For a found comment on the sorry state of guykind, I give you two words: “Male enhancement.”

They appear in a one-column advertisement run occasionally in Gentleman’s Quarterly. With phrasing as rococo as the magazine’s name—what does “gentleman’s quarterly” suggest but escapades involving silk pantaloons and leather riding crops?—the Rosenstein Medical Group urges men concerned about the measure of their masculinity to call a toll-free number for advice.

“NO MAN EVER NEEDS TO FEEL INADEQUATE AGAIN,” says the kindly looking Dr. Rosenstein, who bills himself as the world’s leading authority on cosmetic male enhancement. He is proud to report that among men who decide to pump up their personal jam, three in four choose his pump, but he is no car salesman. Croons the good doctor, “Should you consider male enhancement? That’s a question only you can answer.”

Don’t we all consider male enhancement once in a while? We few, we often unhappy few, we band of brothers in more or less constant thrall to our fragile daggers of love search for enhancement the way our knuckle-dragging forebears searched for mammoth meat.

White guys, black guys, gay guys, straight guys, tall guys, short guys, old guys, young guys—face it: We’re all size queens. When we’re little guys wondering what big guys do, we stare in awe at the protuberance Daddy unfolds like the punch line of a joke and wonder if ours could ever possibly match up. When we’re big guys doing what big guys do, the little iguanas who manage our limbic libidos wonder about our love ships’ displacement: Is ours the equal of the last vessel (or the next) to dock in whichever slip we temporarily occupy? And in the end, every boy’s life eventually includes that 3 a.m. of the physical soul. Sometimes it’s a passing matter; at the worst moment, your bed zeppelin goes Lakehurst without the airburst. But time moves by, the lustful muse revisits, and what was impossible becomes merely hard, and happily so. Sometimes it’s a mood thing, and not until the clouds part—and they always part on their own inexorable schedule—is the carnal spirit made fleshly.

But occasionally life’s window opens onto a bleaker, more seemingly permanent vista, and I have glanced into that void. A few years back, a broken thighbone put me into the hospital and under the knife. It may have been stress, drugs, or the catheter to which I was consigned when I couldn’t make water as fast at Nurse Ratched demanded, but whatever the reason, upon exiting the hospital I noticed that Little Mike was a lot littler than usual. We’re talking barely there. Peniscule.

I’ll be honest, fellas: No one had ever touted me as a candidate for a Mapplethorpe portrait, but until that hospital stay I had been a respectable handful of man, and now my poor pecker was short enough to hide in the shrubbery. I hadn’t been swinging a major-league bat, but now I wasn’t even in the same T-ball game as my 3-year-old son. The realization made me weep.

Fortunately the terms of my recovery tilted against activity involving vigorous pelvic thrusts, so I could stew in my testosterone, which I did until my first post-op visit with the sawbones. He was cavalier, in the style of a man whose dick has not acquired the look of a transplant donated by a member of the Lollipop League.

“Sometimes it happens,” he said with a shrug. “Could be the drugs, could be shock. Give it some time.”


That eternal moment of doubt and pain finally did resolve itself for the better, but when I telephoned the Rosenstein Medical Group’s toll-free number, I had no trouble summoning the accompanying emotions. Consider it method journalism.

My call was taken by a pleasant guy named Victor (you want somebody named “Loser” answering this hot line?). Leaning into my role with nervous earnestness, I said I was a 45-year-old writer whose jimjim had never entirely regained its composure after orthopedic surgery. I wanted to be more…you know. Victor at first played coy.

“The procedure is done on an outpatient basis in Los Angeles,” he explained, urging me to schedule a visit at the consulting office in Baltimore. “If you come down to Baltimore, I can show you some before and after photographs and explain the details,” he said. “As you can imagine, it’s pretty impossible to describe surgery over the phone.”

Try me, I suggested. Did this procedure involve implants?

“No, no implants,” Victor said. “The average length increase is one-and-a-half to two inches, and the thickness procedure results in an increase of 30 to 50 percent.”

But what happens to a guy when he signs up for a bigger downstroke?

“The procedure is done on an outpatient basis,” Victor said. “It takes about an hour. We have two doctors, Dr. Motley and Dr. Rosenstein, and they can do 15 procedures a day. If you fly into L.A. on Thursday, you can have the work done on Friday and get home on Saturday.”

Okay, Victor. Cut to the cash.

“It’s not our policy to quote fees over the phone,” he said. “But the cost is well under $10,000.”

Will insurance cover anything?

“It’s cosmetic surgery,” he said. “Insurance doesn’t usually cover such procedures.”

How soon after the surgery will I be able to make love, I asked. (I was going to ask if I’d be able to play the piano, but this was a serious information-gathering interview, damn it.)

“Depending on your medical history and condition, one to five days,” Victor said. “When can you come down to Baltimore for a consultation?”

Not so fast, Vic, I said. I’m not going to jump on the MARC train until I learn a little more.

“Well, let me check to see when my next consultation is,” he said, putting me on hold. He was back in a flash. “You got 15 minutes?”

Hey, I’m a writer. I got all the time in the world.

So Victor rounded up the usual data—age, occupation, brief surgical/medical/family histories, blood pressure, heart condition, bad habits, marital status (“How long have you been married?” “Fifteen years.” “FIFTY YEARS?”—maybe old Victor should check into some auditory enhancement), best day of the week to go under the blade, which date would I like to schedule the procedure?

Very slick, very clever, Mister Subliminal Sales Closer Guy. But I am not one of your slobbering enhancement-driven males. I am Featureman, able to resist the blandishments of cosmetic surgery, at least until I find out exactly what I’m putting myself in for.

“Well, all right,” Victor said, yielding to interrogation like a prisoner of war. “Your penis has an external shaft that you can see, but it also has an internal portion that functions the same way. The internal portion is located behind the flesh wall. The doctor shaves the pubic area.”

He gonna slice my thang?

“No, no. The procedure does not involve cutting the shaft or the scrotum. The doctor shaves the pubic area and, with the patient under general anesthesia, makes a small entry below the pubic bone. There is some fibrous tissue there, as well as some ligaments… He snips those ligaments and that lets the internal portion of the shaft come forth.”

Come forth. Oh, where is Lenny Bruce when you need him? Victor followed that orotund Biblical phrase with a welter of statistics: Among 237 consecutive patients undergoing The Procedure in a given month, the least increase in length had been one-and-a-half inches; the big winner took home an additional three. Average jump in seeming size: 2.1 inches.

But what is length without breadth? Victor had an answer.

“The doctor takes fat cells from your abdomen in a sort of “mini-liposuction,’ ” he said. “The fat cells are separated and cleansed of bodily fluids, then healthy fat cells are injected into the subcutaneous tissue along the shaft. They bond with that tissue and begin to live and breathe, and that’s where you get your width increase of 30 to 50 percent.”

Now it was my turn to be coy. I know you can’t give me hard figures on the cost, I said, lapsing into the unavoidable entendre.

“Oh, no. I can tell you,” Victor effused. “Each procedure costs $3,900, but you can get them both for $5,900. And you can have them done at the same time.”

I said that sounded like a bargain and thanked Victor in advance for the sheaf of promotional material he’d promised to send, then sat back to reflect on what I’d learned.

The procedure seems to offer a metaphor for every male seeking enhancement. Success lies not in stitching on what nature denied us, but letting our manliness, in Victor’s deathless phrase, come forth. We can do that by cutting the ligaments that restrain the inner johnson or by quickmarching a battalion of fat cells to bolster the flanks of our franks. In effect, anyone who has a prick is all the prick he needs to be. It’s just a matter of where we store those precious inches.