The Measure of a Man

I was convinced that my penis wasn't big enough and, for a long time, refused to acknowledge it as my own

Dana did everything she could to quell my sexual insecurity. Once, while making love, she leaned over and whispered, "Breathe." She might as well have said, "This too shall pass." For years, I was convinced I couldn't satisfy a woman. My fear latched onto every possible reason—a major one was being convinced that my penis wasn't big enough. It embarrassed me, betrayed me and failed to live up to my expectations. In turn, I cursed it, kept it hidden and refused to acknowledge it as my own.

My insecurity started in the high school locker room. Other penises would swing and dangle. Mine stuck to me like a jujube. Come on, I thought, what's wrong with you?! Socialize! That's when I learned how handy an extra large T-shirt can be when the jock strap comes off. (Not that it helps your manliness standing by your locker in a nightie.)

For a long time, I thought my pecker was stunted when I was 12 because of an injury. Playing football in the backyard, I ran smack into a vertical pole, genitalia first. I couldn't move; I was terrified. Finally, I got into the house and checked myself out. My penis looked OK, but how can you tell if your testicles are damaged? They always look awful—like sad, deflated balloons. I thought it was ruptured.

RELATED: A Thing of Beauty Is a Joy Forever

I began measuring myself to see if it was growing. I didn't know of any standard way to do it, so I cheated. I'd hold a ruler alongside my erection and press it in. Not liking the first measurement, I'd start pressing the ruler into my abdomen as hard as possible. I could generally reach six inches before hemorrhaging. Who cares about a laceration when you can be average?

And, although my gherkin never grew, the stigma that I attached to it did. I might have looked like a great guy—I played football and had a lot of friends—but beneath it all, I was ripe for ridicule.

A moment of reckoning came during a group physical. Everyone had to line up single file for a turn with the physician, who would give us a head-to-toe examination, penis included. When I got to be third in line, I excused myself to use the bathroom. In vain, I tried to wrangle some life into my cursed cul de sac. When, with concealed terror I took my place in line and faced the doctor, he took my blood pressure.

RELATED: Being Yourself Is the Hardest Thing in the World

"Very high," he said, looking somewhat startled. "You might want to look into that."

Then he asked me to drop my shorts and cough. I'd rather have dropped my shorts and died. I waited for him to announce in front of my teammates that my penis was broken, impaired, dead. Instead he waived me on. "See your doctor about your heart," he said.

For years, I let my tool confirm my biggest fear—that I'm not enough. Sex was like going in for an operation. I'd be anesthetized with a few beers until I was ready to go under. In general, my sexual technique was to imitate what I thought normal penises do ... and multiply that by a hundred. I was a one-man, three-ring sex circus. I would kiss, lick, caress, gyrate, fondle, thrust, hump and possibly end with a few somersaults. Some call this foreplay—for me, it was stalling. Finally, I'd get on top of her and go at it about 100 miles an hour. I didn't even know if I was in or not, I was just in a frenzy. If I didn't find an opening, I'd drill one. "What the hell was that?" she was probably thinking. "How many clowns came out of his pants?"

RELATED: The Long and Short of It

All of this changed in my thirties, when I fell in love with Dana. I trusted Dana. So when she told me she genuinely enjoyed me and my tenderloin, I believed it. She would talk to him, caress him and she gave him a name: Martin. She loved saying the name Martin. Then one night, during sex, she asked me the breakthrough question: "What does it feel like to be inside me?"

I didn't know. I was too busy putting on a show, doing everything to minimize the role of my Shetland pony. But after her question, things changed. I slowed down, paid attention. My energy and blood converged into my penis. Suddenly it had presence, citizenship! And once I was fully engaged, she too reached new heights. I realized, sliding in and out of her with the warmth and pleasure of a hot summer rain, that sex is a connection made: hearts, bones and flesh in communication.

And I achieved all this with the very same apparatus that I'd started out with. Like anyone with a handicap, I have developed and sharpened my other senses. My penis is out on the front court as the point guard, making assists and keeping the ball in play, while my fingers, tongue and lips score the points.

In retrospect, the high school physician was right: The problem all along was my heart. Insecurity comes from wanting to be perfect, invulnerable. Compassion seeks connection and understanding. No amount of self-improvement can make up for a lack of self-acceptance. My heart has expanded to accept my limitations, my humanity. I can accept my penis as my own. Granted, if it was a boat, it'd be a dinghy. If it was a dog, it'd be a Chihuahua. But if it was a hammer, it'd be hammering all over this land.