Growing up in the time of Viagra

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“Da, da, da, da-da, da-da-da,” my 10-year-old son sang the other night as he played with his Legos on the dining room table. His singing was a counterweight to detailed work, a pleasant way to add a constructive distraction to the task of building a tiny rebel spaceship out of little plastic blocks.

“Da, da, da, da-da, da-da-da.”

The rhythm was familiar. I’d heard it before. It sure was catchy. What was that song?

Then, came the awful truth.

“Viva, Viagra,” my kid burst into loud song. “Viva, Viagra. Vivaaaaa, vivaaaaa, Viagraaaaaaaaaa.”

It was all I could do not to react.

Then my kid segued into the “Star Wars” theme and I relaxed, ducking once more the Viagra talk.

I can’t help it. I am creeped out by erectile dysfunction television commercials, especially the one in which a group of guys playing music sings the praises of Pfizer’s little blue pill, as if erectile dysfunction was a shared cultural experience over which men bonded. (And, seriously, how attractive do women find men who sit in bars singing with their buddies about taking boner meds?)

A few years ago, when my son was 6 or 7, he asked me what “ED” was. I looked at his sweet little baby face and knew that I didn’t want to be the one to tell him there was a chance that someday, when he was much older, his penis, much like his eyes, wouldn’t work quite as well as when he’s in his early 20s; that he might be wise to start thinking about building himself a workshop in the basement; that to everything, there is a season. Or, maybe, as described at Viagra’s website, he might want advice on how to seek out an ED-friendly doctor.

I wished he had asked if Santa were real, or the truth about where babies came from. Oh, no, not my kid; he had to ask me about erectile dysfunction. I considered telling him ED had something to do with urinating, but I stopped myself.

“That’s something you’ll have to talk with your dad about when you’re older,” I said, copping out. “Hey, want some candy?”

I’ve always sworn there would be no topic off limits for discussion with my kid, but that was before my husband worked most nights, leaving me at home to field erectile dysfunction questions.

I remember eavesdropping on the conversations of older women when I was a young girl, and conversations with older friends as I matured. “The older they get, the more ‘it’ is in their heads,” was a common refrain.

I used to laugh at that notion until I became a woman of a “certain age.” Sex was an amazing thing when I was in the throes of my prime-time hormonal life. Now that I’m on the other side, I understand better what the women around me years ago were saying: “Not right now. Just let me read my book!”

I read a statistic once that said most women and men experience a slow-down in sexual desire as they age. Doesn’t that just make sense? There are, after all, age categories for marathon runners, and we won’t be seeing many 50-year-olds competing in the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Sex is, of course, natural, and while we like to think that it’s all about the sex act itself, it isn’t. Sex exists in its amazingly pleasurable state because the universe wants life on earth to continue. Imagine how far civilization would be if sex was something painful or uncomfortable, like a root canal without anesthetic.

It makes sense, then, that as our ability to successfully procreate disappears, so, too, does the drive. Should we all accept the inevitable, that sexual desire diminishes as we age, that we don’t need or want to do it as often? Or should we embrace the “better living through chemistry” touted by drug companies and, through the magic of a little blue pill, keep having sex until we drop dead from exhaustion, or, worse yet, a four-hour erection? As one who can barely sit through a two-and-a-half hour movie, I shudder thinking about a four-hour hard-on.

There are people for whom erectile dysfunction drugs are necessary, and I am glad there is the help they need. For them, those little blue pills are a miracle, but they aren’t the people targeted by the ads on television.

We live in an age in which we give wide berth to drug companies to advertise a mind-bendingly vast array of drugs to cure all that ails us, with side effects ranging from “greasy stools” to “loss of vision” to “sleepwalking” to “death.”

We eat junk food, we drink soda, we consume vast amounts of pesticides and preservatives, we work too hard, we relax too little and then, when we take ill or feel like we’re losing touch with ourselves and our lives and our loved ones, our first thought is to turn to chemicals. All the while we’re raising a generation of kids who are growing up thinking there’s a pill to combat every malady imaginable, for whom pharmaceutical advertising is an ear worm.

A couple months ago, my kid padded down the stairs, complaining he couldn’t sleep.

“I keep trying to fall asleep,” he said. “Really mom, I do. I think I need Lunesta.”

“Lunesta, schmunesta,” I said, instead warming him a glass of milk and sitting with him on the couch as he drank it.

Drift off to sleep he did.

Viva Viagra

This post originally ran on July 19, 2009.

About Maria Stuart 211 Articles

Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.