It's been a bit of a hiatus for the parenting edition of Ask Dad. I've been in the woods mediating, thinking up new jokes about Hitler and poop. And I've never been so ready to take on the tough questions of the day.
And here's one of the toughest. A friend asks: Circumcision? What do you think?
First, my stock answer: No thanks, I've already had one. Question properly dodged. But wait, the world needs me to weigh in on this, I can feel it. In fact I don't know how it's gotten along without my take.
I don't think any little boys should be circumcised, ever. Because it's archaic, or barbaric? No. Because little boy penises freak me out. Yet somehow the uncut ones are fine. Because I grew up circumcised, that's just what a male member looks like to me. The foreskin hides the little head that stares at you and mocks you, and just makes it look like a deflated little balloon.
I have naked nephews, both cut and uncut, running about fairly often, and I'm all in favor of more nudity for all ages, but the cut ones make me feel slightly uncomfortable.
See I raised only a daughter, so never had to do the day-to-day dick-dealing that parents of boys have had to. There's something about wiping poop off something that makes it instantly familiar and oddly comfortable. But I just haven't gotten there.
Okay, I suppose that's terrible reasoning. I've never had to make the decision, and I may never have to. But if I was faced with the decision to circumcise, I wouldn't do it. It's not that I'm violently opposed to the practice, it's just that if you don't have a powerful need to do it, you should always opt for fewer knives and more body parts.
I get it when parents want to do it because of their Jewish or 20th-century Protestant culture. But parents who cut so their kid will look "normal" are way off the mark. You have no idea where your child will be, or how the world and its genitals will look, when they are old enough to be in the company of a bunch of naked men. I was in grade school in Utah, where foreskins were as rare as coffee. But I ended up at a Los Angeles high school full of boys born in Mexico, who were uncut and not-at-all shy about letting their extra bit shine. And my pale, sliced member was the odd man out. Poor guy.
And younger generations, despite being bombarded with sex all around, just don't walk around naked the way, say, our grandparents did. (I grew up in locker rooms and coaches quarters, where gray-pubed genitals way too close to eye level were just part of life.) Truth is, not a lot of people may see your son's penis unless he wants them to. I'm sure you wouldn't have it any other way.
While I am sympathetic to the need some parents feel, I do wish we'd face up more to the strangeness of it. When cultural or religious practices are around long enough we just come to shrug them off, and shun new ideas as sick. "I can't believe the freaky Scientologists with their aliens and e-meters," says the woman who thinks bread turns into Jesus in her mouth.
Does anyone on earth think that if boys were newly invented, we'd look at them in the hospital and think, "Maybe we should cut off part of that thing between their legs. It may get infected someday!"
Of course this begs the obvious question. Do I wish I weren't circumcised? I'll admit, when I heard a few years ago that sex can be more pleasurable for uncut men with their protected, more sensitive tips, I was a little sad and forlorn.
But it didn't take me long to realize that of all the problems I faced, sex not feeling good enough just didn't make the top 100. In fact I wouldn't call that a problem at all.
I'm happy with my little guy the way he is. He's just so utterly me. Still, I miss my foreskin sometimes. I can feel its ghost on certain roller coasters, and see the scar from where it used to be. And on starry nights I'll look out the window, wondering where it went, if it's still maybe out there somewhere, and sing it a special song. Sigh.
Where do you stand on the circumcision debate?
Image via Flickr/Mattias