‘I’m worried,’ said Joe. Joe is always worried, but sometimes his worries can be entertaining, so I put on my interested expression.
‘I read in the Daily Mail’ he said, ‘That more than three eggs each week greatly increases the risk of prostate cancer.’
‘Ah yes, indeed, the Daily Mail,” I said, saying it like I’d just trod in something, ‘I’ve written columns for what we medical folk like to call the lay press, and I understand their priorities. The average newspaper is uninterested in cold hard facts about health, and prefers instead attention-grabbing headlines. This problem is compounded by researchers desperately looking for headlines themselves, so that they get their grants and drinking money beefed up.’
‘But what about the eggs?’ said Joe.
‘Eggs always seem to get a bad rap,’ I said. ‘When I was a medical student eggs were public enemy number one due to their cholesterol content. Until recently, the British Heart Foundation recommended eating no more than three a week because of fears that they raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It only dropped the recommendation in 2007 after evidence emerged that very little of the cholesterol contained in eggs enters the bloodstream. These fashions come and go; eat away, and enjoy.’
‘I’m still worried,’ he said.
‘That’s what doctors are for,’ I said gaily, ‘And I have the perfect remedy for your concerns; patient education is always of prime importance to The Good Doctor. A report from the British Journal of Urology suggested that men who ejaculated more than five times each week in their 20s, 30s, and 40s reduced their risk of developing prostate cancer by a third. Of course, further research is needed, you know how guys love to boast, and anyway these were Australians.’
‘Five times each week,’ he mused. ‘But I’m not married.’
‘Let’s be frank here, we’re both men of the world,’ I said. ‘There’s nothing wrong with masturbation, though I understand it’s not exactly the Capulets and the Montagues, is it? And by the way, we prefer the term, “Solitary recreation.””
‘Solitary recreation,” he said slowly, as if savouring the words, “But that will make it safe to eat eggs?’
‘Every time you eat an egg …,’ I said encouragingly.
‘If it’s for the good of my health,’ he said, visibly steeling himself. ‘That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.’
Joe returned a month later, oily with self-satisfaction. An oily Joe is a dangerous Joe; it’s like when Frankenstein was happy, playing with the little girl, not the best time to go near him with a torch.
‘That advice you gave me,’ he purred. ‘It was great stuff altogether.’
‘And what advice was this?’ I asked, with some trepidation.
‘Don’t you remember,’ he said. ‘You encouraged me to start masturbating, or should I say, indulging in “solitary recreation.””
‘I don’t recall being quite so directive,’ I said carefully, ‘I merely referred to a report from the British Journal of Urology. I didn’t recommend you start making out like the Duracell Bunny.’
‘Amounts to the same thing,’ he said. ‘Anyway, I’ve been talking about it with my mates and they’ve all started it too.’
He has actually admitted masturbating to his mates, I thought, I must be getting old, things sure have changed on Walton’s mountain; some relationships are a bit too close for comfort.
‘And then we thought, hey, we shouldn’t be selfish and keep this important breakthrough to ourselves, this concerns everyone, it’s a public health issue; all that advertising about prostate cancer awareness, yet the positive health benefits of masturbation, excuse me, solitary recreation, are never emphasised.’
‘Health promotion does, by tradition, have a rather puritanical outlook,’ I admitted.
‘This is our chance to change attitudes,’ he said passionately. ‘To drag masturbation, I mean, solitary recreation, out of the closet. We’re not gonna be ashamed anymore, so we’re starting a Facebook page and a Twitter campaign and we’re going worldwide, with flag days, celebrity endorsements, sponsored walks to Machu Picchu, the whole hog. And a naked calendar; purely for fund-raising purposes, of course, it’s not that we actually like getting our kit off in public, is it?”
‘And you’ll have a willing audience,’ I said, by now fascinated at where this was going. ‘To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, 98 per cent of men are practising prostatic cancer prevention and the other 2 per cent are liars.’
‘That’s the spirit,’ he said. ‘I really feel I can make a difference, I’m energised, I’m … ‘
‘All pumped up?’ I suggested.
‘Exactly,’ he said. ‘There was something missing in my life, but now I have a goal, I have something worth fighting for. And if I fail, does that make my deeds any less valorous?”
The words rose unbidden, The Blues Brothers sitting on my shoulder, like the ghost of Homer come whispering to my mind; ‘You’re on an emission from God,’ I said.