03 April 2011

Suburban Manhood: a garden, 2 and half kids, and a future of patio beers

There's a 50 Cent song that goes, 'Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire.' I was thinking about this song today as I was cutting the vines growing over the fence in our garden for some reason, shocked and jealous in the way that a man nearing thirty with several children might be at just how audacious it is. Surely, this can't be something a grown man thinks is okay to sing. Surely, there are no women who want to hear this message.

This Saturday, I am, in a clear affront to nature, rejecting my key evolutionary purpose, getting a vasectomy. I've tried to stop talking about it, not because I am uncomfortable with the topic, but because everyone around me seems to be uncomfortable. They listen to me dutifully, knowing that, yes, it's probably not something to be embarrassed about, and yes, they probably shouldn't ask me not to talk about it, but there's something about the word that sticks in people's mouths. Not in mine, I say it freely, like I am Walt Whitman, lying in a field of grass. I've stopped, however, because I know that you might not want to hear me say it.

I was put on this earth to procreate: I realise this, I accept it. That's what drives us to do almost every stupid thing we do: trying to get more of our guys out there. I am going to have three of my guys in the evolutionary fight, so I think my DNA is safe, likely to be passed on to some unsuspecting baby or babies in the next 30 to 40 years. But I'm only going to have three guys out there.

This, in my head, in my oft-maligned critical apparatus that fires on all cylinders about everything all the time, makes perfect sense: 'Yes, good, right, this is the thing to do. Small pain for a couple of days: be a man. Small chance of complications: but you got in a car today, moron. Risk is risk. Then you secure stability and peace of mind.' That voice, that guy? I like that guy. I am that guy. He makes me money. He gets me acclaim every now and then. He's not the best person to have at a dinner party necessarily ('Do you know how many kilocalories are in that?'), but I like him enough.

Then, suddenly, 50 Cent pops into my mind. I can't put the rest of it into words, actually. All I can say is that 50 Cent, proud of his ability to procreate whenever he wants, came into my mind as I pulled at the vines coming over fence from the neighbour's garden. 'Baby, be a millionaire.'

I got to the point today where I couldn't use the lawnmower that came with the house anymore. It's a 'Flymo Microlite'. The blades are plastic and it is made for an old woman to do a very minimal amount of gardening. There was also a petrol mower in the garage which worked swimmingly last year, but died over the offseason. Three times so far, I have gone through the same process: Get out Flymo. Get frustrated. Get out petrol mower. Try to start it. Get angry. Go back to Flymo. Get angry. Go back to trying to start petrol mower. Repeat without revision for two hours.

Today, I was on the second cycle of this process and one of the plastic blades on the Flymo broke when it hit a stick (and which happens regularly). I cursed as loudly and as viciously as a man can in his garden when there are potentially people around and went to get another blade, but I didn't have any more. No matter, I thought, this will give me a chance to think about some things as I walk to B&Q, a DIY megastore which is incidentally right by another megastore that sells iPads: perhaps feeling sorry for myself will turn into an impulse purchase.

I ended up looking at lawnmowers in the B&Q garden section for a few minutes, thinking, I should just get another mower, but there wasn't anything under £50. And really, buying a new mower is the responsibility of our landlord, although he's made it pretty clear that the Flymo is sufficient. Anyway, I got the blades, but suddenly spotted a push mower, the old kind: no electricity, no petrol. £39.99. This, I thought, this will solve my problem in the most classic, most refined way. I thought about getting it, going back and forth between the plastic blades and the mower, but finally did get the mower. The walk back with the box was harder than I thought it would be and I spent the whole time trying to justify it to myself by imagining a conversation with Yoko, although I knew Yoko would approve as she doesn't like hearing me cuss or having me frustrated every weekend in the summer when I attempt to do any garden maintenance.

When I got home, I assembled the handle and attached it to the wheel and blades and started pushing it around: why hadn't I ever thought of this before? It was perfectly peaceful; none of the high octane, loud power of the petrol mower. Just the spinning of the blade. It's exactly what I imagined it would be—the sound was perfect. It, of course, doesn't cut as quickly as the petrol mower, but it does good, steady work and doesn't get stuck or require going over things three hundred times like Flymo. I was pleased with myself for having made the right impulse decision, walking slowly up and down the garden with the soft sound of the spinning blade carrying me along. My future, I thought, contains almost innumerable experiences exactly the same as this--pushing a lawnmower in the late afternoon sun, wondering if I am going to beat the rain that seems to be coming just now.

I imagine someone asking me, 'So three kids? Is that all? You gonna try for a boy?' I'll say, 'No, this is going to be it for us.' And the person, smiling, will say, 'Well, you never know, right?' I've thought about how I might respond: 'No, I'm sterile now' or 'No, I'm fixed, so it's not a possibility' or 'No, although my testicles produce sperm, I've had my vasa deferentia cut and sealed, so the sperm is absorbed into my bloodstream rather than being fed into my semen. It's a common form of birth control.' None of these seems quite right, especially in a casual conversation that comes up when we meet someone by chance in the supermarket, which is where I imagine this conversation taking place. Is there really anything to say in moments like this?

'Well, you never know.' No, imaginary person in my head, sometimes you know.