I am the innocent victim of an organ – alright, gland – for which I have no use. I am at its mercy. Having outlived its official period of efficacy, it has contrived to face imminent redundancy with a renewed vigour and purpose that has allowed it to inculcate itself into my every waking (and sleeping as it happens) thought. Having performed its reproductive duties with due diligence, it has found a new raison d’être: e.g. being a bloody nuisance. Worse, now this biological anachronism has, for me, served its given evolutionary purpose, it has refused to do the decent thing and shrivel away, but has decided to balloon to the size of a… well, balloon and announce its presence with a loudhailer. What was, in its prime, the size of a walnut should by my age be the size of lemon (let’s not get picky here; we’ll assume they mean an average size lemon) but is, in fact, the size of a football. I’ll be honest. I’m not certain that ‘football’ is a valid example, but the specialist described it as ‘a beast’ and, frankly, I’d sooner think of it as a football.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do not suffer alone I know. If you are a man and it does not yet plague you; get ready, it will. If you are a woman, I am perfectly prepared for you to think of it as payback. It’s only fair. Nor will I bother you with the symptoms. Nobody needs to know about those – just notice how all middle-aged men congregate at the ends of the rows in the theatre and cinema. Ease of exit is imperative. The silhouetted heads that float across the cinema screen at pivotal moments are always male. It is why the cinema publishes running times for films. We need to plan. No man over fifty ever drinks a gallon of coke during a film. That’s a young man’s game. At my age you suck a mint and plan which is the best direction to take from your seat. Which way will disturb the minimum number of ‘sighers’ and ‘tutters’ and give you the best chance of making it to the aisle without treading in somebody’s nachos.
When attending a concert, the older man is always at pains to learn the entire back-catalogue of the band. You’ll know immediately the drum solo starts. Men will rise to their feet en-masse and shuffle crabwise along rows of semi-raised seats in what resembles a pre-arranged ritual flocking. Bands that play to a predominantly middle-aged audience have to pull out all the stops in order to attract a younger demographic too, in order to ensure that the auditorium is not half empty through certain parts of the show. If you do not already know, you will need to research for yourself the reason why so many concert-going men have to leave the mid-interval lavatory break only to immediately rejoin the queue at the back. I’ll give you a clue. It’s not because they like the company in there.
I am, of course, talking of the prostate, an unlovely and unloved portion of the male anatomy (there are others) which becomes increasingly troublesome with age (there are others). When I was a boy, my appendix punched me very hard in the midriff and the kindly surgeon decided to remove it. It served no purpose, he said, other than to swell up painfully every now and then, before popping and causing all manner of mischief. But I remember clearly that the man in the next bed also had his appendix removed, not because it was troublesome in any way, but simply because the surgical team were in there doing something far more glamorous and thought they might as well whip it out whilst they had him open. They wouldn’t do that now. They realise that everything has a purpose: eg something for a newly trained surgeon to practice on.
So, I’m wondering, what purpose does a prostate serve after it has served its primary purpose and whilst it is expanding at a rate matched only by middle-age tonsure? Maybe what it does is to make middle-aged men feel like middle-aged men and perhaps, ultimately, to make them act like middle-aged men. Maybe it secretes a hormone (do I mean hormone? I’m not certain. It could be endorphin. Or enzyme… Or peanut butter for all I know) that tells you ‘No, be sensible, you’re sixty, you can’t do that anymore. You need to start acting your age. Have you downloaded the app that tells you where all the public toilets are by the way? Have you considered Velcro fastenings for your shoes?’ If that is the purpose of this post-maturated organ, it further proves my point that it is a worthless appendage – nobody ever listens to a know-it-all. Never-the-less, it is an adjunct that we need to take notice of when it starts to misbehave. You ignore a palpitating prostate at your peril. You will begin to learn that checking whether a building has a toilet is not enough. You need to know what floor it is on. Anyone will tell you that when a prostate begins to protest, no escalator ever feels fast enough.
Like most men, I am reluctant to visit the doctor, and most particularly if he’s going to check for that. Nobody likes a rubber glove. The order to pull your knees up to your chest is seldom one to be greeted with a song and a smile – especially when accompanied by the unmistakable whiff of Vaseline and the instruction to ‘just relax’. But be honest, worse things will have happened to you – and if they haven’t, well, they probably will. I clearly remember having my swollen appendix approached in the same manner and the doctor’s instruction to let him know if it hurt. It did. The man from seven doors along ran out onto the street in the mistaken belief that there’d been some kind of massacre and the elderly spinster from number forty-two learned a whole new lexicon of words with which she appalled and amazed the vicar to the end of both of their days. I went into hospital and didn’t die, for which I, at least, was grateful.
My point? Well, if you’re my age and having problems, there are worse things in life than having a doctor’s finger up your bum. Not having a doctor’s finger up your bum could be one for instance…