Swans have penises. Swans and ganders. Did you even know that? Can you even start processing this completely mundane but astonishing trivia? That swans actually get an erection. Well, albeit an erection in feathers. It’s mind boggling for me, especially because after watching animal TV all these years nobody at NatGeo Wild ever thought we needed to know this. I discovered this last weekend by pure chance, in a bar, of all the places. I was holding court at the counter sipping a Lagavulin while reading Tim Dowling (he’s nuts) from my phone as I waited for this guy called Chinkororo who might or might not belong to the notorious Kisii gang.. It’s Dowling’s wife who brought my attention to this trivia.
Seated to my left, at the end of the bar, were these two girls in their early 30’s who were staring deeply into each other’s eyes. One had short kinky hair, a short black dress and a black bohemian ring that looked like a polished seashell wedged on her right middle finger. The other had braids and a dress and canvas shoes. Her braids looked freshly done; I could see how clean and well oiled the ridges were. Her skin radiated with youth and happiness. They were both drinking Tanqueray Gin from short glasses.
The chic in the black dress had her legs crossed with her body turned all the way into the chic in canvas shoes. She had these massive gorgeous eyes that she used like a floodlight to shine into the soul of the other girl. Long shadows leaped against me as a result. Meanwhile, Color Me Badd played over this loving milieu.
I wanted to interrupt that electric moment and ask them if they knew that swans had penises because they looked like the kind of girls who, not only would appreciate this kind of information, but also who knew a lot of stuff. I mean, anybody is better off knowing that swans and ganders have penises now that NatGeo has decided to keep it a big secret. Admittedly, it’s not information that will completely transform your life, but knowing it won’t kill you either besides you never know when you will need information like that.
I turned and asked the pair, “Are you ladies dating?”
Black dress – the one with more chutzpah – asked, “Can you tell?”
I said, “Yeah. It’s obvious.”
The lady with clean glowing skin chuckled, “Who do you think is the man?” Which was a dead giveaway because only a man would have asked a question like that.
I said, “You, obviously.”
She laughed, “Because I’m wearing canvas shoes and a dress?”
“Yeah.” I said, “I’m wearing canvas shoes too. We are bros.”
We knocked our fists like bros.
“Things are going so well for you,” I told her. “This evening is yours to mess up. One tip, though; stop making her pour your drink. You’re the man.”
Black Dress laughed flirtatiously like an ostrich ready to mate. “Oh stop hogging the ice,” she told me. (Side note: Ostriches also have a penis.) Then Chinkororo scampered in from the darkness smelling of nyama choma and said, “Can they change the channel to rugby instead of football? England is playing and I want them to lose.”
I never got to ask the ladies if they knew that swans have penises. Which was alright I guess because if they were indeed a couple, they were together because they had no use for penises. They wouldn’t have cared if penises grew on fields in Mongolia.
I know today is Valentine’s Day and I probably should be writing about love, which is both tiresome and cliche, but this is about love and about swans, which are lovely birds as I will illustrate shortly. I think we should be happy and show some love for swans and ganders for being one of the very few birds with penises because it is a responsibility. A penis is a good thing. But it can also be a bad thing because we imagine that everything is anchored there. I mean, take away a man’s penis and he has nothing. You have de-manned him. You can live in a monstrous house and own seven top of the range vehicles, but without a penis all these mean squat. When two men are at it, do you hear the expression “oh they are just comparing their penises.”? Do you ever wonder why scorned women will insult a man’s penis size? Not his nose, or forehead, or his bank account or his mother, but his penis size. Because it’s a low blow.
(Warning: I intend to use the word penis about 298 times in this piece, so strap in).
There was a time we were acclimatized to talks of vaginas and monologues and women empowerment and ensuing important conversations around domestic violence. The word vagina became “disempowered.” You could say it at a dinner table and nobody would shift uncomfortably on their seat because it lost its reproductive and sexual connotations. It became just a noun. Like a smoothie.
But what about penis? Who is ever going to say speak for the penis and our male reproductive health? People imagine penises don’t have esteem issues, but they do, major ones. The penis is the most conflicted organ in the male human body. There is no needier organ in the male body (apart from the heart) than a penis. But we don’t talk about it, we treat penises as if they don’t exist. We imagine them to be fine, to show up when needed. Unfairly so.
The Japanese have been ahead of us, celebrating the penis since 1977 in the annual world penis day called ‘The Festival of The Steel Phallus’ (Kanamara Matsuri). We need to catch up, not necessarily by having a national holiday for penises (although we wouldn’t mind sleeping in) but, you know, being more expressive about it.(Not to other men, though). If we talk about penises we can talk about penises that stopped working, or are not working properly. We don’t see our doctors if we have male reproductive issues, mostly because you will end up seeing a male doctor and admitting to your waning manhood. It’s not easier to see a female doctor either if you have penile issues. But when a penis stops working nothing else will stop working.
And at some point – as men – we have to talk about penises that don’t work. Not like in a room full of men, that would be horrible, but like generally, somewhere safe where nobody will feel judged. Women should be involved because it’s only the women who know the penises that don’t work. And apparently they are many, in this age of lifestyle diseases.
