The time that I saw my balls on a giant television

How do you tell a stranger, "I have too many balls"? Paul Dean has the answer.

Today I am going to tell you about the time that I saw my balls on a giant television.

This story, which I am telling for a very important reason, begins in a shower in Hammersmith, west London, where you find me wet and cupping a fine sack of manliness and doing some very simple mental arithmetic. Naturally, you take a moment to imagine how supple and virile I look as the water courses down my body but, ultimately, I must draw your attention to the very serious topic that I want to address here. That topic is me, a man in a shower, discovering that he has too many balls.

Let’s be absolutely clear here. By balls I mean testicles. Gonads. Scrotum spheres. Those fine sacks of manliness that I never leave the house without. I know my balls like the back of my hand and so it makes no sense to me, a then thirty-year-old man, that there are more of them today.

My first response was one of uncertainty, of self-doubt, because at no point do I remember adding an extra ball in there, or going shopping for any, or getting blind drunk one night and thinking it would be hilarious if I stole someone else’s balls and packed ‘em in. Everything down there looks pretty normal and I see no signs of tampering.

So I leave it for a day and keep occasionally checking to see if anything has changed. I have another shower (this time I look even sexier and there’s frothy gel all over me) and, yes, there’s still something strange going down there. I’m now not quite sure if I have more balls or if I just have bigger balls, but something’s not right. I consider that the latter is an outside possibility, but worry I might start to intimidate ladies with what seems to be some sort of expanding virility. Would that be too much for them to handle? After all, I am already pretty good at doing the sex and know both positions.

I have no choice but to Take Things Seriously and so I book myself in to see my local GP and mentally prepare myself for a situation where I’ll have to look a stranger in the eye and whisper "I have too many balls." I suppose an alternative to this might be to Do Nothing, but this doesn’t seem very wise to me. After all, my undercarriage itself is at stake here and I like the pants cannon assemblage I’m packing. I’d rather a trained weaponsmith checked it over.

When I go to the GP I get to read a really good Stephen King short story in the New Yorker while I wait, then I meet a woman I’ve never seen before (or since) who listens very calmly to my story about there being too many lumps in my love pudding. She then tells me she’ll have to verify this, which I figured was going to happen and which, really, isn’t very much of a problem. This is, after all, going to be confirmation from a professional that there is something strange happening down in my man basement.

However, what she asks next does surprise me a little. “Would you like me to call a chaperone in here?" By that she means a third person, in case I’m worried something untoward might happen. I’m not worried that anything untoward will happen because I’m at the doctor’s, though for a second I do consider the possibility of just saying “Heck, let’s invite everyone in to watch me get my gentleman’s wallet fondled." Then I don’t, because that would be silly.

It doesn’t even take a moment and the doctor tells me I’m right: someone’s pocketed too many reds in this corner. It needs more inspection and I’m booked in for another appointment at a nearby hospital, a few days hence, where more strangers will look at me in greater detail. The doctor also commends me for getting all this looked at very quickly. She tells me that, yes, there is a possibility that a man my age might develop testicular cancer, but if I have and if it’s caught this early, I’ve saved myself a whole host of problems. The chances of remission are extraordinary low, with a 98 per cent chance I’ll be Just Fine and never bothered again. Treatment will be quick and simple. “If you’re going to have cancer, it’s the best cancer to have!" she says, in a way that feels a bit too excited.

As I walk home I wonder if I have the Best Cancer, the optimal form of a disease that has killed two of my uncles and one of my aunts. I wonder how that works out, or what it’s like to lie there in a cancer ward and have the person next to you ask what kind of cancer you have, only to reply with "The best!" I think about the relatively simple operation that would remove a ball, since the whole ball has to go. I imagine doctors and nurses intimidated by the raw power of my removed ball and having to bury it somewhere, like nuclear waste, or blow it up in a giant controlled explosion in a quarry, with the aid of the Royal Engineers and a Major with a large mustache who tuts and shakes his head.

Instead, what happens is I go to a hospital, get into a small examination room and I lay down on a bed that, I’m disgusted to discover, is far more comfortable than the one I have at home. A man I’ve never met before then tells me he’s going to take an ultrascan of my balls to see exactly what’s happening in the wine cellar. This is the same sort of thing that allows people to see their unborn babies, except I’ll be seeing my testicles. My gonads.

He adds that, first of all, he’ll have to apply some gel to my skin for this to work. He adds at the gel is “a little cold" and this is a bald lie, because the gel is freezing and for a moment I’m not at all aware of what he’s looking at because all I know is that someone has dunked my scrotum in an ice bucket. This is a new experience for me, as that part of my body is usually only used to landing in warm baths, giving my bum about a half second warning of the sort of temperatures it’s going to meet.

But then, suddenly, there they are. There is a large, large screen in this room and there’s nothing being displayed on them but a great big image of my balls. My balls. For a second I’m not sure if I hear a gasp from the man with me who may well be impressed by the sheer balliness of my balls. He wiggles his scanning device over me and we get to see my balls from different angles. They pose, coyly. It’s way better than looking at some crummy baby.

It doesn’t take him long to see what the problem is. Cysts, he tells me, and large ones too. In fact, there’s one cyst on each of my testicles and they’re about 2cm in size, which explains why I had too many guests in my nightclub. Cysts can be common, he says, can be a pain, and can go away by themselves fairly quickly. It’s nothing to worry about, he says, and would I like to dry my balls off now? I would, though I’d also like to ultrascan every bit of my body.

There’s no epilogue to my story, no postscript, except to say that this whole process was incredibly quick and simple and easy. It was also less embarrassing than tripping in the street and certainly less stressful than trying to talk to a lovely lady in a bar.

Among the things that men as a whole are shit at doing is taking this sort of thing seriously, but what goes on down about your crotch is serious business and, at the same time, often very easy to get sorted out. If you worry that there may be something going wrong there, your chances of nixing whatever problem you might have depend on how soon you talk to somebody about it. Make sure to do it soon and your prognosis is beyond excellent.

I’m telling you this story because there’s no better time to do so. The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign, which works hard to remind men to be attentive to issues like this, is running a fundraising drive where they hope to collect £100,000 “To build a fully operational hot-air balloon in the shape of a huge scrotum to challenge the taboos & embarrassment surrounding testicular cancer." They want to build a giant floating set of balls because making people laugh is a good way of raising awareness. Also, the balloon is an investment, something that will last them at least ten years. Floating balls for ten years.

I think you should help them out. I think you should also take a few moments now and then to examine yourself for lumps, just because there’s nothing wrong with checking what treasure is in your Bag of Holding, and I don’t think you should feel at all bad or embarrassed about having to go to see a doctor if you have any concerns. After all, you’ll never look as silly as a person who just wrote 1,500 words about seeing their own balls on a big TV and then put it all on the internet.

This piece was originally posted on Paul's tumblr, and has been reposted here with permission.

Balls. Photograph: Getty Images

Paul Dean is a freelance writer living in Lewisham and writing primarily about games, whether on consoles, computers or the living room table.

He's the co-creator of the board gaming site Shut Up & Sit Down and the writer for the indie game Maia. You can follow him on Tumblr or follow him on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.