked down, and for the first time in this ordeal, was slightly worried. The right, compared to its unaffected brother on the left, was nearly at a breaking point with its scrotal encasement, coming in at about the size of a mango. While gasping in horror, imagine me waddling downstairs to greet my mother with the news that I think we should probably get a medical professional to inspect my naked glory. This too, was greeted calmly, and off we went, not immediately to a hospital, but to an outpatient clinic of sorts.

So, I’m sitting alone in patient room when the nurse practitioner enters the room and asks me what she can help me with today. I drop my shorts, and she reaches, lifts the painful, hanging mass, and sighs, ‘You need to see a real doctor about this.’ Now, I’m worried. We rush to a real hospital where a few more doctors and nurses proceed to grope and poke the no-fly zone. As poking and prodding results usually are, the conclusions from this painful session were inconclusive. The solution? An ultrasound. I’m rolled into a dark room, where an older gentleman proceeds to give me the pregnant-woman treatment, which apparently also involves ignoring any efforts made in the interest of small talk and non-awkwardness.

After wiping the cold gel off of myself, the urologist greeted me with the news that I had a testicular torsion and would need to undergo surgery immediately. And though for many people, surgery tends to be a big deal, it’s kind of old hat in my family. Like I said, I could go pro in terms of receiving hospital care.

But even with my surgical experience, I’m still a mess when coming out of anesthesia. My parents have some great stories of post-surgery semi-lucid moments. After this particular surgery, in one of the moments that I seemed perfectly awake and conscious, the urologist/surgeon confronted me.

‘I’m sorry Stephen, we tried to revive your testicle,’ she started (and to this day I hope that testicle resuscitation is carried out with shock-pads and doctors yelling ‘Clear!’) and continued, ‘But it was dead, and we just had to remove it.’

My response?

‘I have a spare, right?’

Apparently, most people don’t take this news as well as I did. I’ll take a second to answer a couple of the more popular questions. Did Taco Bell kill rightie? I can’t legally say yes, but there is a theory that my food poisoning (which again, cannot be legally attributed to Taco Bell, but draw your own conclusions) caused such violent abdominal motions that it twisted a few blood vessels. Are production levels affected? Nope, and the extra space is also a bonus. I’ll answer further questions personally, if you have them.

One might find it odd that such an incident would be a defining one in my life, especially in light of the fact that I never had any sort of emotional crisis about it. But rarely before and never after in my life had/has there been a ‘s— happens’ moment of quite the same caliber. When I was nine, I broke my elbow really badly, had a couple surgeries and my elbow never fully recovered. I quit baseball and would use my elbow as an excuse for terrible performance in physical tests in gym class in middle school. But when I lost a testicle, I realized there was no point to grieving. No remedies, no excuses. Although I think it’d be na’iuml;ve to say that every situation has a silver lining, I feel that circumstances out of your control are most appropriately mourned if you are cognizant of the fact that in all actuality, there is very little actually under your power.

Possibly more importantly, within weeks, all of my friends, and possibly most of my high school, were aware of my little surgery. Initially, I only told one friend, but realized that sooner or later, everyone would find out. So I took control of it. I told people; I laughed about it so others would; I broadcasted my new livelihood. And so, any jokes at my expense were taken in stride, because I had made the first joke. Secrets never stay secrets, so why keep them? The more you keep from people, the more you distance yourself from them. If you want to really know people and have them really know you and develop relationships that matter, there’s just absolutely no room for facades. It’s easy to label honesty as self-deprecation, and self-deprecation as a defense mechanism, but why put a negative spin on it? If we consider the old adage, ‘a little goes a long way’ to be true, how far can near-complete openness and honesty take you?

Over Thanksgiving, my little sister mentioned (with the precocious wisdom that she often has) that in my writing this semester, she noticed maturation, an introspective side that she hadn’t really seen before. And I guess she’s right. What better way to learn about yourself than to really analyze your life? Try it sometime. It’s worth it.

Thanks for reading.

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