I feel I must come clean. Although I have stated all along that the gender of the baby didn't matter to me, I must admit that I was fooling myself. All along I have been hoping the baby would turn out to be a girl, and for only one reason: With a girl, we wouldn't have to worry about circumcision. But now that we think we have a boy on the way, I feel I have to watch out for little William Alan's anatomy.
The arguments for and against male circumcision--putting aside for the moment the possible religious aspects of the procedure which don't pertain to us goyim--are many and varied. I think the majority of them can be summed up most adequately in a conversation I had with Bruce, the accompanist and arranger for the aforementioned Glee Club of our alma mater. Some people may be shocked, as I was initially, by Bruce's use of the Anglo-Saxon monosyllabic for the item of discussion; but as the conversation progressed I realized that the Anglo-Saxon term refers to exactly the same body part with exactly the same precision as the polysyllabic Latinate term ``penis'', and so I have left Bruce's words as he uttered them--for flavor, as it were.
As an aside, I should note that I think many members of the Glee Club find themselves looking up to Bruce because, while he is somewhat older than we are, he doesn't seem to be much more mature than we are. I guess the Sixties will do that to a person. I often go to Bruce to talk about things in general because Bruce is so hip. Also, he and his wife only just recently had a little boy, so we'll soon have the whole parenthood thing in common. Also, for me Bruce embodies the hope that growing up doesn't mean growing old--or that growing old doesn't mean growing up. Or something like that.
In any case, there I was at Glee Club and for some reason the topic of circumcision reared its ugly bare head. We didn't yet know we were having a boy, so that wasn't it--I think I was just ranting semi-coherently as I do on occasion. In past discussions regarding this delicate topic Dawn expressed the feeling that any son of ours should be circumcised. This horrifies me.
``How can you have any opinion on the matter?'' I wanted to know. ``You're a woman, you can't possibly understand!'' I must say, I was very happy to finally be able to use this line of reasoning. Almost everything that once might have been considered the sole purview of the male has since been taken away in the name of equality and given over to everyone--sports, carpentry, cars, high-paying executive positions, soldiering, philandering, basements, and so on--and so it gave me great pleasure to be able to say what I did on unassailable grounds.
Despite my brilliant rhetoric Dawn was unimpressed, so I turned to Bruce, since I knew Bruce would be on my side--he was a man and he'd just had a son, after all. He hadn't been paying close attention though, so I addressed him directly. ``Bruce, what do you think about circumcision?''
``Circumcision? Oh, yeah,'' he said, thinking he was agreeing with me, ``Who wants that ugly elephant trunk thing between your legs?''
``WHAT?!'' I shouted, almost hopping up and down. `` `Ugly elephant trunk thing'? That's how it's supposed to look!'' Then the true depth of the horror sunk in--and I added more quietly, ``Did you have your son circumcised?''
``Oh yeah,'' Bruce answered brightly.
``How could you?'' I cried.
``What do you mean?'' Bruce wanted to know. ``Why shouldn't we?''
``Because,'' I sputtered, ``because why would you?''
``Well,'' he said contemplatively, ``I'm circumcised. And I believe that a man's dick should look like his father's.''
``I've never even seen my father's penis,'' I countered, not yet willing to take up the cause of Anglo-Saxon vocabulary. ``I don't even know if my father is circumcised or not.''
``Besides that,'' Bruce went on, ``I didn't want him to have a different dick from everyone else. You know, kids can be cruel. What if, when he's older, the other boys see his dick in the locker room? They're going to make fun of him. I don't want him to be ashamed of his dick.''
I knew how to answer this one. ``You know, I grew up myself. And I never saw anybody's dick in the locker room. I think I was well over sixteen before I saw another guy's dick in the shower and that was at Boy Scout camp at the pool and as a matter of fact there was a kid there who was uncircumcised and none of us made fun of him. We didn't even care. And you know what? In order to make fun of another guy's dick, you have to admit that you looked at another guy's dick, and I don't know a single teenaged male that would admit to such a thing.''
``Hm,'' he said. Apparently he hadn't thought of that. ``Anyway, an uncircumcised dick is ugly.''
``Looks don't have anything to do with it,'' I answered, hand-waving madly. ``The fact is, I was circumcised and no one asked me if it was okay. Now I'll never know what it's like to be uncircumcised. I have no choice. At least if you don't get it done for him, if he wants it done later, he can go for it. But he'll have the option. My mother got me circumcised and didn't breastfeed me and I'm thinking of suing her for mental cruelty.''
``What difference does it make anyway?'' Bruce asked.
