From Sperm Bank to Vasectomy: The Story of My Sexless Marriage, Part 1
The hoops I had to jump through, and the lessons I learned along the way.
Deep down I knew my wife would never have sex with me, but I was married so had nothing to lose. We’d play the same predictable game each week, me asking, her rejecting. Having a headache couldn’t work forever, so her denials became increasingly creative and conditional, leading to a series of excuses progressively more obnoxious and absurd.
At first she refused to make love because our apartment was too messy. We had two young boys, reminding me we’d done it at least two times before, infusing me with false hope. Worse still, by the time I cleaned one room, the kids messed up another. Noticing my strange obsession with tidiness, they deliberately sabotaged my efforts to ensure dad never got laid.
After I finally managed to clean up, my wife’s next excuse was the bed. Was it too small? No. Was it too big? No. Was it too soft, too hard, too high, too low? No, no, no, no — then what, for chrissakes? She couldn’t or wouldn’t say. She simply didn’t like the bed. So we bought a new one. Was it any different? I couldn’t tell. Neither could she, apparently, because she still wouldn’t put out.
Her excuse next round? The bed replaced, the room clean, she suddenly didn’t like our bedroom. So we rearranged the whole goddamned apartment. Every permutation explored, our furnishings were moved between dining room, living room, kids’ room, and bedroom. We exhausted every possibility until she finally sighed, the neighbors below wondering WTF was going on.
Bed, check! Room, check! Bedroom, check! OK, now what? The whole apartment had to go, of course. We lived in a second floor walk-up, and carrying groceries apparently wrecked her. The only way I’d ever get any, she insisted, was if we relocated to a first floor space where the stairs wouldn’t tire her out. Packing and moving won her several more blissfully sexless months.
The switch perked her up, but the happier she got, the less inclined she remained. I had done everything she’d asked no matter how ridiculous, and her excuses were running out. Amazing how otherwise unimaginative people instantly become creative to avoid doing what they don’t like, necessity indeed the mother of invention, or in this case the engine of marital misery.
So she cunningly shifted from domesticity to biology, terrified of getting pregnant again. Birth control pills upset her, condoms could break, other planning methods proved too risky. Our only solution was to indefinitely forgo sexual intercourse. Maybe we could have sex again after the kids went to college, she explained, when she became menopausal, and I finally gave up.
Bio-mechanics might have had something to do with it. I’m a six-foot-two, two hundred twenty pound white guy. She’s a five-foot-nothing Korean woman who’s less than half my body weight. Sympathetic friends said we looked “cute” together — while imagining a Great Dane screwing a Chihuahua. Our kids came out adorable, though, one tall, the other short. Who knew?
Duck and Cover
Before you dismiss me as another sexist male, Neanderthal chauvinist, or pre-#MeToo asshole, allow me to assert that back in the day I tried: Flowers, date nights, candlelit dinners, breakfasts in bed, home improvement projects, investment plans, shopping sprees, Louis Vuitton bags, kid sitting weekends. Was I an awesome husband? No. Was I an abusive prick? Not by any stretch.
Her Korean stepmom would agree. One summer early in our hopeless marriage I flew granny in to meet the kids, hang out, and nibble on freeze-dried grasshoppers. She was a sweet old lady who didn’t speak any English and looked like Jimmy Page after sobering out. Recovering from the initial shock of meeting her new American son-in-law, she earnestly tried to help.
Part of her arsenal consisted of a pair of interlocking wooden ducks, strategically placed on the nightstand of our postpartum bed. The ducks’ orientation was traditionally used by a wife to convey whether or not she was in the mood: If the ducks faced away from each other the husband wouldn’t be getting any; if the ducks faced each other the wife was ready to romp.
After a week not only were the ducks chronically facing away from each other, they disappeared altogether. “What happened to the ducks?” I asked too loudly one night, our two-year-old shouting from the other room: “Fuck duck! Daddy suck! Good luck!” And that was the end of that. If a sympathetic grandma and R-rated toddler couldn’t wind her back up again, nobody could.
