Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Unkindest Cut

I had a very close relationship with my mother.  She had a way of spontaneously starting and causally handling what would have been awkward conversations, making them easy.  I don't remember how it happened, but I was pretty young when somehow the subject of circumcision came up.  Likely, she out of the blue just brought it up so she could get it off her chest and explain why they did that to me.  The reason, and only reason, they did it was so that I'd look like the other boys.

OK, warm up the time machine and let's go back to the 60's and let's see how that worked.  At face value, she was right.   Back then, boys grew up seeing each other naked almost every day using open locker rooms and showers associated with PE.  We didn't give it much thought and my friends and I easily changed in front of each other and we even skinny-dipped together a few times without it being a big deal.  We did that even as we developed while playing high school sports and as young adults at gyms.

Until high school, the schools I went to were mostly white.  But there was a wide ethnic variety which only expanded when the schools were integrated and our high school became almost 50/50 white to black overnight.  Even so, most boys were circumcised for the same reason I was.  I only knew a couple of Jewish boys and I never put two plus two together there.

I never gave any thought to it until I met my best friend at the time who had just immigrated from Australia.  Until then, I must have assumed it was a natural variation what went with other kids being different because they were of a different race.  My friend and I were around 7 or 8, and other than that one thing, he looked just like me.  It wasn't until my mother had that talk with me that I realized that, what the hell, I had been surgically altered just so I could look like the majority of other boys who had been surgically altered for no other reason than that.

That was entirely unnecessary.  We were different enough from each other anyway, that it didn't make any difference to us that we were altered in the same way so the one part of us would look more alike. Even though today's youth hardly ever see each other naked, let's stop doing that to our kids.

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