*I’m standing at a urinal minding my own business, when in my peripheral I detect the blonde, 30-something man at the urinal to my right apparently  doing a little impromptu research.

Seems the Legend that has followed the black man for centuries has this night trailed me into the men’s room of a chi-chi Los Angeles restaurant.  The man can’t seem to quell his curiosity, his eyes continually darting  into my lane. Feeling alternately intruded upon and amused, mostly I understand. I zip up, wash my hands and leave the room, sincerely hoping I didn’t disappoint.

Such is man’s obsession with his penis.

If this is a Man’s World–and man certainly swaggers the planet as if it were his alone–then while love or money (depends on who you are) makes the world go ’round,  its axis is a penis.

Between his legs hangs the source of both his ultimate mortal pleasure and his immortality; why WOULDN’T the most important thing in man’s life, literally and metaphorically, be his dick? More than  every man’s divine right,  his dick can define him.   The way he walks, talks, the choices he makes in life–somehow,  all of it can  ultimately be  connected to his genitals.

The preoccupation begins early,  when behind the garage or out in the woods, little boys revel in their self containment and compete to see who can pee the farthest. They compare circumcisions or explain why they don’t have one.

He begins to hear  crude, naive playground folklore of something called sex, during which the always reluctant girl is said to moan, “Ouch.” It’s his first indication that a dick can have dominion.

A boy’s earliest vision of an adult penis can be  as fascinating as his introduction to  female parts. I was a child when I first laid eyes on my father’s.  I saw it  sticking out of a leg of his boxers–all he had on–while he was stretched out on our living room couch  one sweltering Oklahoma City evening, nodding through an episode of “Cheyenne.”

Relaxed, it still appeared to be humongous, exuding an ominous  presence in the room completely independent of Daddy. It looked like it was breathing.  Intrigued and unnerved, I tipped by the couch  a couple times  to steal concentrated peeks.

You grow up and discover a penis’ place in the world.  You come to believe that a dick can slay women,  dragons and countries with equal verve and, sadly, more than occasionally, equal purpose. For a man, it can be important, one way or another, to be the biggest dick in the room, at the club, the board meeting or on the freeway.

The invention of Viagra seems a milestone–those cures for cancer and the common cold just have to wait–unless you consider that dicks have long driven automobiles (they tend to burn rubber and use the horn quite a bit) and often hold important positions in Life.

Dicks  have been known to answer to such monikers as Junior, Beast Monster, The Bat and Mr. Happy, and can exert over the most disciplined man an unrelenting measure of control.  Man’s dick has gotten him into many a mess, and man often  seems  downright powerless to do anything about it.

Imagine the intelligent, well-thinking adult male, cowering and babbling to his dick the way a subordinate alien in a low-budget sci-fi flick trembles before a monitor transmitting the huge head of his Fearless Leader.

INTELLIGENT MAN: “…And she’s not even my type, really. Plus, the Lakers are on TV that night  playing Philly,  and….”

DICK: “SILENCE!! You WILL do as I say and bring me those panties!….”

Dick is the unyielding force of the universe.  That’s often how man sees it, anyway.  And no matter how well we come to know the truth of it all,  some realities are harder (no pun intended) to accept than others.

For example, a few years ago, when my sister Barbara mentioned that nursing Daddy to health from successful heart surgery  involved her bathing  him–all of him–I temporarily suspended basic decency to inquire: Were the, uh, family jewels  as I remember them as a child?

“Well, baby,”  Barbara said as respectfully as a Christian woman could and still be just a pinch sarcastic, “everything changes.”

Not everything.  Generally, man continues to let his little head do his thinking for him. And as everyone knows, a dick has a one-track mind.

Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love  (Simon & Schuster),  has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected].