The VigilanceVoice
Tuesday-- March 19, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 189

Testicular Terrorism
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 19--Young men and women around the world face a great moment of Terror in their lives--it's when they reach puberty.   The question that arises is:  "Am I a man?"   "Am I a woman?"
        In both situations, young men and women compare themselves to others.  They want to be "normal," that is, not different from others.   They want their breasts, if they are a girl, to be like the "others."  If a boy, they want their manhood to be "like the others."   What Terrorizes a young man or woman is when his or her body isn't quite like the others, or, in some cases, such as mine, is totally different from others.

       The rite of manhood and womanhood, that is, when the evolution of the body shifts from child to adult, and the hormones start to develop a young person's sexuality, can be traumatic.  The metamorphism can be traumatic.
        I was reminded of my childhood Puberty Terror by an article in the March 18 issue of Time Magazine.  The subject was "Do infertility treatments damage babies' genes?"  The thrust of the article was new research about test tube babies, and children born as a result of libratory assisted sperm injection into fertile eggs.  
         The facts presented in the new studies showed an increase in the percentage of birth defects when fertilization of an egg is induced, rather than created naturally.   Statistics from the research indicated that a baby born through in fertilization of the egg had an 8.6% chance of a birth defect versus a 4.2% rate when conceived the old fashioned way.
         The defects listed included heart and kidney abnormalities, cleft palate and un-descended testicles.
         My wife, ever Vigilant for news that might help me in my daily construction of the Vigilance Voice, marked the article for my perusal.  As I scanned down the information, I jumped up and shouted:  "un-descended testicles....why...why I'm a test-tube baby!"
         She laughed.
        She knew my story well.  My entire family knows the story because I tell it with great panache when the occasion for such a conversation arises.  It was about me being born with only one testicle.
         While it is funny today, it wasn't so funny forty some years ago when I was in the process of going through puberty, and unlike all the other boys in the bathroom examining themselves for signs of genital evolution, I was hiding in the nearest stall avoiding the "show and tell" sessions.  
        I was different!  I was a freak!   I had only one testicle.   Now, that's Terrorism for an adolescent.
        I was born with one un-descended testicle, my right one.   Besides being lopsided, I was sure I wasn't going to be a "man,"--not in the full sense of the word.  Half a man, yes!  Full man, no!  How could I be, thought my pubescent brain, I only have one testicle!
       Sexual appearances, the size of a male's penis or a woman's breasts, the amount of pubic hair one has, whether you have whiskers, the hair on your chest or under your arms,  your period (if you are a woman), all play an integral part in the chemistry of your psyche as a child.  
       For me, it was Terror.   I didn't want anyone else to know I was different.   I kept my secret closely guarded, or so I thought.
       At age 11, just on the cusp of the testosterone transformation, my parents told me I was going to have an operation to fix my "un-descended testicle!"   I was elated.   Normally, a kid would do anything to avoid the hospital and an operation, but in this case, I could hardly wait.  I was "ready for anything, counting on nothing."  Well, I was counting on being "normal."
       What I didn't know was that my operation was going to be reviewed in depth by my classmates, and that my 5th Grade teacher was going to draw a picture of it on the blackboard for the entire class to review.   Neither did I fully realize the full Terrorism of the operation.
       The surgery was done at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii.  My father was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base.   The operation involved the slitting of the scrotum, pulling the testicle down, and then making an incision in the inner part of my right thigh where my scrotum was tied to my thigh.  For the next three months I would have to walk around  with my scrotum surgically implanted into my thigh.  This allowed the testicle to heal.   After three months I would return to the hospital for another operation to remove the testicle from the thigh--and then and only then, would I be "normal."
      I thought I kept what was happening to me a great secret.  I didn't want anyone to know for obvious reasons.   But after my return from the hospital to recuperate at home, a couple of my friends dropped by and told me the teacher had drawn pictures of the operation on the blackboard for the entire class, specifically focusing on my scrotum being tied into my leg, and telling the class to not play "rough" with me during recess.
      My friends all wanted to see the incision and sutures, which I denied them the right to view because they were laughing and snickering.   Also, the doctors had circumcised me, a total shock when I woke up for I had no idea that was going to happen.
      The lower part of my body--the center of my manhood--was sore, full of stitches, and I screamed when I went to the bathroom for nearly three days.  Manhood and "normalcy" was a very expensive proposition.
      Upon returning to school, I was met with giggles and whispers, as everyone gave me funny looks.  I had been exempted from activities at recess, such as soccer and kickball, forced to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone watching me.
      This Terror went on for ninety days as the incision healed.  Finally, I returned to have the scrotum removed from my thigh and return me back to "normal."
      During that three-month period, I went through literal Hell.  I felt a lot like Sissy Spacek in the movie Carrie.   But, I had no powers of revenge.   I just took the brunt of the jokes.
      Decades later, the experience was buried deep in my mind.  It was one of those:  "better-to-forget-than-remember" events in a person's life.
     Perhaps the operation had something to do with me joining the Marine Corps when I saw their big poster of U.S. Marine in dress blues and three bold letters under the photo:  WE MAKE MEN!
      I certainly wanted that!
      Unfortunately, most forms one fills out asks in the medical history section if you've ever had an operation, and if so, what kind.    I was compelled to reveal my secret every time I filled out a form asking those questions.
      I remained chaste until I got married--partly because I wasn't sure whether that part of my body worked properly, and the last thing I wanted was for someone to say:  "Get away from me, you are a victim of a descended testicle!" 
