The Performance Issue

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  • 10 min read

I remember quite vividly watching the very first Viagra commercial on TV about twenty years ago, mostly because it was such a surreal moment. There was Senator Bob Dole, the flag bearer of 80’s conservatism, espousing the virtues of The Little Blue Wonder, in a manner that obviously was intended to say, “If I’m cool with taking boner pills, then anyone should be.” In later commercials, the future presidential nominee would even sport a boxer tent over a young Brittany Spears, thus completely blowing the doors down on any taboo associated with Erectile Dysfunction.

(Ok, let’s get one thing out of the way before moving forward. I like the word “boner.” It’s a round and happy-sounding word, almost like an onomatopoeia. “Hard-on” sounds too aggressive and un-PC for today’s enlightened male, and “erection,” though it has a certain 1930’s, active-verb connotation of skyscrapers and progress, is just too clinical for me. So boner it is).

So there I sat, watching Bob Dole explain to me that it’s perfectly fine to talk to your doctor about your soft serve cone, and I could literally feel the paradigm shift around me like the stirring in the loins said medication apparently induces. Whatever, I thought to myself. If I ever get to the point where I have to take one of those things, just shoot me.

Flash forward twenty years, and I am waist-deep in Marital Problems. I will spare you the gory details (until another blog entry, I suppose), but suffice it to say these problems lead to The Performance Issue. If things weren’t bad enough, I was so up in my own head that “when the moment was right,” I packed little more than over-cooked vermicelli, and not even al dente at that. This created a vicious cycle, of course, and so I eventually decided to “talk to my doctor.”

Honestly, the talk with the doc wasn’t nearly as humiliating as I thought it would be. I guess I go by the rule that if you’re gonna let someone stick their finger up your butt, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t discuss with him. “Mr. Taylor,” he said reassuringly, “I’d say 90% of the men I prescribe this to are in the same situation you’re in. Sometimes, you just need to light a match to the gasoline.”

Just go ahead and insert your own caption here. Endless. Opportunity.
Just go ahead and insert your own caption here. Endless. Opportunity.

Painful symbolism for sure, but off I skipped to the pharmacy, prescription in hand. That part was a little embarrassing, I admit. The lab tech who processed my order was this cute little blonde, and the guy in me couldn’t help but think I completely ruined my chances of ever dating her just by handing her my slip.

“Do you need a consultation on this?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I replied. “You take a pill, you get a boner. Seems rather intuitive.”

No laugh. I’m thinking lab techs have literally heard it all. “That’s not necessarily the case,” she admonished. “And there can be complications.”

Ah, yes. Senator Dole warned us of this lo’ those many years ago: Seek medical help immediately for an erection lasting four hours. What always intrigued me about this warning was the fact that, at some point during the drug’s development process, someone figured out just how much Boner Time was healthy Boner Time. Three hours and fifty-five minutes is ok, but four hours is kind of like the boner sound barrier.

“The normal dosage is three of these,” she continued. “You’re a big guy, so you might want to start with two, gauge the effects and adjust as necessary.” There were about eight different replies that I wanted to make at this point, but I miraculously stayed discreet, grabbed my bottle and headed for home.

It was potentially a good night for a test run. None of her favorite TV shows were on that night, and barring some disaster at The Wife’s office that needed to be discussed relentlessly for the following four hours, the mood could be set.  The evening proceeded along nicely, the kids went to bed, The Wife crawled between the sheets, I went into the bathroom, popped two pills and jumped in the shower.

Though you’re supposed to down these things about an hour before Go Time, the first effects were noticeable after only a few minutes. My eyes felt stony, like the capillaries were dilating. Not long after that, I could feel the skin on my chest getting flush, even though I was in a hot shower. And maybe there was an accelerated heart beat, though that could have been due to the thoughts of the delights to come. Truth is, The Former and I used to bounce bedsprings like a couple of rabbits, in the days before kids and jobs and houses and adulting.

And suddenly whoop! There it was.

I shut off the shower and stared down in wonder. It was like a rolling pin-sized compass needle, pointing straight towards magnetic north with a vision and insight worthy of true Manifest Destiny. It exuded confidence. It had charm and charisma and emanated a deeply profound sense of purpose. I took my washcloth and hung it on it like a towel rack, and it was unwavering in its dedication to hold its ground. It was truly something to marvel at.

