Let’s admit it. We’re at an age when, as we get together with fellow baby boomers, the conversation inevitable turns to our bodies. Not how nice they look, but how old they’re getting. Mary Kay Fleming of Crescent Springs, Kentucky, teaches developmental psychology at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. But what really qualifies her to write about a conversation that she stumbled into between two men is the fact that she also was a winner in the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. So we were happy that she gave us a shot at her essay about the scourge of boomer men. It’s called, “Psst, What’s Your Number?”

A mere 30 minutes after we picked him up at the airport, I walked in on my brother when he was asking my husband about his latest PSA test. The brothers-in-law see each other only once a year, so I thought they’d take a few more minutes exchanging pleasantries before trotting out their prostate stories. But they’re in their late 60s and the clock is ticking so they got right down to business.

Prostate cancer is no joke, to be sure, but some experts say the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test is a rather flawed predictor of malignancy. So it’s no wonder that Men of a Certain Age agonize over whether their prostates are trying to kill them.

My brother pressed on. “How many times do you get up to go to the bathroom at night?” After a few minutes of one-upping each other on that question, they moved on to such older-male conversational staples as steady streams, problems initiating, and their mutual admiration for the racehorse-style urination of their younger counterparts. I excused myself from the room, not that anyone noticed, and mentally thanked God that I can empty my bladder whenever I want to, stress-incontinence notwithstanding.

Later, I returned to the room in hopes that the boys had mined the life out of the PSA topic and moved on.

It was not to be. My brother dug in. “So, how big is your prostate, anyway? My doctor says mine’s huge.” Leave two men alone in a room and I guess it’s inevitable that they’ll wind up measuring something.

“If you don’t mind my asking, do you have trouble going to the bathroom first thing in the morning?” I had to give my brother credit for allowing that this might be too intimate a question, even though this game was clearly no-holds-barred.

Mary Kay Fleming with her husband.

My better half hesitated a while, then opened the vault. “I have a little secret. You’ll laugh, but it works.” My brother didn’t even try to conceal his curiosity, and neither did I.

“First thing in the morning, I brush my teeth with an electric toothbrush,” my husband offered. “That thing vibrates in your hand for two minutes. I don’t know why, but when I finish, it’s really easy to empty my bladder.” A good wife might have been proud, but I was too busy imagining how all that oscillation explained my husband’s lousy aim at the porcelain convenience.

A few moments later, the doorbell rang and I jumped up to answer, eager for a diversion — any diversion — up to and including a flaming bag of dog poo. It was my sister and brother-in-law. Finally, I thought, maybe now we can talk about something else.

“Oh, great, Charlie’s here!” the boys in the kitchen cheered. “Hey, Charlie, what’s your PSA?”


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