Deciding to Get My Son Circumcised or Not Is None of Your Business
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We sat at the dining room table, my hands resting on my enormous belly. I had just finished describing my idealized natural hippie birth to my mother, complete with hypnobirthing soundtrack and whirlpool. The midwife would catch him, and delay cord cutting, and we would hang out there at the birth center – only a block or so away! – for a few hours before going home.
My mother looked stricken. Oh shit, itâ€™s the water birth, I thought. I prepared myself to explain how my baby wouldnâ€™t drown. â€œBut how will you get him circumcised?â€ she asked.
I probably made that classic look-of-confusion face, the one with knitted eyebrows and stuck-out lip.
â€œBut weâ€™re not circumcising him,â€ I said.
No other word will fit: My mother googled at me. And my stomach sank like a kidâ€™s caught stealing from the candy counter. I was in for it. Later, I realized I should have ended her curiosity about my kidâ€™s penis with false TMI about my husbandâ€™s. â€œWe just want him to match Chris!â€ I should have blurted, because any discussion of my husbandâ€™s penis would have shut her the hell up. But I wasnâ€™t that quick. I wasnâ€™t that clever.
â€œYour cousin Annie just had a baby Braxton, and she circumcised him,â€ my mom said. â€œAnd your other cousin Lily had Allen and she got him circumcised, and you know your cousin Astrid had all those boys and she had every single one of them done and they were all fine.â€ She folded her arms. This was enough of an argument for her. Everyone elseâ€™s boy on both sides of the family was cut. Therefore, my kidâ€™s penis must match theirs.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to subject him to unnecessary pain and suffering for no reason other than misguided aesthetics and matching his cousins he will likely hardly ever see anyway,â€ I said.
She dropped her voice. â€œWhat does Chris think about this?â€ she asked. I knew what she meant.
â€œHe agrees with me,â€ I snapped, and since she didnâ€™t know enough about the circumcision debate to continue, she shut up.
But she wouldnâ€™t be the last to question our decision to leave our sons intact. One mama friend, who knew my kids were rocking the elephant trunk, told me that sheâ€™d been with an uncircâ€™d guy in college and it had been totally gross, and she couldnâ€™t imagine leaving her precious son uncut. â€œWeâ€™ll teach them how to clean themselves,â€ I said, nonplussed. â€œBasic hygiene being, you know, an important part of growing up.â€
My dad, whose circumcision status I neither know nor care to know, thinks my kidsâ€™ penises are hilarious. He saw them when they showed a typically toddler aversion to wearing clothes in his front yard. â€œHis woodie has a a hoodie!â€ he cracked. I put my head in my hands. â€œNo, dad, he has a normally uncircumcised penis,â€ I said. â€œTry not to give the two-year-old a genital complex.â€
Then there are the other moms who beat around the bush, trying to figure out if weâ€™re on Team Cut or Team Uncut. â€œWe didnâ€™t worry about the Vitamin K shot because we werenâ€™t getting a circumcision,â€ they might say. â€œWhat about you?â€ Or â€œSo, do you know when your kidâ€™s foreskin is supposed to retract? Because so-and-soâ€™s doesnâ€™t. Does your sonâ€™s?â€ Or â€œI had so-and-so cut before I knew better and then I felt awful so so-and-so-the-younger is uncut. Did you do that with your boys?â€
Iâ€™m going to say it once. Iâ€™m going to say it as loudly as this font will allow. And Iâ€™m going to say it to you, Mom (who, admittedly, have come around), to you, Dad, to my dumbass friends, and to anyone else who feels compelled to make loaded comments.
My kidsâ€™ penises are my kidsâ€™ business. And frankly, I find your interest in them sort of disturbing.
If you know theyâ€™re intact and you want to ask some questions about natural age of retraction or whatever, ask the internet – donâ€™t ask about my seven-year-old. Yes, on occasion you will see my three-year-oldâ€™s weiner, because heâ€™s three, and because he drops trou at any given opportunity. And you will see, in all its glory, a tiny intact penis. This may be a revelation for some of you Americans. Try not to stare. Itâ€™s a normal variation of a normal sexual organ that isnâ€™t even sexual yet. Just wait patiently for me to notice the nakedness and chase him back into his pants.
Basically, my kidsâ€™ penises are staying in their trousers (mostly). And any discussion thereof belongs in the same place – somewhere safe, where theyâ€™re in control, and have the final say in what they want to share and what they want to keep private. I donâ€™t give a flying f what you think about infant circumcision. Well, maybe I do. But Iâ€™m not going to tell you. I expect the same courtesy. Or this time, Iâ€™ll just natter on about my husbandâ€™s penis.