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Jar Star

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FOURTEEN YEARS ago this August, I masturbated into a baby food jar. Doctor's orders. Honest. Approximately 10cc of semen went into that jar, my momentous first spurt after undergoing--a few weeks before--the vasectomy that had ceremoniously rendered me joyfully spermless. Of course, sperm are merciless--and have a way of finding loopholes (not the technical term)--so my doctor required a semen sample. Having somehow misplaced the little plastic container I'd been given for that purpose, I was informed that any clean jar would do.

As testament to the natural ability of my sperm up to that moment, there was no shortage of Gerber baby-food jars in the house. To my delight, I found that baby-food jars make perfect semen receptacles: not only are they small and tightly sealable; they hide easily in a coat pocket.

Half an hour later, I surrendered my sample to a poker-faced lab technician.

"Hmmmmm," she murmured, swirling the jar's slippery contents, gazing past the famous baby face on the label. "This is kind of poetic." What it was not, however, was original. The things she'd received in Gerber jars included urine samples, blood samples, skin samples. I shouldn't have been surprised.

The Gerber jar is a beloved icon of American ingenuity, an elegant symbol of creative reuse. Washed and de-labeled, it is the perfect container for powdered paint, freshly shed baby teeth, or dried lizard parts. Over the years, empty Gerber jars have been used to hold nails, washers, sequins, ration stamps, tacks, aspirin, beetles, broken wedding rings, shoestrings, and pennies. The Gerber jar has been made into everything from a classroom snow globe to the coffin of the family pet mouse.

Sadly, last week, Gerber Products Inc. announced the immediate discontinuation of its famous glass baby-food jar. A new plastic version, square-shaped for easier stacking, will soon be unvelied. What is important, the Gerber people say, is that the new jars will contain the same quality baby food when they take the place of the glass jars on supermarket shelves.

But will they take the same place in our hearts? Of course not. When it is gone, we will mourn the glass Gerber jar, significant to millions, not so much for what came out of them, but for the bits and pieces of our lives that we've so willingly placed into them afterward.

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From the July 12-18, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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