Mrs. McMorris and I have five daughters — and much like the WNBA nobody is watching them. Unattended children are best kept to the cozy culs-de-sac of the suburbs where the only threat to life and limb is inattentive Amazon delivery drivers, rather than the city where they could fall prey to inattentive pit-bull owners — or worse, watchful public-school teachers.
Every father knows the first thing to do when moving to the suburbs is to find a cheap handyman who will respond within the hour to any text message. All the better if he is a licensed plumber, which is how Mrs. McMorris and I found Scott from All Total Service plumbing. Scott is indifferent to my career as a journalist, though he cares deeply about his Nextdoor rating. Even without the glowing endorsement in the American edition of the world’s oldest magazine, he has been throwing in free services every time he parks his decommissioned ambulance in front of our home — stump removals on top of roto-rooter service, drywall repair and electrical work in addition to tub installation.
It is not just that Scott can see how hapless this suburban father is — very, it turns out — it is because he spots a new baby with every plumbing emergency. “You got to get that thing cut,” he said as he welded in a new ball shut-off valve for the outdoor spigot. Set aside the moral discussion of vasectomy — for the record, you will go to Hell — the episode raises a deeper question: when did it become socially acceptable to discuss the state of another man’s testicles? It isn’t just plumbers who raise the question of my plumbing or barbers insistent that I seek another snip. Since Child #3 was born, I’ve received similar admonitions from clueless acquaintances, relatives who should know better and some of my closest bartenders.
I thumbed through the most recent edition of Marjabelle Young Stewart’s The New Etiquette, and the closest entry I could find was Jewish Birth Ceremonies (“stocks and bonds as well as contributions to a trust fund are acceptable presents,” according to the white-gloved Queen of Courtesy). There has been a push to update the modern rulebook to fill the vasectomy vacuum with as much chatter as possible. Gabrielle Blair, author of Ejaculate Responsibly, thinks that the height of chivalry requires that all men become eunuchs to spare their wives and girlfriends the health risks of the Pill, abortion, or — even worse — birth. She stops short of mandating castration, but the Mormon mother of six says good ol’ fashioned missionary work is the next best thing. She implores male allies to Shout Their Snips while they are doing guy stuff, be it watching the game, standing round the grill or thinking about Rome.
It will not be as long a haul as Mrs. Blair imagines. Scores of men have used my crowded kitchen table as an excuse to proudly share their past or upcoming appointments to be neutered. My go-to response in each case would draw the wrath of Mrs. Blair, not to mention a furrowed brow from Mrs. Young Stewart — no matter how many stocks, bonds and trust fund contributions I brought to the gathering. But I’ve found it effective. A friend will welcome Baby #3 this spring thanks to a single word uttered with bemused contempt, the same word The New Etiquette employs to describe “balloons, crêpe-paper streamers, ribbons and bouquets.”
Children these days are seen as a lifestyle choice, which may be why people ask after my testicles the same way they would a tattoo. Both last a lifetime; only one will age well, but it is not the one American society encourages. About 57 percent of women under the age of forty-nine have a child, on par with the percentage of the same demographic who have at least one tattoo. There will come a time when the butterflies on their ankles and lower backs stop dancing, right around the time my WNBA team will be rallying around their dying father. And I will think back to their genuine queries with regret.
I never did ask Scott or anyone else about their sleeves of ink. How rude of me.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s December 2023 World edition.