She stayed in our marriage because I took care of her. She didn’t work, had no intention ever doing so. Her basic needs were met, including zero intimacy. I stayed because I loved our kids, and our kids loved their mom. She correctly surmised that I wouldn’t leave her because I wouldn’t leave them. All she had to do was continue ovulating and say “No” with ever more exotic excuses.
Some relationships evolve over time, others inexorably return to how they began. When we first met I was horny, and she needed a green card. A blind date, I felt lust at first sight, the cutest woman I’d ever seen; she saw me as a big goofy oaf who’d do just about anything to get laid. We were both right: I quickly got what I wanted, and she eventually got what she needed.
Only two weeks in and resolutely resisting my attempts, she somehow agreed to don a Valentine’s Day form-fitting nightie, worn awkwardly as if the pink silk lace were a burka. We smoked weed, which made her skittishly paranoid but distracted enough to succumb to my ham-handed advances. Getting instantly knocked up sealed our fate, closing the gates soon as they opened.
Unable to sue Victoria’s Secret for paternity, and unwilling to get an abortion, we found ourselves all-in. I was thirty-seven at the time and happily single, but felt a higher power got involved. My time had come to settle down. I did the wrong thing, for all the right reasons, a pattern that continued throughout our tortuous decade-long marriage, her yin stubbornly resisting my yang.
We were set up by the receptionist of the sperm bank where I worked as a medical editor, writing clinical manuals on semen analysis. True story. Men would check in, enter a room to the side of the office, watch porn videos or flip through back issues of Penthouse magazine, then jerk off into a small plastic container, which they’d place on a small ledge facing the lab.
I got the gig through the editor of a local paper, who offered me up as a favor to her best friend, a tall slender woman who flew around the world electro-ejaculating rhinoceroses. An endangered species, they needed all the help they could get. Her sample extraction was more elaborate than the guys in our lab: She wore arm-length rubber gloves to zap rhino prostate from the inside.
She proved far more adept at jerking off rhinos than writing research papers, which is where I came in. After several excruciating drafts we couldn’t stand working with each other. But I stuck around thanks to the rapport built up with her lab mate and colleague, Dr. J., a Sri Lankan emigre who wore terrible toupees and had the knack for getting high strung white people impregnated.
In between rhino citations I edited the doc’s correspondence, convincing him that I could help realize one of his dreams, getting published with Cambridge Press. The acclaimed institution had too few books about sperm, and luckily the professor stumbled onto the right guy for the right job. Leaning against a liquid nitrogen tank, he dictated Semen Analysis: A Practical Guide.
As I edited our magnum spermus on an old PC, his Filipino clinician took freshly filled sample containers, smeared loads onto a slide, squinted through a microscope, and tapped on a clicker device, once for every ten sperm cells counted. Mixing up gender pronouns, she told me about her many family trips to Vegas, her chip girl niece, and plans for retiring on The Strip. Click, clack.
One random weekday Maria the receptionist handed me a business card from “Barbie Nail Salon” on Pulaski Avenue. On the back was a handwritten email address. “Yippee is a cute girl new to this country who wants to be taken out,” Maria hinted. “I promised her you were a gentleman, and would take her out to fun places.” Demonstrably under-qualified, I emailed her anyway.
We agreed to meet the following Sunday evening at a coffee shop. I spent the afternoon in a bar, arriving late and buzzed. I saw two Asian women, one striking, the other ready to strike. I had to guess who was my date, who was her protective escort. I guessed correctly, but they lied, so for the rest of the evening I flirted with my future-ex-wife’s chaperone. We got along great!
Second date they let the cat out of the bag. I was excited she was the more attractive of the pair, yet disappointed since I’d grown fond of her escort. Only after our sixth date were they comfortable enough to allow alone time with Yippee. Despite the chivalrous chaperoning, our first night out we wound up at my place doing drugs, getting naked, and having unprotected sex.
