But I wondered. And wondered again. What will the experience be like for me if I suffered pain similar to menstrual cramps, at least for a day? After all, what was the point of empathy if it failed to generate a sense of knowing the experience of another person in ways that harnessed all cognitive, affective and behavioural resources to the benefit of the sufferer?
Let me break the grammar down. How can I empathize with a victim of dysmenorrhea as if I myself was sharing in their pain? You can’t silly! You’re a man, my inner voice said. He was right of course. Few studies have directly examined empathy for pain. The best materials on the subject suggest that observing somebody in pain activates similar neurons as if the observer was experiencing similar pain himself.
But that has been debunked by other research that observe that only the affective and not the sensory components of the pain network are activated when we observe a person we care about in pain. In short, my face can imitate the grimace from the pain a girlfriend is experiencing from menstrual cramps and even imitate the distress that accompanies the nerve-wracking experience, but there’s absolutely no way to actually induce the throbbing pain in the abdomen (unless I asked someone to kick me in the family jewels), or induce the headaches, dizziness and nausea.
So I had to accept the maxim that no pain could be compared to cramps, and that only women could bear or tolerate the pain. If that lot fell to men, women were pretty sure we’d be a crap-faced, pathetic bunch indeed come the end or so of each menstrual month. And I believed them. Until recently.
I can now say, on authority, that men know exactly how menstrual cramps feel like. Even better, we are capable, and have done so on more occasions than we can count, of bearing infinitely more pain than our female counterparts. Ours trumps dysmenorrhea any day. Here’s why I say so:
I like to laze about a lot on Sundays. I just chill. Other than the occasional stepping out to find me some nice waakye in the morning, I bring the wrath of a typhoon to bear on the head of anyone who forces me to leave home, TV and my dogs on Sundays. And, as befits Sunday morning relaxations, I walk around unrestrained.
Y’all know what antipe is, right?
Antipe is when a man walks around in shorts without first wearing underwear. And that’s perfectly alright at home, of course. Can’t be walking around town with one’s ding-dong dangling every-which-way, now, can we? So antipe is all good and well at home. Creates room for Sir John Thomas, also known us Long John Black or, even better, L. L Cool J, to take a breather, you know?
And so here I was, this particular Sunday morning. It was eleven. I had just watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard and was laughing my head off at Samuel L. Jackson’s conversation with his wife when I decided I needed to use the bathroom.
You know the drill for men. Unzip. Unpack. Flow. Shake. Shake some more. One more shake. Repack. Zip up. Pretty routine. Here’s why this morning’s was different. As I was performing the final part – the zipping up part – I must have zipped up too fast while L. L Cool J was only now settling away from the cloth of the zipper. I ended up zipping a whole inch of L. L Cool J skin in the zipper!
What do you mean, “Did you scream”?
Of course I screamed my head off! I yowled, howled, caterwauled, wailed, whined and screeched, in no particular order. Heck, I must have reached octaves in the throes of that excruciatingly painful ordeal. My dogs howled in return of course, but the skin stayed right where it was… zipped up together with my shorts.
See, anyone familiar with the male reproductive shaft knows that it’s all one muscular contraption. The skin covering it is the thinnest skin there is in the human anatomy – and the most sensitive. It stretches, of course, during blood engorgement, but that is what makes the experience dreadful. A whole inch of it was locked up in my zipper, and already the throbbing pain was giving me a splitting headache.
Forget Tramadol. This pain was the stuff of high morphine dosages.
Or have I said that already?
Double ouch then.
Make that triple!
And, as every man who has gone through this ordeal knows, those moments are most tender. You can never find a man at his tenderest any other time, I’m teling you. I locked my knees like a robot. Any movement was going to end up tearing skin, and that, my friends, would be pure, unadulterated, PAIN!
So I locked my knees and begun the most tender process ever enjoined by a man of unzipping and setting my inflaming member free. Passing a zipper over the skin of a penis hurts like hell. That has been established herewith. Now, imagine passing the zipper back down the same inflamed skin.
But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. My breath came to me erratically. My knees were shaking, and sweat had broken on my brow. My hands shivered as I set out to perform the unimaginably painful operation of excising my penile skin from my zipper. Slowly I moved the zipper back down. Each interlocking teeth pinched me some even as I slowly worked it down. The whole world knows that the average zipper bears ten pairs of teeth per inch. That’s 20 teeth over my most sensitive skin!
I screamed as the zipper pinched, and pinched and pinched. By the time I was done, I was so sore I couldn’t even allow air to pass over the skin without screaming the entire neighbourhood down. I forgot to turn off my living room fan, and when a gust hit me and my nakedness when I returned from the bathroom (I had discarded the shorts, of course), I almost passed out.
I didn’t wear “dross” for a week after the incident. And even afterwards, I wore only soft cotton boxers. The memory of the pain, however, lasted three months. Even now, as we speak, I have checked to be sure that my zipper is in no danger of mistaking my flesh for a cloth. And this, my friends, is the ordeal that trumps menstrual cramps any day.
Dear women, please take a bow on this. Menstrual cramps has nothing, and I mean NOTHING on zipped penile skin.
I get nightmares just remembering that one-time incident.
And cold sweat too.