More times than I can count, I have been assured that various mediocre-to-disgusting foods are basically really good for my wang. No one will say these things outright: everyone decides to play coy, like we’re in an erectile dysfunction medication commercial or Victorian England, and thus everything is covered in sheathes of euphemism. But the message is still clear. Eat these squid brains: they’re good for man. Good for man strength. Good for speed. Good for stamina. Good for staying power. Good for man health. Depending on who I’m talking to, these turns of phrase are accompanied with various nudges to try and make sure I’m getting the point, in case I don’t understand figurative language. A wink, a nod, an actual nudge. Once, a coworker said the food we just ate was good for man, and after several moments of consideration, pointed, with both hands, to his crotch to illustrate. Just to make sure I got it.
Part of it emerges, I think, from some weird animist beliefs about gaining aspects of the animal by consuming it. When it’s been explained to me, “eating dog will help your dick!” usually is justified by relating how dogs are vigorous animals. In other words, by eating some dog soup, I am essentially gaining parts of dog spirit. This applies for the other animals I am constantly encouraged to ingest for the sake of my dong.
Of course, when I hear this, my mind goes, as it usually does, to absurdity. Does my zest for lamb mean that I will become docile and easily herded? And consuming chicken makes me squawky and foul-tempered? Does eating carrots make me likely to grow underground? What if I eat something inanimate, do I simply become less personable, more aloof and mysterious and rock-like? What if I want to gain distinctly human qualities that I find admirable – if I want to become more noble or brave or loyal, should I take up elective cannibalism, and only murder and eat particularly valiant individuals?
Another part of it comes from a pretty deeply rooted obsession with health-foods in Asia, though especially especially in Korea. People spend gazillions on food and supplements that will be good for their health every year, and most of it is beyond repugnant. It is smelly, and gnarled, and wretched to taste and swallow, but the benefits for your health are well-known, despite never having been even grazed by the sour, party pooping bring-down fingertips of science. But grandma has always said that it will absolutely clean out your filthy lower intestines and give your hair a nice lustre, so buck up and eat it, because grandma knows best.
You should eat this root, or this twig, or this herb, or this hollowed-out intestinal casing. You should really suck the marrow from these bones. Drink the jelly from this petrified monkey brain. Snort the shavings from this grated beetle’s carapace. Exfoliate your face with the inner lining of an elephant’s rectum. Why? It’s good for you. Koreans are pretty good at accepting the ickier and more painful parts of healthcare and taking care of your body, including the gross stuff, but sometimes it seems that the causality switches: it must be good for you, because it tastes like death, and why else would people eat it, then? Certainly it tastes like the inside of Satan’s butthole and smells just the same, but it will prolong your wretched life for a day or two longer, and thus it is good. But really, if one of my days is spent ingesting these horrific concoctions, I’ve basically wasted whatever gains I am making.
The last part, of course, comes from desperate male obsession, a world-wide phenomenon that hurdles over every cultural barrier and consumes the lives of everyone over a certain age. If I cannot have frequent and raging erections that can pierce the very crust of the Earth, my very existence as a human and especially as a man is essentially moot. But I generally split this kind of thinking into the latter part of life, or characterize it as a concern of middle-age. When older coworkers tell me about wang foods, I nod and smile and hope it is bringing them some comfort, that they are on-top of this most crucial facet of life, that of ding-dong management. When younger men tell me about it, I look at them askance, as though they are experiencing their own age out of order, a sort of self-reflective anachronism of the junk. “But ours will keep working fine for a solid decade or two yet,” I assure them. “Let’s save the shell-fish and dogmeat for when we’re in our forties.”
These facets blend together to justify all sorts of horrible foods, and thus on the weekly I am made to share in various culinary horrors lest my groin health begin to deteriorate.
Even with these justifications, it seems weird to have so many people constantly advising me on what I should ingest based on the perceived importance of my genitals. I mean, I certainly enjoy them and all and am duly prided by their ongoing function and not rotting and falling off like so much browned, over-ripe banana, but I have never had so many other people similarly invested, especially to levels of intensity that surpass my own. So many other adults entering my life to assure me that this gross thing they are giving me will totally make my boners extra-bonery. It is weird as hell, and as a matter of social reciprocity and politeness, I usually eat the disgusting boner-foods, because if I don’t, then they might worry about my stamina still further.
And I guess it’s nice to have so many people care.