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By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 06, 2008

Oskie was cagey ever since our second conversation about my operation. Last Thursday was not different. Looking at me suspiciously like if ah kill ah priest he started:

"You say yo' operation went well but you didn't tell me if there are any side effects."

He ketch ma dey. In spite of our many conversations, Oskie was not entirely satisfied with my choice of procedure. He wanted more information from me.

"Well," I said, "there are several side effects from a prostatectomy. One may be unable to control one's urine, they call that incontinence; and one may be unable to get an erection, they call that impotence."

Oskie eye open up big. He could understand the peeing part; he couldn't understand the impotent part.

"You want to tell me you went and take an operation that stop you from holding yo' pee and prevent you from getting an erection? You must be mad."

Immediately, I began to think: a Black man and his precious penis. Ah didn't say a word. I merely affirmed: "When a man opts to take out his prostate gland his major concern is to get the cancer out of his body which could mean an additional twenty or thirty years of life."

Oskie was not convinced. He became thoughtful.

"Could you think of any black man living for twenty or thirty years without having sex?"

"Oscar," I asked, "How old are you?"

"Fifty five."

"How many sexual partners you have had in your lifetime?"

"Dat is none of your business."

He shocked me dey. Oskie and I shared many intimate details about our lives. We knew each other inside out. His did not hide his dalliances from me so I knew the man. In fact, Oskie's friends knew his lady friends found him alluring.

"Alright," I said, "Let me put it another way. If yo' had to make a choice between dying of cancer and not having another erection in your life, which would you choose?"

"Dat is a damn stupid question?"

"Yo say ma question stupid. Here is another one: If you had to choose between incontinence and impotency which would you choose?"

He felt easier with this question.

"If it come to dat, I prefer to be incontinent?"

"You really think you want to walk around for the rest of your life wearing a pad to prevent drips of urine that come unsuspectingly when yo' laughing or even when yo' cough. That's how bad it gets?"

"Like yo' didn't hear me. I prefer to be incontinent?"


"What kind of chupid question yo' asking?"

I kept on pressing: "Why?"

"You really want to ask a black man to give up his virility while he is alive?"

"What," I asked, "is so precious about a Black man's virility?"

"Dere yo' go again. Like you eh black or what?"

"What you mean by that?"

It was his turn to ask questions:

"You know what it mean 'to put down a wok?"

"I know what it means to make love to a woman."

"Dat is not the same thing?"

"So you telling me that 'putting down a wok' and 'making love to a woman' are two different things."

"They are not!"

"And what about 'bussing a drawers,' as the young men say. Is that the same thing as making love?"

"Me ah know where you come from but in this sweet land of La Trinity, if yo' ask any man to choose between peeing plenty and the death of his precious instrument, I could assure you that he go choose to keep his precious instrument alive."

"Even if it means his ultimate demise?"

"Even if it means his ultimate death," he repeated.

I had known Oskie for a long time but it was hard to follow his logic on this one. I know that brothers place a lot of emphasis on the dexterity of this body part but I could not understand why its tentative demise placed him in such dire straights. Life could be so rich if we saw sexual pleasure as one of the many pleasures that life offers. It might be even useful to see love-making as the fulfillment of a rich, sensuous relationship with another human being rather than view such it as an instrument of justice ("ah' go kill that thing"); or as an implement of labour (such as, having 'a wok to put down'"); or as an industrial tool (as having "to buss a drawers.")

Oskie didn't like the direction of the conversation. I was convinced that if black men are to save their lives they must have a physical check up annually to determine whether they have prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate glad) or prostate cancer. These conditions kill our men and eventually render our precious penis null and void.

"So that is what you have to face for the next few years: incontinence and impotency," Oskie offered sympathetically.

"It's a possibility but it is a choice I made."

"Or was it a choice that was made for you?"

As he walked away, he left me thinking: "Did I really make the correct choice?"

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