I have low T. There, I said it — maybe not with quite the same conviction as the actor voicing the same line in the Androgel commercials on television, but that’s understandable given that a.) I am not an actor, and b.) I have no idea what my testosterone (T) level is and whether it is low or not.
But like every other man my age, I can safely guess that it is lower now than it was when I was half this age. A little research reveals that men typically lose a little their testosterone level every year. So if it’s one percent every year, that means it could be down more than a third of what it was at age 33. Gosh, that’s something to worry about.
Not that I or any other man was worrying about low T 33 years. Back then men had simple things to look forward to as they got older: Going gray (Grecian Formula was there to remind us), going bald (remember Rogaine?), and just generally going to seed (though we could always try Geritol to combat that “tired blood”).
If we guys complained too much there was always some woman around who would — with pretty good reason — chastise us for our self-pity. Women got older and turned into spent hens with little utility, they would say. Men aren’t described as old; they are considered distinguished. But who cared at the time. We weren’t going to get old.
Simple times back in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, apparently, modern medicine has discovered all sorts of solutions to problems most of us never knew we would have. That “sudden urge” that men get as their prostate gland goes through its natural aging process should no longer be treated by simply excusing yourself and going to the bathroom. Now, as Joe Montana tell us in his television commercial, there’s a drug that will take care of that.
Of course, if you miss a few steps enroute to that bathroom, you could — as former professional football player Tony Siragusa (also host of the television show “Man Caves”) tells us in his commercial — “protect your manhood” by wearing Depends products.
Erectile dysfunction is another one. I grew up with the simple belief that as you got older you would be less interested in sex. And why not? After all, being a realist at that age of 33, I probably figured that very few 20-something women would be interested in a 60-something man. (The idea that I might be involved with a woman my own age or almost my age was not something I would have imagined at age 33.)
Now, of course, thanks to Viagra and Cialis and their incessant commercials, we know the world can be different. But sometimes I wonder: If the prescription for the drug was accompanied by the elegant model from central casting used in the commercial — the doting wife who seems to be about 20 years younger than her husband — would anyone actually need to take the pill to achieve the desired result?
And then there’s the question about the side effects. I’m sure a lot of men have had a similar reaction: If you ended up with an erection lasting four hours or longer would you really want to call your doctor, as the commercial advises? Or would you rather call every girl you knew back when you were 25 or 30 and say “oh honey, do you remember me? Well, I have to tell you, something has changed . . . “
Oh those side effects. To my ear none of them seem as bad as Androgel used in the battle against low T. The commercials include a long litany of possible effects such as hair loss, acne, breast enlargement, and prostate problems. Then there’s a separate litany about transferring the gel to your housemate, causing excess hair to grow on women’s faces, their voices to deepen, and their anxiety to rise. In kids the wonder drug can cause premature puberty and aggression.
Pretty specific and pretty gruesome, those side effects. On the other hand, what are the specific characteristics of low T that are being treated? The commercials are pretty vague. If you judge it by the commercials, the most you see are a couple of guys who seem to have a little more spring in their step and a brighter smile. No four-hour erections to worry about, no lingering moments in the side-by-side bathtubs.
(What’s with those his and hers bathtubs, anyhow? Seeing them in the Cialis commercials reminds me of my friend Pierre’s line: “It’s been so long since I’ve had sex that I’ve forgotten who gets tied up.”)
From my wizened — if not necessarily wiser — point of view, I predict that not all men will buy into this battle that seems to pit manhood against age. The Printmaking Center of New Jersey in Branchburg is currently hosting an art exhibit, “No Man Is an Island: The Landscape of Masculinity in the 21st Century,” and will host a panel discussion on Thursday, September 12, from 7 to 9 p.m.: The subject: “Men and Women: The Reflection in the Mirror is Me.” Among the panelists: Michael Andronico, editor of the book “Men in Groups.” The sponsor of the event is a Somerville nonprofit called Men Mentoring Men (www.mthree.org).
Over the weekend, with whatever small measure of manhood I have left, I sit before the television, remote in one hand, beer in the other, watching college football. A commercial comes on featuring Drew Brees, a professional quarterback. He is pitching a product called AdvoCare, something that champions use and something that I should use, as well, he suggests.
The commercial does not say what ailments this miracle elixir will cure. I assume it must be some fix for yet another annoying accoutrement to aging. Drooping eyelids, perhaps. I discover that Advocare is some sort of supplement touted by athletes as — it seems to me — a legal version of a performance enhancement drug. Reading further I see that its other allure is that it’s a multi-level product: Buy it, use it, sell it, and then sell others on doing the same.
Sounds good to me. Feel better and get rich quick. That’s a concept that never grows old.