A Wide Stance — By Eric Marcus
September 18, 2007
I committed a sin this week that made me think of Senator Larry Craig. I lied about something that embarrassed me. Well, not exactly lied, but I felt cornered into allowing for a misperception of the truth regarding an incident involving a sexual organ.
Here’s what happened: I had a minor medical emergency (that didn’t seem so minor at the time) that began last Monday following a routine three-mile run. After a night of excruciating pain I spent several hours in my doctor’s office and then an additional hour on my back, legs spread, undergoing a seemingly endless sonogram examination.
When I finally made it back onto the street, I was still in pain and was pretty loopy from the Vicodin, so I decided to cancel a podcast recording with my publisher scheduled for an hour later (Simon & Schuster is publishing a new edition of my Q&A book for teens, What If Someone I Know is Gay?).
I called Kelly, the marketing person at S&S, whom I know mostly via e-mail and had only met in person once, to explain that I’d had an accident. I knew there was no way I was going to tell Kelly exactly what the problem was, but I also knew that I didn’t want to lie. Mostly I hoped she wouldn’t ask, but Kelly is a caring person and said, “What happened?” That’s when I suddenly pictured Larry Craig having to explain how his foot came to butt up against the cute cop’s foot in the Minneapolis airport bathroom. Like Craig, I passed up the opportunity to spell out the full truth and said, “I had a running accident.” When Kelly said, “Oh, that’s terrible,” I felt like even more of a heel.
Technically, I wasn’t lying, but I know that Kelly assumed I’d had a sprained ankle or other injury that involved bones, ligaments and/or muscles. I was too embarrassed to tell her that the diagnosis was, colloquially speaking, a torqued nut. I could have said, as my late Grandma May almost certainly would have, that I had a problem “down there,” but men don’t generally refer to “down there” as “down there.” And, unfortunately, men don’t have the option of using the inverse of the catchall descriptive term “female problems” to describe conditions affecting our reproductive and sexual organs because no one refers to male problems as “male problems.”
I felt bad about shading the truth, but I felt embarrassed about my injury, not because I’d caught the nut in a bathroom stall door or anything, but because any discussion of testicles with anyone other than one’s doctor, husband, and/or a close friend, feels embarrassing. At least to me.
So I’m left feeling sorry for Larry Craig. I have a medical condition, and while it was likely caused by failing to wear appropriately supportive running shorts (middle age is getting to be a real drag), it’s still something I wouldn’t want to talk about in front of the cameras. Senator Craig, however, was beyond embarrassed and had to deal with layers of shame, which all conspired to keep him from coming even close to telling the truth about why he was tapping and waving to a stranger in a place where one’s actions are usually focused on oneself. And without coming clean about what he was doing, there was no way he could defend himself against the outrageous entrapment perpetrated by the Minneapolis airport police.
Even if Senator Craig had been an out, unattached gay man, it’s hard to imagine that he could have overcome his embarrassment and stood before the cameras and explained what he’d been up to, although adopting the “wide stance” excuse must have, in and of itself, caused his cheeks to flush (forgive me, but the puns write themselves).
I had the chance to come clean about my semi-fib when I showed up for my rescheduled recording session this past Friday. Kelly met me in the reception hall and as I stepped off the elevator and walked toward her she glanced at my ankle and asked how I was feeling (okay, I was walking with a wide stance that could have been interpreted as a limp, but I was just trying to protect my still aching, now un-torqued nut). I thought for a second about telling the truth, but felt almost instantaneous embarrassment at the nature of the injury and shame over my earlier misdirection, and simply said, “Thanks for asking. The ice and painkillers helped a lot.”
I have been humbled by my experience this past week and promise never to make fun of Senator Larry Craig’s predicament again (at least until my next blog entry).
All kidding aside, a torqued testicle (twisted within the scrotum, cutting off the blood supply) is a very dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention. I was lucky because my testicle un-torqued itself. But, in general, unless attended to within hours (usually surgery), the testicle can become necrotic (i.e., dead).
I had no idea that such a thing could happen, and because I didn’t know the danger I was in I didn’t seek medical help until the next day and instead used Vicodin and ice to help deal with the pain for as long as I could stand it. And while I do indeed find talking about whole thing more than a little embarrassing, I though it was important to write about my experience in the hope that, as my friend Leslie put it, I could help “save nuts all over the nation.”
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