WAYLAND, Mass. It’s the first weekend of the annual spring charity walk season, and Lisa Montelo wants to be the early bird that catches the worm. “C’mon,” she says to her husband Jack, who is sitting in the front seat of their Toyota Prius listening to sports talk radio. “We’re going to be late.”
“Our men will be here in a minute–they’re lagging behind.”
“Cool your jets,” he says dismissively. “It’s not like two more is going to make any difference.”
Jack has come, at Lisa’s urging, to be part of the Walk for Low Sperm Count, an annual fund-raiser for research into the causes and cures for the affliction that she is convinced he suffers from, although he disagrees. “I’ve got no problem with my masculinity,” he says as he flicks a cigarette butt into a drainage ditch. “I can name the place-kick holders on all four Patriots’ Super Bowl winners.”
The scientific name for the marchers’ cause today is oligospermia, which in extreme cases becomes azoospermia, or a complete absence of sperm in a man’s semen. A variant of the condition, oligozoospermia, refers to a man with low sperm count whose wife takes him to the zoo to watch animals mate in an effort to kindle his romantic interest.
“I’d rather be playing video games.”
As many as 20% of young men suffer from the affliction, even though the remedies to correct it are simple, such as switching from “tighty whitey” briefs to boxer shorts, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake, and avoiding hot tubs, saunas, and steam baths. Other associated conditions, such as high stress levels, aren’t as easily manipulated, but “It’s not like it’s hopeless” according to Linda McLamay, who joins this reporter with her husband Pete over a glass of chardonnay in her case, and a shot of ginger brandy and a Narragansett beer in his.
“You’re part of the problem,” he snaps as he downs the brandy in one gulp.
“Me? What do I have to do with it?”
“If you’d get off my back it would bring my stress level down and I wouldn’t drink so much!”