ON 21 October, I’m getting circumcised.
Until now, only my wife and my editor knew. I’d wanted to keep it a secret, but both Mrs O and Mr F thought I should write about it and persuaded me to. So here it is.
Let’s start at the beginning. I never had ‘the talk’ when I was younger, learning about the birds from ornithologists and the bees from honey salesmen. I was never told about this little flap of skin and what it meant my parents had chosen not to do.
Growing up, I saw the crude sexual drawings daubed on toilet walls, showing a smooth surface with a line in the middle, but mine didn’t look like that.
When my mates referred to their old fella, I didn’t mention that mine resembled grandad’s bobble hat.
And when it came to peeing up walls, my peers produced thin, streamlined arcs, like you’d see from a Renaissance fountain, whereas I could only produce erratic swipes, like an anarchic sprinkler or a tearaway fire hose. If it were a golf course, I’d have been shouting: “Fore!”
Later, I realised I should have been unsheathing it, but I’d never been taught to do so when young and by now it had got used to staying in bed, tucked nicely under the sheets. I tried, on occasion, but it was too tight. Various sexual partners sought to do the same, usually to my severe discomfort. I could never find the right moment to say: “If you wouldn’t mind leaving the hat on, dear, thanks very much.”
Once hunkered down with Mrs O, we learnt how to handle things and she became a dab hand (sorry) at minimising my discomfort. With nothing else to cause alarm, I thought nothing of my unsightly extension, until one day, earlier this year, when I was called into the living room. “Quick!” she shouted. “You need to see this!”
I knew she was watching Embarrassing Bodies, because I’d heard Dr Christian Jessen, and darted through expecting to find the kind of grotesque spectacle that both repulses and absorbs the viewer.
But there – looking ever so ordinary – was a man being examined intimately.
“Look,” said Mrs O. “He’s like you.” Sure enough, we did indeed wear similar head- gear, but in his case, this was causing brows to furrow and heads to shake. It was no use, the experts concluded – best off.
I sat down, through necessity, grabbing a handful and crossing my legs. My look said it all, but Mrs O saw in this the future.
It was hygienic, she said. Sex would be better, she said. “Plus, you work for a Jewish newspaper.”
Oh good God, I hadn’t thought of that. I could hear it now. “What, so you join a Jewish newspaper and the next thing, you’re getting circumcised?”
Last Christmas, my mother-in-law got drunk and asked (loudly) how Jewish I was, nodding and winking and glancing down. To cap it off (pun intended), my mates would think it was Christmas. Talk of “devotion” and “dedication” was surely coming.
I told Mrs O that I’d go to the GP, assuming that I either wouldn’t, or that he (yes, it would be a he) would tell me not to worry and to keep myself intact.
A young male doctor, who seemed to be suffering from a hangover greeted me, saying: “You’re the third foreskin today.” Apparently, the TV programme had led to an influx of unenlightened, like-hatted folk, all blissfully unaware of our freak-like medical status until Dr Christian had pointed it out to our wives. The bugger.
“Yep, that’s probably a circumcision,” said the little drunkard, after my yelp established that it did hurt when he pulled it back, as I had said it would.
Two months later I saw the specialist, Dr Khan, who concurred, asking: “Are you particularly attached to your foreskin?” Tut-tut, Dr Khan. As if this were a laughing matter. It then began feeling very real, as if it might actually happen. A long-haired medical student accompanying Dr Khan thought it wise he contribute, telling me that I would need to readjust my aim at the urinal.
“I’ve had an ungainly flap of skin covering my urethral opening for the past three decades, thus hindering the free flow of urine for all that time,” I wish I’d said. “You think I’m a skilled marksman?”
Last month I went for a pre-assessment. They took my weight and height – handy for circumcisions, I’d imagine – and gave me a leaflet that covered topics such as benefits, alternatives and recovery. Helpfully, it listed “sore penis” as being among the common side effects.
Is this an ode to the foreskin? Absolutely not. It serves no purpose, as far as I can see, and if I believed in God, I’d assume He put it there just so various religions could come along later and make a ritual out of chopping it off.
My chopping will not be part of any ritual, of course, nor will there be any religion or tradition involved. And unlike child circumcision, mine will be with informed consent – a medical term for the stupidity of knowing how much it will hurt and doing it anyway.
Am I nervous? You bet your bagels I am! But when I’m better, I aim to make up for lost time. No wall is safe.