The frivolity of our fling was instantly torpedoed by knocking her up, further complicated by her precarious immigration status. Drastic action had to be taken. Eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I rolled her into the county courthouse to get legally married. Judge, bailiff, witnesses, everyone laughed out loud. Google “interracial shotgun wedding” and you’ll see our photo.
What began as a lusty look across a coffee house rapidly accelerated into a life-changing relationship. The only child of toxic parents, I had spent my adulthood avoiding marriage with the same gusto I resisted a career, largely for the same reasons. My nuclear family having nuked my youth, the last thing I wanted was to dive back into the pain I spent decades fleeing.
A serial monogamist and chronic dumper, I’d recklessly fall in love and commit to a romance just long enough for the endorphins to dissipate and the challenges to mount. I’d then invent excuses and walk away with impunity, rationalizing my mate’s anguish with the callous assertion that I was honest and open from the start, claiming to have never been in it to really win it.
Sooner or later, though, something had to give. Was I running away from what I feared, or running toward my idea of a better life? Scientists have speculated for millennia as to what happens if an infinite force impacts an immovable body: Are they both destroyed? Or is all that power transformed into a weird object that’s strangely moving and staying still at the same time?
A sudden unwanted pregnancy with a stranger I had nothing in common with somehow triggered the need for a genuine relationship. For years I adamantly refused to play ball with Freud, my infantilism finally surrendering to a warped interracial Oedipus complex; Darwin also kicked my ass, the forces of natural selection transforming fun single sex into grim marital death.
Although our vast differences didn’t bode well for a long-term relationship, the unlikely union was certainly promising in terms of what in animal husbandry is called “hybrid vigor.” Every two people on Earth can eventually be traced back to the same parents: Bedouins might be only forty years apart; Yippee and my ancestors likely hadn’t shared a cave for forty thousand.
That results in vigorous gene mixing and robust offspring, an evolutionary advantage. Scientists also describe “Genetic Drift,” whereby isolated pockets of humanity fight disease by occasionally intermingling DNA due to the sexual allure of strangers having different physical traits. Does it sound like I’m rationalizing an otherwise terrible marriage? Sure. But that ship has sailed.
Being white, I unconsciously assumed an Asian woman was submissive; being Asian, she consciously knew such an assumption gave her complete control. Being male, I didn’t look beyond getting laid; being female, she instinctively understood our entire situation. Fast forward five years, two kids, zero sex, and infinite excuses later, Freud and Darwin had officially left the building.
Getting a vasectomy was my idea. Although that sounds naive and optimistic, for the first time I was thinking end game, and how, sterilized like a feral cat, I’d again be able to irresponsibly have sex with other people. Either way, she couldn’t have cared less. She rejoiced in a fuckless future for us. Shooting blanks made absolutely no difference to her. My balls were in my court.
I did some research, looked up doctors in-network. Of all the nearby physicians, “Dr. Jeffrey Spitz” immediately stood out, a seasoned testicle-snipping pro with terrific creds. A relative? Not that I knew of. Spitz is relatively rare, but not to the extent we were all closely related. I considered our shared family name as a sign. At least I’d be in good hands, so to speak.
In German spitz means tip, or point. That’s why a ball point pen is a spitzplume, a pointy-nosed dog breed is a Spitz, the city of highest latitude is called Spitzbergen, and why crowds of German sports fans cheer “Das ist Spitze!” when their team scores, the equivalent of yelling “Hurrah!” or literally “That’s the top!” (Spitzname means nickname, by the way, don’t ask me why.)
Anyway, the irony of Dr. Spitz snipping my spitztip wasn’t lost to me, or the hope that our familial bromancing would offer extra protection for the family jewels. Dr. Jeffrey Spitz might feel a special bond with Mookie Spitz, who was freaked out that his genitalia would soon be sliced and diced by a complete stranger — like his wife, who’d done even more damage by avoiding them.
Perfunctory introductions aside, Dr. Spitz was indeed amused by our shared surname, a brief exercise in personal history and Ancestry 101 nonetheless yielding few clues. Both of us were from Chicago, which thickened the plot; but his father had died in a motorcycle accident at a relatively young age, his mother remarrying, making tracing anything deeper entirely speculative.
