A man recalls his thoughts and feelings as a child over 60 years ago when he realized that part of his penis had been cut off. Distilled by John Erickson from correspondence with a man in Texas. Published in the Fall 1986 issue (#6) of Foreskin Quarterly.[Yes, accounts like this are "just anecdotal." But why are they just anecdotal?]
My parents never used the word "penis" because it wasn't in the Bible. They used the word "foreskin" instead. This caused me endless confusion.
When I was about seven I asked my mother why my "foreskin" always stuck out but my older brother's didn't (since the head of his penis was covered with skin but mine was always exposed).
"Oh, don't you remember?" she said. "The doctor sewed your foreskin so it would stay back."
To my young mind something that was only sewed could become unsewed. I would ask her, "When is the doctor going to unsew my foreskin?" But she always turned my questions off, never telling me the truth.
When I was nine a house was being built near ours. One afternoon, when the men had quit for the day, the man who ran the steam shovel asked me if I'd like to see how it worked. Naturally, I was thrilled. I climbed on and he showed me all about it. He was about 40, a smooth talker, and somehow quickly got onto the subject of "skin."
He asked, "Can you slip your skin all the way back? Does it ever pull tight or hurt?"
I didn't know how to answer him because, unlike my father and brother, I had no skin to slip back; but I managed to say, "The doctor sewed my foreskin so it stays back all the time."
He said, "I've never seen a foreskin that was sewn back."
Anxious to understand what had been done to me, I said, "I'll show you my foreskin if you'll show me yours." (He had no way to know I really meant "penis.")
"Sure," he said, "I'll show you my foreskin. Let's see yours first."
I opened my pants and took my roughcut little penis out. I was watching his eyes and saw his astonishment as he said, "I've never seen a foreskin sewn back like that."
Then he took his penis out, the head completely covered with skin. "See my foreskin?" he asked.
I could see it all right!
He slipped the skin back slowly until the head was exposed, and said, "I can make mine look like yours too. See yours? See the scar all around it?"
Yes, I could see it clearly. "That's where I was sewed," I said.
"Son," he said gently, "you are circumcised."
"Oh no, I'm not," I said bravely. "I'm a Christian. I'm not a Jew." (I had heard in Sunday school that Jewish boys were circumcised and Christian boys were baptized.)
"See the little marks going all around?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"That's where you were sewed. Look here." He pulled gently on the skin of the shaft but it was too tight to move. "See?" he said. "There's no loose skin like mine." Then he slipped his foreskin back and forth over the head of his penis and I could see exactly what had been done to me. I could see that that part of me had been cut OFF!
"When will my foreskin grow back???" I asked.
"Son," he said softly, "it will never grow back. You are circumcised, and you will always be circumcised. Nothing can ever change that. You have no foreskin."
I was too stunned to speak. I burst into tears. I didn't want him to see me cry. I climbed down and ran until I was out of sight. I was so enraged I couldn't talk. The people I had trusted had told me all those lies about being "sewed," and I realized I would be cut like that -- an amputee -- for the rest of my life.
I went back the next day but the steam shovel was gone, and I never saw the man again.
I never told my mother I knew she had lied to me. I couldn't make myself talk about it. Several times I worked up the courage, but when I opened my mouth to speak, the words stuck in my throat and no sound came out.
That was over 60 years ago, but I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday and the words, "You have no foreskin," still resound in my head.
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