Recently, I attended a literary event at an acquaintance’s home. I was apprehensive at first because I didn’t know any of the (younger) guests, but felt my social anxiety receding after some friendly, getting-to-know-you banter around a warming fire pit. That was one moment.
The next moment, a chasm opened when one of the attendees who had mentioned that she was staying with friends who’d just had a baby boy said, “I can’t believe my friend and her wife would mutilate their baby! I thought I knew them better.”
“Did you say something?” asked our host?
“Of course not! Then I wouldn’t have had anywhere to stay.”
What ensued was a 15-minute circle jerk of righteous indignation over why anyone would allow their child to be circumcised. One guest compared circumcision to slitting a child’s eyelids. Another said the practice should be criminalized.
Since I had never met any of the guests before, and, frankly, I’m afraid to express a non-conforming opinion these days, and, oh yeah, both my sons, ages 29 and 27, are circumcised, I just sat and listened, while beads of sweat broke out across my forehead and my insides roiled at what felt to me like harsh judgments about the choices I made in 1992 and 1993.
The head of the penis (glans) has about 4,000 nerve endings, making it arguably the most sensitive part of the male body. I’d never given much thought to this fact outside of the bedroom.
Then, right around the time I started thinking of having children, Princess Diana made news when, bucking royal tradition, she chose to not circumcise Prince William and Prince Harry.
Inspired by Di’s arguments against circumcision, I began to question the pro-circumcision people in my life, including my Jewish father and circumcised husband, and, most affectingly, the doctor who would be my son’s pediatrician, an older Jewish man who was the head of pediatrics at the university hospital where I would eventually give birth. They all believed that circumcision was for the best, be it for cultural, comparative (read locker room), or hygiene reasons. After weighing both sides of the argument, I decided I…