You can get a prosthetic leg if you lose a leg, or a prosthetic arm. You can even have a glass eye (or a pig’s eye) if someone pokes out your eye at a Gor Mahia match. You can also get another kidney, even a new heart (if you wait patiently for 200 years for a donor) but you can’t get a new penis. Do you know how dangerous that is? That should something happen to yours you are scre-, well, not really, but you know what I mean.
There was this time Kim was bouncing up and down on my belly. I was testing how hard my abs (one pack) were because as you near 40’s your midsection starts feeling like wet mud. He would jump in the air and land on my lower abs. That ‘s the sacrifice you have to make for your children; you have to agree to be a trampoline, on top of being a cash cow. Anyhow, I felt strong, manly and fatherly right up until he jumped and somehow landed on my penis. He weighed about 12kgs that time, and that’s just 12kgs while seated watching PJ Masks, not when he’s jumping up and down.
The pain shot right up my backbone and into the very middle of my oblongata. It was excruciating. I felt like my penis was running back into my intestines, recoiling in horror at the savagery of that tot. My first instinct was to shove him off me, but I didn’t have the strength. Tears welled into my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. He was laughing happily at me, thinking that my reaction was part of this big game because he kept saying repeatedly, “we do it again! we do it again!” I wanted to tell him calmly, “How about I jump on your penis for a change!”
For two days I was sore. My lower belly hurt. I started having this paranoia that my penis would never work again. That it would be dead weight. That it would be like an appendix, which nobody needs, something that just takes space in your body. I wondered what my life would come to if my penis was ruined forever. I was only 38, I couldn’t afford to be losing my penis at that tender age. I imagined how hard life would be. (Sic).
Talking of hard.
The other day I saw Kim pee while seated on a potty and I tried to get him to pee while standing and he couldn’t have none of it. Do you know how lazy it is for a male human being to pee while seated? I didn’t want my son growing up peeing while seated. So I held his penis and told him, “Papa, susu.”
He just stared at the potty.
“It’s okay, susu in here, look, here…”
“Hata kajoa,” the Help said helpfully.
“Papa, susu…susu here…”
He just couldn’t pee. I figured later that you couldn’t blame him because I wouldn’t pee either if someone held my penis for me. Wait, why would anyone be holding my penis for me to pee? Just how busy can both your hands be? Anyway, so he refused to pee and The help laughed and said he only pees while standing in school but never while standing at home. So my mission is to get him to pee while standing without me holding his penis. (I might have to use a stick, instead).
I don’t think swan parents have these kind of problems, they are lucky they just pee in their feathers…or in water, like most Nairobians when they go to the coast. I think if your father doesn’t orient you and you keep peeing while seated you will never be able to pee while standing. Surely that will affect his dating life in future and consequently how he spends his Valentine’s Day one day.
But back to swans and love. Swans are very faithful, they don’t break up or divorce. Yup; forever love. They are not like cocks. Cocks are whores. In Poland the divorce rate of Mute swans is only 4%. They stick at it through swan problems. If one swan was used to going back home late, the other swan will not, ati say, they have had enough and they are moving out for peace of mind leaving. They stick it out in that pond, well, except this odd species of swan called the Bewick’s swans that usually migrate the furthest of all swan species, and so are more likely to divorce. But those are outlier swans. Such people are there in society; like people who keep changing the radios station on your car stereo when you give them a lift. ( Bett).
Look, I’m not saying swans are angels, far from it, some cheat. The Australian black swans, for instance, are regularly unfaithful; around one in seven eggs reared by a black swan male will not be his. The only difference is that the male swan, who is called a cob (smh), will never find out. There are no swan DNA scientists like our resident foodie, Sophie Gitonga swabbing beaks for DNA samples. So he and his penis will live in swan ignorance; what a swan doesn’t know won’t hurt a swan.Swans have penises. Swans and ganders. Did you even know that? Can you even start processing this completely mundane but astonishing trivia?
Swans, unlike other birds, also don’t flirt. They are only focused on mating, which means swans don’t believe in foreplay. But the female swans are happy with it, they don’t have a group on Facebook moaning about it. You wonder why swans are anti-foreplay, given that they have all the time anyway.
Black male swans spend more time on their nests than their females, which means all female swans – called pens – are feminists. Swans are dedicated but they don’t show romance. They don’t show public display of affection either – unless mating, which ironically they do in public. Their women just know they are loved because he will never leave no matter what and he stays in the nest longer as she is out doing hair hair and sipping wine and he fights off other males with his big strong wings and he has a penis that doesn’t have erectile dysfunction. So they are happy and lucky. I don’t know why they say as lucky as a lark when it should be as lucky as a swan. A lark is a ruffled looking bird with a bad hairstyle. That’s no luck. That’s a bad barber.
OK, enough of this. To the couple at the bar, Happy Valentine’s Day.
To you, Gang, happy Valentine’s Day and please spare a thought for swans