This was a good question. ``Well, I don't know for sure,'' I answered. ``Being circumcised myself, I can't really know. All I can do is ask men who weren't circumcised but had the procedure done later in life. Some men do for medical reasons--I personally know two. Now, I've heard that sex is better uncircumcised than it is circumcised. One of the guys I know had it done when he was in his thirties, and he claims it makes no difference in sex. But then again, he's gay, so I don't know if his opinion would match the general population's. The other guy had it done when he was twenty or so, but I didn't want to ask if it was any different before or after, so I just don't know. On the other hand, he said the stitches from his late circumcision were quite painful--twenty all around. But he didn't tell me why he had it done. So I have to admit--I just don't know.''
``I'd heard that you can get certain diseases if you don't keep the area clean,'' Bruce noted.
``I've heard that too, but that seems like a silly reason to lop off a body part. I mean, why not just remove anything at birth that might later become a problem? You know, tonsils, appendix, gall bladder, maybe arms and legs too.''
``Well,'' Bruce said, ``those things serve a purpose. What purpose does the foreskin serve?''
``You know,'' I answered, ``again, I don't know. But then doctors thought the appendix didn't do anything for a long time, but it turns out it does. And I can't see removing something just because we don't know what it does.''
``Okay,'' he said. He was starting to sound convinced. ``But what if the first woman he's with has never seen an uncircumcised dick before and she's frightened or repulsed?''
``That's a bit unlikely. Most people know all about uncircumcised dicks these days.''
``Well,'' Bruce said, ``it might not matter anyway. It seems the doctor who did the circumcision didn't get it all. We brought our son to the doctor--our pediatrician is this sweet little Korean woman--and asked about how our son's circumcision was healing. `This boy circumcised?!' she said. So I guess he didn't get enough off. We were thinking about having it redone.''
I can only hope I changed his mind.
The only ground not covered in our discussion, though, was the question of cervical cancer. It seems that some studies have linked uncircumcised partners with an increase in cervical cancer--in women, of course. If men were getting cervical cancer from being uncircumcised we'd have a real problem on our, um, hands.
However--like other studies linking the lack of circumcision to, among other disorders and diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, penile cancer and masturbation--it appears that the cervical cancer studies have hardly settled the question. Some people question the methodology of the studies, myself included.
I'd say we have to wait for a lot more research to be done before we can come to a conclusion on this matter. And, for those of you who might be thinking that, well, it couldn't hurt--it does hurt; it hurts the baby. And it hurts me to think about all those poor circumcised kids out there. So if you won't avoid it for the baby, avoid it for me.
I actually spoke to my mother about this, too.
``You know, when you were born,'' my mother told me, ``We didn't even have a choice. It was just done.''
Do you see how thoughtful my parents are? ``We'll just be taking your child away for a little genital mutilation.'' ``Oh, that's nice. Do you know what they're sending up for dinner?''
``And anyway,'' my loving mother continued, ``I made fifty dollars off of that circumcision. The insurance company gave me fifty dollars for the cost of your circumcision, but the doctor threw it in for free for all boys he delivered. So I made money from you.''
``Thanks, Mom,'' I said.
After hearing me rant for some time at anyone who would listen about this subject, Dawn finally gave in. We were talking in the kitchen with Joe and Elizabeth when she told me, ``If you feel that strongly about this, then we won't have it done.''
``Good,'' I said.
``But it will be up to you to teach him how to keep it clean,'' she added.
``What do you mean?'' I asked. ``How hard can it be?''
``He's going to have an extra crevice that needs cleaning,'' Dawn told me.
``It's not complicated!'' I said, baffled. ``People have all sorts of crevices that need cleaning all the time. How is this one any different?''
``Name some crevices,'' Dawn challenged.
I thought for a moment. ``Behind your ears,'' I said. I thought a bit more. ``Your butt crack,'' I went on. Then I had an inspiration. ``Behind your testicles!'' I concluded triumphantly.
Dawn turned to Elizabeth. ``I don't clean behind my testicles,'' she noted. ``Do you?'' Elizabeth smiled silently.
``Don't even get me started!'' I exclaimed. ``Don't even get me started on the crevices of women!''
``What crevices?'' Dawn asked innocently.
`` `What crevices?' '' I mocked. ``Women have far nastier crevices than anything you'll find on a man, uncircumcised or not!''
``We do not,'' Dawn protested. I could see she knew she was losing this argument. I went in for the kill.
``I've seen what you've done to my boxer shorts! And it's not just you. I've lived with a number of different women and I've seen their laundry. And if you can learn to keep your crevices clean, surely my son can learn to keep his crevices clean.''
Joe was giggling uncontrollably and Elizabeth was laughing quietly into her hand. Dawn just gave me that narrow-eyed look that says, ``I have just added one more offense to the list of things you will one day pay for.'' But I didn't care, because I had won. And if it takes just this sort of command of language and rhetoric to do so, then so be it.