Why do we wonder about questions like this?
Why do we buy books that claim to answer questions like this?
Why do books like this hit the bestseller lists?
We could chalk it all up to innate human curiosity. Or perhaps it is some natural fascination with minutiae and trivia. Or maybe it is simply mankind’s need for bathroom books.
The authors of Why Do Men Have Nipples?—Billy Goldberg, an ER physician, and Mark Leyner, a satirist and scriptwriter—probably have no problem with the latter characterization. In fact, in addressing the burning question of whether sitting on the toilet too long can cause hemorrhoids, they admit they expect the book to be toilet reading. Probably the last thing they expected was that it would be the publishing sensation of the summer.
The tone of the work is exemplified in part by the subtitle: “Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini.” The third martini concept somewhat sets the framework for this slim volume of questions and not always directly responsive answers. Each chapter begins as a stage of a cocktail party. As the night progresses, the level of questions tends to become a tad more risqué—up to a point. Not wanting to delay the reader’s “prurient” interest too much, the sex questions pop up in chapter 3 and the bathroom questions in chapter 6. In fact, by the end of the party, the questions are rather tame.
The subtitle also seems to overreach. Would it really take even one drink for someone to ask a doctor, for example, whether bathing in tomato juice will eliminate skunk odor or if it is harmful to crack your knuckles? But there are those questions you may have always wondered about. Why do some people have “innies” and others have “outies” for belly buttons? Why do people who are stoned get the munchies? Why does your skin wrinkle when you sit in the tub too long?
Plus the authors address some of the pressing questions of popular culture. What would happen if you did drop a Junior Mint into someone’s abdomen during surgery? What happens if you mix Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola? Will eating poppy seeds affect the results of a drug test?
And, of course, there are those questions the subtitle promises, the ones that would take more than a few drinks to get up the gumption to ask a doctor. Some examples the authors address: Why do people seem more attractive when you are drunk? Why does poo stink if the food doesn’t? Is sperm nutritious? Can you break your penis?
Leyner and Goldberg don’t necessarily answer all the questions but they certainly have fun discussing them, even if reprinting what appears to be some of their IM exchanges during the writing of the book tends to detract from its overall affect. But then Why Do Men Have Nipples? was never really intended for the health or science reference section of the public library. Most of it is information someone reasonably familiar with the Internet and search engines could find on their own. Yet this paperback is much more convenient for learning something while in the bathroom than a laptop with wireless access. Just don’t sit and read for so long that you get hemorrhoids.