Few things have been romanticized to the same degree that the primal process of producing offspring has. You call it something sweet and innocent—“making love,” perhaps—and the embarrassing faces and sporadic grunting are excused. I don’t mean to disparage this romanticization—romanticizing is a certain panache that, when applied to the less pleasant aspects of it, makes society more civilized. It is euphemistic; and I myself am a man who employs this particular brand of euphemism to make humorous or non-committal my proposals to endeavor to procreate so that if they are denied, I can laugh them off as merely a silly whim.
Men of all stripes have danced this dance of being roundabout and indirect about their desire to satisfy the lust that manifests in their loins, being ignorant of the best timing and intensity of the delivery. And this applies to our emotions generally: We are unsure of what is most appropriate for the situation, so we err on not expressing anything at all. This gives women the impression that men lack emotion; nay, it is not emotion that we lack, rather judiciousness. So when it comes to something as momentous as satisfying one of our most primal, most powerful urges, we at least understand that its gravity is paired with equal delicacy and try not to screw it up.
But all of the traditional rules of engagement go out the window when you’re trying to conceive. Before my wife and I were attempting to ensure that our genes carried on, I didn’t understand why people used the phrase, “Oh, Mr. and Mrs. So And So are trying.” Trying? What’s so difficult about the concept? It’s pretty easy to grasp. Even after the first couple of times we “tried,” it didn’t set in because it was fun and exciting and it had a new purpose: you’re creating life! (I mean, yes, we can argue about it being merely a process of transferring genetic information and a reallocation of matter through which all organisms continue their existence and all that, but don’t kill my dream, okay?) Anyway, how powerful does that make you feel, right? But after a while, it just becomes work. All of the innuendos, the stimulatory precursors, the romance—it’s gone. There’s purpose to it, and that somehow strips the fun from it.
My awareness of this became painfully acute when we were trying for our second child. Conceiving our first was a quick process (that happens to a lot of guys, though, right?), so I came into it the second time around with the firm belief that it would be a breeze. At first, I kind of felt bad that she was getting the shaft in the deal since I was enjoying myself without her achieving her goal. But after quite a few unsuccessful attempts, it looked as though this wasn’t going to be as smooth as anticipated; I never in a million years would have thought that something previously so fun would ever become so cumbersome. There started to be talk of ovulation and cycles and most fertile times, and it got harder and harder for me to maintain any interest, let alone passion.
“Just tell me when,” I would say, with a dismissive wave of my hand.
This dispassionate intercourse came to a climax when, as we were getting desperate to bring the conception ordeal to a conclusion, I got a sinus infection. Secretly, I was a little relieved. I thought, “Okay, now we can put this thing on hold. I mean, look at me; I’m a mess. There’s no way she can expect me to perform.”
“Ah, but wait,” she says, “this week, this next couple of days, this is it; this is when it’s most likely to happen!”
“That is not gonna happen,” or, “Dat is nawt gonnah happeh,” as it sounds with my sinuses completely plugged up.
“No, like, right now,” she says, resolutely, as she hits the home button on her phone to check the time. I mean, she has it down to the hour, quarter hour probably.
So there I am, sick as a dog, fevered, struggling to breathe through my congested nose and hoarse throat; there’s minimal contact, no kissing, just straight to the task at hand. It was the most paradoxical position a man has ever been in: engaging in that one act we all seek pertinaciously, and hating every second.