      Fortunately, my wife loved me despite my infirmary, and more importantly, everything worked quite well.    I have two beautiful daughters to prove it.
      The main point of this story is about Terrorism and Vigilance.   Young people transforming to adults when their hormones kick in go through a massive cycle of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.   There is the Fear they will not bud into a "normal" adult physically.   There is Intimidation that others will look upon them with less acceptance if they are too big, too small, shaped the wrong way.  And, there is the Complacency that they will "be that way" the rest of their lives, victims of some genetic flaw that caused them to misshapen.
      My wife, who attended Catholic schooling, had such an experience.  Her home economics-sewing nun/teacher  told her how sorry she was that my wife had such small breasts, and that she would be small breasted all her life.   For years my wife walked around with a feeling of insecurity about her breasts, however, the nun was totally wrong.  My wife had beautiful breasts, perfectly proportioned.  A few years ago she had one of her breasts removed after suffering breast cancer, and she framed a picture of her mammogram of it when it was "normal."  I have it hanging above my dresser.    Last year she went with our younger daughter to a tattoo artist who scrolled two beautiful butterflies where her breast had been, a way in which she was able to turn what many women consider is a Terroristic situation into one of beauty, sensuality and confidence.
       As Parents of Vigilance, one of the most important areas of concern we face is helping our children's self worth be protected from comparisons.   My idea of "normal" was to compare myself to others.   I have learned over the years that to compare myself to others is "abnormal."   If I am a unique organism, biologically special, bearing fingerprints that no one on earth has now, ever had before, or will never have in the future (excluding clones), then I shouldn't "look like others."   My self-worth should not be contingent on how closely I appear to be "like another."
        However, we live in a society of cloning.  We try to "look like" others whom we consider "cool" or "right on!"   Our desire to be accepted by "others" overrides our individuality, and sometimes leads  vulnerable, impressionable children to think they are "less than" another because of something about them that is different from what they think they should be.
        I can't argue the power of peer pressure, especially with teenagers.    Puberty is about exerting one's individuality as well as one's sexuality.  It is the coming out of the adult from the child, the shaping of the persona.
        To help a child through this transition, Fear of being a "nobody" must be replaced with the Courage that they are "somebody special."    The Intimidation of not being "like others" requires they understand their uniqueness as an individual.  This requires Conviction that being special to themselves is a worthy goal.   To achieve it one must be reminded that no one can intimidate one but oneself, and no one can make one feel lowly unless one, the child, allows it.   Being convinced one is special just as one is, is the goal of every Parent of Vigilance in this situation.
       Finally, there is Action to overcome Complacency.  If a child is too heavy, then the family can take action to help reduce that problem.    Everyone can diet--not to 'be like others," but to be more "who you are."  Overweight conditions are only layers of oneself piled on layers of oneself.   Reducing weight just sheds the masks hiding the beauty.  Action also includes selecting quality role models not necessarily those on MTV.   Famous men and women from history run a range of appearances.    Eleanor Roosevelt never let looks stand in her way, and neither did Amelia Earhart, the woman pioneer of aviation.  Winston Churchill looked like a cartoon character, yet his words ring as true today as they did when he spoke them to a war-torn world.
       Vigilance for a child's self worth shouldn't start at puberty, but long before.   Teaching a child that he or she is unique, different from all other children, and what he or she looks like physically has nothing to do with who one is, should be instilled at the earliest of ages.  Posture training helps enormously.  Teaching a child to walk with dignity and pride is a gift, creating eloquence in his or her being.   Hobbies, sports, outside interests guided by a parent or guardian enrich a child's sense of purpose, so that the MTV images or those of Che Guevara, or Marylyn Manson don't fill a vacuum a Parent of Vigilance could plug by keeping a child's interest in the world, not just one part of it.
       And perhaps the most critical of all lessons in this department is the one of choice.  Teaching a child the responsibility of choice is vital.   I always told our children, as did my wife, that they had a duty to not go along with the "crowd."    If they chose to give up their right to say "no" in favor of the crowd or herd's decision to do whatever, then they became a sheep, and lost their individuality.  If consequences resulted from "following the crowd," then they would have to suffer them and never tell us: "Well, everyone else is doing it, wearing it, listening to it, so why can't I?"
       That, we said, was herd mentality.
       If they were pressured by a group to do something, they had to step back and choose to give up their individuality.   They had to know they had a choice.  
      To me, this gives a child the authority they seek, while constraining them to the guidelines of responsibility.    I knew as a parent I could not stop my children from choking whatever it was they were going to do once they were out of my sight.  I only wanted to take away any hiding places from them if they chose to follow the crowd, to be assimilated into the "collective conscious" of the herd.
       To achieve such Vigilance requires a Parent of Vigilance take on the role also of Sentinel of Vigilance for his or her children.   
       The motivating questions is: What is it you want most for your child?   Isn't it to be able to have the Courage to make a choice, and not be a victim to the herd instinct?
       That was always our family goal.   We extended that philosophy to our chidren's school work, reminding them:  "You are not in school to just learn the information--your real goal  is to learn to think for yourself, to be able to make sound decisions based on quality information.   That's what school is about--learning how to think for yourself!"
       Today, were I to have just one testicle, I would be proud of it.  I would chose to.
       Even though I have two, I know the other one is there by default.
       I'm proud of it too!  I choose to!

 Go To Mar. 18--Terrorism & Child Molestation

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