There is nothing I enjoy more than getting together with my buddies and singing about erectile dysfunction. Literally...nothing.
There is nothing I enjoy more than getting together with my buddies and singing about erectile dysfunction. Literally…nothing

I walked into the bedroom like Eisenhower walked onto Normandy Beach. And The Wife was sound asleep.

I stood there in the darkness, just me and…The Visitor…for several moments, listening to The Wife snore and contemplating my next move. What came to mind as the best option was to place The Visitor on the nightstand, light a candle next to it, and then gently wake her up to an amazing surprise. But you see, five decades and two marriages have taught me that there are many ideas that men believe to be sexy and fun but women find to be simply gross. This idea, I finally concluded, was one of those.

I stared down at The Visitor, who stared back at me with the unwavering enthusiasm of a child who doesn’t know that Disneyland is closed for the day. “Well,” I sighed, “looks like it’s just you and me now. Why don’t you let me buy you a drink?”

Putting clothes on The Visitor sounded way too uncomfortable, yet the last thing I wanted to do was wake the kids on my way downstairs and have to deal with therapist bills for the next ten years. So I quietly tip-toed down to the kitchen. I was going to pour The Visitor some wine, but quickly realized that hard alcohol was the only thing that would make this particular guest pass out. With scotch bottle and glass in hand, I made my way to the couch and flipped on the TV.

I’d been binge watching Breaking Bad for the past few weeks, so I picked up from where I left off. The Fried Chicken Guy was poisoning an entire Mexican drug cartel, and there was a flurry of vomit and death going on during an otherwise awesome pool party. I figured it was probably politically incorrect if not highly confusing to subject The Visitor to this kind of violence, so click.

 The Brady Bunch. Perfect. Wholesome, family entertainment. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha! Mmmmm…Marsha…


 Reruns of Tic Tac Dough On the Game Show Network. Just the kind of mindless dreck to put The Visitor to sleep. It was about this time I remembered the fear of the Four Hour Boner. It had been about twenty minutes now, with absolutely no sign of retreat or surrender, so I set the alarm for three hours and thirty minutes on my iPhone, determined to call 911 should the buzzer sound before The Visitor said his polite goodbyes.

"For $100, give me a word that rhymes with 'loner.'"
“For $100, give me a word that rhymes with “loner.'”

I poured another shot and tried to relax by slinking down deeper into the couch, but the more I slank the more The Visitor kept blocking my view of the TV. It was ridiculous. It was Night of the Living Boner and it was getting old. I tried to focus on Wink Martindale: Artificial human and game show host, while drinking directly from the bottle. I think my parents were going to name me Wink Martindale but came up with John at the last moment…

I shot awake to the sound of the alarm, scrambling to turn it off before it woke the entire house. The Visitor had disappeared without fanfare while I was sleeping, so thankfully there was no need to bring in the EMTs. As I crawled back into bed, She Who Would Soon Be My Ex slumbering away beside me, I thought back to that first commercial; to that guy who I was twenty years ago. We sometimes think that the problem with kids these days is that they don’t care enough. “Whatevs,” they say, wearing their nonchalance like a badge of honor. But perhaps that’s actually what makes a really good grown-up: Letting go of pretense, letting your guard down, and perhaps best of all, understanding which mountain – if you’ll excuse the metaphor – is the one worth dying on.

An Erection Lasting For More Than Four Hours Pairs With: The 2013 Keenan Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. So one would assume at this point that I was looking for a wine that actually produces the aforementioned 911-inciting boner, but what I’m really going for here is finish. A finish that just goes on and on, revealing deeper and more complex layers as it trails off…and Keenan’s Cab Franc has this in spades. I’ve always been touch-and-go when it comes to 100% Cab Francs. The worst of them can be a nightmare of bell pepper and dirt, but the best of them show why this Bordeaux varietal is timeless. There are layers and layers of mocha and caramel and smoke that are carried on waves of soft tannins. I would have expected more intensity from Spring Mountain fruit, but it’s beautifully reigned in and balanced. Serve it next time you have visitors.

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