When Do I Tell Women I Had A Testicle Removed?
I’m a med school student with a medical history of my own: I had a testicle removed ten months ago, after detecting testicular cancer which fortunately did not metastasize. All my tests have been clean since then: I don’t have cancer. Or at least, the odds are the same as anyone’s, which is to say, quite low. But now I’m in the odd position of trying to date people who don’t know about my surgery. (I only told a few close friends.) I’m comfortable enough talking about the body, even about my own body and my own genitalia; but I’m afraid of making the medical student’s classical mistake of forgetting what other people find disturbing or even rude by bringing it up too soon. At the same time, I don’t want to put a woman in the uncomfortable situation of finding out too late and being unable to control a physical reaction, or even having to make excuses for not going out with me again. Is this just a risk that I have to take? Do I have to tell myself that such sorts of women aren’t worth my time? I’m not even sure if I believe that.
Thanks, I’m new to this
The Dear Abby response to a question like this would be that any woman would be lucky to find a guy brave enough to survive cancer and considerate enough to still prioritize the needs of his partners. And I believe that. But I’m also a woman who dates guys, and that’s the sort of thing I’d want to be prepared for, even though I can’t imagine it changing my opinions of the guy. Like you said, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of saying something rude out of ignorance or surprise. Or even just furrowing my eyebrows in a confused way for a split second that would hurt someone I cared about.
As far as I can tell, there are really two elements to your problem. The first is best expressed by the question: does sex matter to relationships? To what extent is sexual chemistry necessary for a successful relationship? In other words, if for some reason a woman found your appearance to decrease her enjoyment of sex, does that mean that the relationship potential between you two has diminished? If that’s the case, then you arguably have an obligation to tell her before she gets involved with you, for the sake of sparing her time and heart as well as your own.
On the other hand, as a woman who dates guys, I’d be offput by someone who ordered me a drink and blabbered, “Hi, I’m Frank, and I had a testicle removed last year. Does that bother you?” before paying the bartender. There’s a point before which it’s rude to imply that she may want to have sex with you, even if you have confirmed intelligence that her friend told your friend that she totally wants to do you. You have to wait for a cue.
I think the moment to do it is when you first start removing each other’s clothes. That’s when it becomes clear where it’s going. But you should also be careful not to directly imply that she wants to have sex with you when you tell her, no matter where your clothes and hands are – not because women’s feelings, honor, blah blah blah, are so unbearably fragile, but because this way you’re preserving the option, for her, of stopping before sex, without forcing her to admit that she’s confused by the news. She may want to do a google image search to prepare herself, for example; this way, you give her an opportunity to do so gracefully. And it’s not a bad sign if she needs that time. Isaac Asimov wrote a very moving essay in the eighties about his wife’s masectomy and how he adjusted to the scars and accommodated himself to her new body – and I’ve never heard of anyone who adored his wife more or was more sensitive to her needs. His autobiography is half about her.
I’m sorry, I’m getting off topic. The last thing I want to tell you is not to take me too literally. Clothes here are a proxy for a certain kind of intimacy, mutually acknowledging your intentions; but relationships progress in different ways, and sometimes you both know where it’s going a lot earlier than that. Two of my best friends who’re dating spent months building a delightful kind of tension before deciding to have sex, and although they never acknowledged it verbally, I imagine that they didn’t expect a terrific number of surprises when they finally did it. Other people have religious reasons for taking it slowly, or feel very vulnerable during sex and want to wait until they trust someone a lot. I can’t provide guidelines that will cover every situation; but if you acquire a girlfriend — make a commitment, verbal or otherwise — before you tell her your story, you’re doing something wrong.
I have a feeling you’re not going to have any problems. You’re clearly a considerate person, and it’s a fantastic story. Tell it with pride!
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