An expert in vasectomy reversal, Dr. Spitz also seemed over-qualified. I kept us focused on the matter at hand, which he promised wouldn’t be nearly as traumatic as I envisioned. A buxom blond nurse confirmed his assurances, at least initially, when she shaved and rubbed disinfectant all over my dick and balls. She made small talk as she worked, which I didn’t take personally.
A satisfying start yielded to piercing pain. Shots of anesthesia were local and excruciating. Since I likely wasn’t going to get laid at home, anyway, the futility of the pointless procedure hit home. I had spent years spinelessly acquiescing to the whims of a mean-spirited crazy person, and now my legs were spread wide with the delusional hope she’d someday open hers.
The anesthesia mercifully conquered my adrenaline and the pain subsided, giving way to a groggy, euphoric buzz. A seasoned pro, Dr. Spitz quickly got to it, opening me up and reaching right in, prodding, pinching, and pulling. Still conscious, I distinctly heard his scissors snipping, my tubes cauterized closed with a burning tzzzzzzt sound, smelling the smoke as it rose to my nostrils.
Sterilized and in my moment of greatest discomfort, for the first time I noticed the music pumped into the operating room. Designed to distract, perhaps even soothe, I instead shuddered in shock and awe: “Clocks” by Coldplay was streaming, and I was screaming. I hate Coldplay. Not your usual impulsive turn-of-the-dial, but a passionate revulsion to the worst band ever formed.
Monotonal whining, soulless songwriting, how had these four effete British arseholes faked their way into international stardom? To me, Coldplay is the String Theory of pop music, a train wreck stifling creativity for generations. In my day Led Zeppelin was denounced by old farts as trash, but what did they know? I was getting a vasectomy, but Chris Martin never had any balls.
“The lights go out and I can’t be saved / Tides that I tried to swim against have brought me down upon my knees / Oh I beg, I beg and plead.” OMG, who listens to this shit? Answer: Everyfuckenbody. I’ve met cool people only to discover they liked Coldplay, the cognitive dissonance disorienting, these people then dead to me. By association I now hated Dr. Spitz, and his hot nurse, too.
Whether a byproduct of the powerful drugs, physical discomfort, or the dismal reality that I was force-fed Coldplay while being sterilized, I gazed upward into the bright light and experienced a terrifying vision: Serenaded by the whimpering emo vocals and boring piano arpeggio was a circle of faces staring down at me, their fingers pointed in accusation and mockery.
I recognized them all, and remembered the ignominious circumstances of our partings: from one night stands to year-long relationships, from punch-me-in-the-mouth breakups to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind memory deletions, the living ghosts of everyone I had ever ghosted had me where they always wanted me — lying prostrate below, my prostate literally dangling out.
They taunted and teased me with elaborate coordination, as if they’d been rehearsing together for years. I got the feeling they’d compared notes, my foibles pantomimed with precise skill and insulting exaggeration: they snored like hibernating bears, humped like bonobos, masturbated like chimpanzees, did housework like tree sloths, and let me have it like black widows.
Glaringly absent was my wife, for whom this entire unnerving procedure was meant. She wasn’t even in the waiting room, having dropped me off to go shopping with her girlfriends. I asked her to pick up over-the-counter meds the doc recommended for post-op “discomfort.” Not only did she forget to stop by the pharmacy, she forgot to come get me. I had to call, writhing in pain.
Finally, we played it all out: I cleaned up, bought a new bed, moved rooms, then apartments, got a vasectomy. I healed a month later, and made a move. “No,” she snapped. “Why?” I foolishly asked. “Because I don’t want to have sex with you,” she admitted, both of us greatly relieved. Sooner or later the truth comes out, and life catches up. You just have to give it time. Tick, tock.
Curious what happened next? Journey from sperm back to vasectomy and into horny to heartbroken territory in The Story of My Sexless Marriage, Part 2…